It’s tempting to hole up for the winter months and snuggle with your dog on the couch instead of venturing outside, but it’s not a good idea for either of you. Too much time sitting indoors isn’t healthy and your dog will end up bored and restless. To make sure your pet is getting enough exercise and mental stimulation during the long, cold months of winter, try a few of these ideas.
Modify Your Walking Routine
Taking your dog for a few walks each day is essential, but you can modify the length of your walk in order to protect him or her from the elements. A few short walks instead of one longer one is a good idea, particularly for smaller, short-hair dogs.
To protect against the cold and damp, shop at one of the local pet stores or boutiques and invest in a coat or sweater and booties for your canine pal. These will keep them warmer and prevent damage from road salt and other winter hazards. When you return to your home, remove any wet clothing and rub your pet down with a towel to make sure he’s dry and comfortable. If your dog shivers or seems disoriented outside, bring them inside immediately, as these are signs of possible hypothermia.
Teach Your Dog New Tricks
The old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” isn’t at all true. Dogs of all ages love to learn and will be excited about learning something new to please you. Take advantage of your time indoors to work with your pet on new commands and challenges. Don’t forget to reward him with lots of praise and the occasional treat (don’t overdue the treats, though! It’s easy to pack on extra pounds in the winter).
If you haven’t already taught your dog how to greet guests properly or walk on a leash without tugging, how to sit and stay and other basics, start with them. After these are mastered, you can move on to fun tricks such as playing dead or rolling over. You can find plenty of training videos and guides online. As a bonus, your pet will be more comfortable in social situations.
Make Mealtime Fun Time
Instead of filling her bowl with dog food in the morning, try a few of the many feeding games or puzzles on the market. These will provide mental stimulation and get your dog moving to “work” for her food. It’s a great way to improve her cognitive skills, entertain her and reward her for exercising all at once.
Arrange Play Dates
Inviting friends with dogs over for a visit is good for both of you. Your dog will get to play with a buddy and you’ll enjoy some time relaxing with a friend. It’s a win for both of you! In addition to getting the opportunity to chase each other around and play canine games, both dogs will benefit from the social interaction with each other.
If you have the room, you can play some outdoor games inside when the weather’s bad. Tossing a ball and letting your dog fetch it is simple and effective, particularly if you toss the ball up or down a flight of stairs so they get a bit of a cardio workout. Hide-and-seek can also be fun and will mentally stimulate them while they’re searching for you.
Visit the Local Dog Park
Dog parks provide your dog with space to run around off leash. Many of them also have play areas with obstacle courses and fun canine activities. The local dog parks will also be cleared of snow so your beloved can play longer without getting cold and wet.
Agility Parks or Agility Training Facilities are dog training parks that feature elements such as tunnels, weave poles, tables, jumps and seesaws on obstacle courses. Your pet will love training to run through the obstacle course and you may even discover he’s good enough for agility trials in your area. Be sure to call ahead to book time and talk to the available trainer if your dog is a beginner.
Create a Backyard Playground
Don’t have an agility course in your area? You can use elements such as toddler playground elements, ramps, steps, a platform for her to stand on and be “king of the hill,” tunnels and other obstacles. If you look online, you’ll discover plans and instructions for building the various elements. Check Pinterest and YouTube for DIY dog playground ideas. You can build the elements in your garage, then set them up in the backyard.
Enroll Your Dog in Daycare
You may not need to put your dog in daycare, but you can choose to send them a few days a week so they get the physical exercise, socialization and mental stimulation it provides. Even a few days each week can increase their activity level and give them the opportunity to make new friends. You can also use that time to get in some of your own exercise at a gym or fitness studio, getting both of you moving despite the chilly temps.
Consider a Treadmill
If the weather outside is too cold for either of you to go outside or there is two feet of snow on the ground, you may have to stay inside. Walking with your dog on a treadmill set at a low speed he is comfortable with may be an alternative. You can use a regular treadmill together or invest in a canine treadmill designed with pets in mind. If you take this route, be sure your dog understands how to walk on it properly and always supervise him and don’t overtire him. It should be exercise, not a marathon.
No matter how frightful the weather outside is, there are ways to make your dog’s exercise delightful if you take the time to properly prepare. Then, when spring rolls around, they’ll be happy, healthy and ready for warmer weather.