Even during the chilly months, our dogs still need physical exercise and mental stimulation. The cold, wet weather is no excuse for not getting out and about. Because without daily walks, our pooches will not only gain weight, but it can lead to boredom and behaviour problems.
But winter can certainly limit the time we spend outside with our pups. Some breeds are made for colder climates and cope well in frosty conditions – think Huskies, Malamutes and Newfoundlands. Whereas smaller or short haired breeds need a few safety measures.
Extra care and adapting their routine is the best way to go. Always ensure your pup is cosy and warm before heading outdoors, and stick to shorter walks during the warmest part of the day.
Here are our top tips for exercising your dog this winter.
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Top safety tips for exercising your dog in winter
- If your dog is susceptible to cold weather, provide a cosy jumper or a waterproof coat to help keep them warm.
- If the roads are icy or it’s snowing outside, be sure to protect your dog’s paws from frost and salt. You can try booties if your dog will tolerate them, or use a protective paw balm like Musher’s Secret.
- Keep a close eye on your dog for signs of hypothermia. If your dog is visibly shivering, has trouble walking, feels cold to the touch, or has trouble breathing, get your dog inside right away.
- If your routine is usually one or two long walks a day, take a few shorter strolls outside so your dog is never too cold.
Creative ways to exercise your dog indoors
Since it’s best to limit your time outdoors with your pooch in winter, you may want to include extra activities to help your dog burn off excess energy and calories.
You don’t always need a big field and a tennis ball to play a classic game of fetch. If you have a long hallway, you can make best use of the space and toss your dog’s favourite cuddly toy. Just be sure to remove any breakable items before you begin.
Play hide and seek
Hide and seek is a great way to get your dog moving, and it’s also a real hoot! All you need to do is choose a hiding spot in your home, call your dog to you and wait. You can also hold onto a treat to reward your dog when they’ve found you. Hide and seek is a great physical and mental activity, as well as a wonderful way to bond with your dog. It’s always a joy to see the look on their face when they finally find you.
Use a doggy treadmill
Treadmills are not only great for us humans, but they’re good for doggy fitness too. Treadmills are ideal if the weather is torrential or it’s been deemed unsafe to go outside. You can buy treadmills specially made for dogs, or you can use a human one if you have one at home. If you’re using a human treadmill, just be sure to take the proper safety precautions. Allow your dog to familiarise themselves with the equipment and start at a slow pace.
Join a Doga class
Doga classes have popped up all over the world in recent years. And it’s exactly what it says on the tin – yoga for you and your dog. Although your dog won’t be able to do most of the poses, they will still learn to enjoy some of the stretches and massages. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, as well as socialise with other dogs and people.
Sign up for indoor agility
Agility courses offer a brilliant bonus workout for your dog, both mentally and physically. Your pup will learn to run through hoops, weave through poles, run over bridges, up and down ramps and take on jumps in the comfort of an indoor environment. If you’re unable to travel and have the space, alternatively you could make your own agility course from items in your home.
Organise a play date
If both dogs are friendly, invite your dog owner friends around for a doggy playdate. Or even a few dog parents from the local dog park. All that socialising and playing will do wonders for your dog’s happiness, fitness levels and socialisation.
Create an obstacle puzzle course
There are plenty of puzzle feeders and brain games you can buy online for dogs. Or you could make your own with these DIY options! But why not create an obstacle course with a few brain games for that added fun. Place the various brain games around your home where your dog has to hunt them down. You could even include a few obstacles they need to jump over or run through to make it more challenging.
Play stair chase
This is a great game to give both you and your dog a workout. And it’s as simple as running up and down the stairs and letting your dog chase you. The general excitement of running up and down should make your dog eager to join in.
If you’d rather not run up and down the stairs yourself, you could combine this game with fetch. Simply toss their favourite toy up the stairs so your dog has to retrieve it for you. It’s important to note, this game is not suitable for dogs with joint problems. If your dog has arthritis, stick to one of the other activities that are gentler on joints.
Play obedience training relay
This is an activity we love in our house and it’s a brilliant way to reinforce your dog’s recall. And you can get the whole family involved too! Ask everyone to grab a handful of treats and choose a different room in the home. Then get your dog in front of you and quick fire a few tricks or obedience commands with your dog, like sit, paw, lie down and speak. Offer your dog a reward, then have another family member call them. This second person runs through a couple of commands, offers a treat and the next person calls your dog, and so on. Obedience training relay is a brilliant mental and physical exercise and helps freshen old tricks.
This is as simple as grabbing a bottle of dog friendly bubbles and letting loose. Most dogs love chasing bubbles and will burn off lots of energy as they run and jump to catch them.
What’s your favourite way to exercise your dog on those gloomy days? Let us know in the comments below…
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