Getting enough exercise during winter months can be a challenge, especially if you own a dog. We know how important it is for people to be active during winter, but we can go to the gym when it’s too cold to exercise outdoors. By taking 20 to 30 minutes a day to get your sweat on with these fun ways to stay active with your dog this winter, you can keep your pet healthy while creating a deeper bond and keeping those winter blues away.
Here are some fun activities you and your furry friend can do together to stay active this winter.
1. Take a Winter Hike
The toughest part about going on a winter hike is the preparation. For pet parents, that means coats, scarves, mittens, hats, and winter boots. But what about your pooch? Many people think their pet’s fur is enough to keep them warm. But unless you have a dog bred for the snow like a St. Bernard, Chow Chow, or Alaskan Malamute, then taking precautions to keep your pet warm enough is highly advised by the National Humane Society.
Dog-loving companies like Ruffwear make products like insulated doggie booties and jackets that help even the most domestic of breeds romp around in the cold. Whether you’re summiting mountains, snowshoeing through a meadow, or walking around the city block, be sure your pooch is bundled up appropriately.
Also, for longer hikes in the snow, be sure to pack a lightweight, packable, insulated dog bed. You want your pup to have a warm, comfortable spot to rest, or they might be an icicle before you getting moving again.
2. Play Fetch at a Dog Park
If your local dog park isn’t iced over, this is a fastest way to poop out your pet. Teaching your dog to play fetch will come in handy throughout the year. You can even play this game inside your home with smaller breeds. And, until your dog gets the gist of the game, you’ll be doing a lot of the fetching yourself that will help keep you in shape too.
This old tried-and-true form of fun gives your dog a workout, and every time you throw the ball outside you’re working out your arms, so be sure to warm-up beforehand to avoid an injury.
3. Doggie Dash
During winter, this activity is designed for pet owners who live in high-rise apartment buildings. All multistory buildings have emergency exit stairs, and larger apartment buildings will have one or more stairwells to meet fire codes. Start by running up a flight of stairs with your pooch and cross through the hallway to the other set of stairs to continue.
Keep in mind that most dogs can’t go for long runs without proper conditioning, so be sure to build up your pet’s stamina one floor at a time and pay close attention to make sure you’re not asking too much of them. Better than the Stairmaster at the gym, stairclimbing will keep you and your pet stress-free during the winter months.
4. Indoor Obstacle Courses
When you want to combine exercise with obedience training for your dog during the winter months, set up a dog obstacle course! It’s a fun project for the whole family and can be as simple as building tunnels with cardboard moving boxes. Indoor doggie obstacle courses can also include ottomans, broomsticks, and rolled up blankets.
Not only are obstacle courses great exercise, but they also help to build your pet’s confidence. If you have fun demonstrating how to maneuver the course, your dog will surely follow. While indoor obstacle courses are more suitable for smaller dogs, an empty basement or large covered patio can accommodate larger breeds.
5. Hide and Seek
Playing hide and seek is good for the bodies and brains of people and pets alike. Not only is it sure to induce giggles, but it will also help cure the winter blues when you’re playing indoors with your pet during winter.
There are a couple of ways to play hide and seek with your pet. You can hide behind a piece of furniture, in a different room, or behind the curtains and call Fido to find you. Be sure to have a treat on hand as a reward to reinforce your pet coming to you when you call.
You can also hide a treat or toy and use the phrase “Find It!” to initiate the game. Help your dog learn the game by hiding treats where they’re easy to find. You can increase the difficulty of hiding places as your pet catches on.
Perfect for a rainy or snowy day, a good game of hide and seek will keep you both entertained while teaching your dog how to respond to your commands.
It’s a real thing – doga is Yoga for dogs. With a focus on stretching and massage, doga is a great way for you and your pooch to spend time doing an activity that will bring you both better health. Yoga is good for your muscles, your mind, and virtually anyone can do it, and it’s no different for pets.
Benefits of doga:
- Builds a stronger bond between you and your dog
- Helps to relieve the stress associated with being a new pet owner
- Creates more trust between you and your dog
- Aids in recovery for injured dogs
- Offers some exercise for obese or elderly dogs
While doga classes haven’t swept through the country yet, you and your canine friend can take part in yogas latest craze. There are doga instructional DVDs available online, as well as instructional YouTube videos.
Additionally, humane societies occasionally team up with yoga instructors to hold doga events.
Keep in mind that if you tend towards being a couch potato, so will your dog. Your pooch relies on you to be healthy and happy. According to research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs classified as overweight or obese; it’s why veterinarians are making considerable efforts to educate pet owners on healthy pet food choices. And, just like people, overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from hypertension, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Luckily, all of these diseases can be avoided (by both you and your pup) by taking 20 to 30 minutes a day to get your sweat on with these fun ways to stay active during winter.
Snowboarding Dog Photo: Kurt Bauschardt, Flickr