Winter means a time to snuggle into warm clothing, enjoy the comforts of home, celebrate with holiday meals, and, unfortunately for many two- and four-legged family members, pack on a few extra pounds.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. Winter can also be a time for fun activities, both indoors and outdoors. Even if the weather outside is frightful, staying active with your dog can be so delightful—for you and your furry companions. Winter’s chill may require changes to your usual exercise schedule but by no means does it spell an end to active fun.
Maintaining a daily walking schedule of at least two 30-minutes walks is a great for your dog—and for you. If de-icing chemicals are used in your area, consider booties for your Bowser. For dogs who won’t accept protective boots, watch for painful ice between your dog’s toes. Keeping fur trimmed in this area will help as well. Be sure to wash your dog’s paws when you return home to remove any mud, salt or chemicals from the pads. If any winds up on the carpet, Rug Doctor’s Spot & Stain Remover does a great job getting rid of tracked-in mud and slush stains.
Many dogs enjoy wearing coats or sweaters during cold weather. You’ll also find specially made coats with heating packs that act like hand warmers to warm your woofer.
If you’re into outdoor winter sports—or get inspired by the upcoming Olympic Winter Games —you’ll find some fun options for sharing the snow with your dog. The sport of skijoring is cross-country skiing while being pulled by your dog using a special harness for your dog and belt for you. For something a little less intense, head out in the snow with your dog for some fun scent tracking, letting your dog enjoy the smells of winter (or bury a tasty treat in the snow for him to find!)
Would you rather stay indoors? Whether it’s just too cold—or if shorter days mean you don’t want to face the winter chill in the dark—you and your dog can stay active indoors, too. If you have a flight of stairs, a game of fetch—or a tossed treat—can be a mini-workout. ‘Doga‘ (yes, yoga with dogs) is favored by many while others get up and dance with their doggie. (It’s termed “freestyle dancing” in the canine world.) This exercise doesn’t take any special training, and your dog is guaranteed to never laugh at your dance moves!
Winter makes a great time to teach your dog some new tricks. Mental stimulation can be a great workout for a restless Rover as he works to learn a new trick or to do “doggie pushups,” practicing sit, down, and up commands with a little training treat reward. Or try puzzle toys that challenge your dog to move playing pieces to uncover hidden mini-treats (or a portion of your dog’s dinner). You can even set up a mini agility course for your canine with jumps (a broomstick), a tunnel (a bed sheet stretched between chairs), or hoops (a hula hoop).
Travel makes a great way to keep your dog active in the winter as well. Enjoying a ride in the car, even a trip as simple as a journey through your bank’s drive-in window, can be a fun outing. Many pet supply stores welcome dogs, a great way to get your dog out and active as you walk the aisles together.
Staying active during the winter months can be a great way for you and your dog to stay in shape together and to strengthen your bond in this special season.
About the Author: Certified dog trainer Paris Permenter, with her husband John Bigley, is the publisher of DogTipper.com, providing over 10,000 pages of dog tips and news. Paris and John have also authored of over 30 travel and pet books including the new DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs (Open Road, distributed by Simon & Schuster).