Do you get “Cabin Fever” in the winter? Does you dog seem to act up more or get themselves into more trouble during winter? Our pets need exercise and stimulation just like we humans do. Every dog, no matter the breed, needs some form of exercise or stimulation on a regular basis to maintain a healthy weight and mind. If you struggle to find things to do with your dog in the winter, read on for a few suggestions.
Breeds differ in the amount and type of exercise that is best for them. Just like kids and adults, some of the best exercise for physical and mental health is to get yourself outside. It is a good idea to towel off their feet and toes when you come inside to get off any snowballs or sidewalk/road salt that may have gotten on them. You will have a happier, more well-adjusted dog the more they are able to release energy outdoors.
WALK, WALK, WALK. A simple walk is always my go-to form of exercise and the one I would always say to use the most. All dogs need to walk with their “pack” on a regular basis, ideally this would happen daily. This is the best way to give them structured exercise and to maintain a healthy bond with your dog. If your dog is a small breed or you are worried about the cold temperature, there are many options for doggy coats and booties to keep them warm long enough for a good brisk walk.
Running through deep snow is very tiring. If you have a larger, more active breed, there are many activities to do in the snow. Hiking, skijoring, snowshoeing, or even playing fetch in deep snow can be an effective form of exercise. Fetching in deep snow will also fulfill the searching/tracking instinct that many breeds have as they search for their toy.
If you have a small breed or a small yard, a snow maze can be a new and fun activity for both you and your dog. Use a shovel to carve a path through deep snow in your yard. Create a maze your dog can find their way through. You can even hide treats or their favorite toy and turn it into a search mission for added stimulation.
If you are unable to provide enough exercise outdoors, there are some indoor options to consider.
Although walking outdoors is the best form of exercise, you don’t have to go outside to take your dog for a walk. Dogs are able to learn how to walk on a treadmill (always under supervision of course). Some will even ask to go on their treadmill once they learn how! Always start slow and calm and take small steps when training them to walk on the treadmill.
Try some indoor training. Being stuck inside is a great time to teach new tricks or commands. Training is a great way to engage their brain, learning is fantastic mental stimulation. It will also help with obedience and will further seal the bond between dog and owner.
Indoor searching/tracking is another option for indoor activity. You can hide a favorite toy, treats, or even yourself or another family member and challenge them to find the scent.
These are just some of the ways to exercise your dog in the winter. There are many other options but the most important thing is that your dog gets moving, physically and mentally. If you have behavioral or health related questions, your annual exam is a great time to ask your veterinary care team! Call to schedule an appointment 218-444-5797.