Dogs get cabin fever and can get the blues in the winter months, very much like people can. Contrary to popular belief that colder weather means less activity for dogs (and people), using a a little ingenuity, a bit of creativity, and some treats, winter activities for dogs means keeping the pounds off and minds stimulated. Here are 8 ways to keep dogs active in winter:
Short But Brisk Walks
Keeping active is the key to keeping a dog’s mind and body in shape. No matter how old (or young) a dog is, mobility is important. Use caution if a dog has arthritis or other mobility issues, of course. When venturing outside, be sure to protect a dog from the elements with a warm sweater. Pay close attention to the paws and use something like a paw coating product or dog outdoor booties. I like to get waterproof dog clothes for my Dexter, a Cocker Spaniel, so his thicker hair can stay dry on our winter snow-covered-sidewalk jaunts.
Dogs and cats get cold, particularly short-haired breeds, senior citizens, puppies, and pets with medical conditions. Look for an insulated sweater with a turtleneck, that covers the belly, and that allows for protection from neck to tip of tail.
Never force a dog to wear clothing if they are truly uncomfortable. While many dogs benefit from the additional layering in colder temperatures, try letting your dog wear the coat in the house for minutes at a time. If he or she is not responsive — or does the famous “freeze in place” pose — scratch the idea and move on.
Get together with a group of doggie friends and have some indoor fun. One of our favorite games is Magical Mutt. Simply have each dog line up for some slight of hand and treat. We use high value treats and kibble for rewards. Place a treat into one closed fist, keeping the other fist empty. Ask each dog, “Which hand?” When your dog touches its nose to the fist that contains the treat, reveal the treat and reward your dog. For a competitive spin, time each dog. The quickest canine is dubbed the winner. If you don’t engage with other dogs for group play, this is still a fun game to play with your dog one on one.
Watch the Calories
Not always. Though dogs are more sedentary in winter months, gaining weight as a form of insulation is not always advised. Indoor dogs who participate in strenuous activities or winter sports may require additional food in colder months. A study from the Association for Pet Obesity revealed that 53 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese in the United States. Keep a pet’s heart, organs, and joints healthy and keep an eye on their weight year round.
- Available in canned or bagged kibble
- Limited ingredients
- Grain free
- Made in California
- Contains more natural ingredients like Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Sea kelp, and Cottage Cheese (you know, like WE, people, eat)
- Good for dogs with sensitive stomachs
Here’s a handy checklist if you are considering switching your dog to Pinnacle or rotating to vary a dog’s proteins:
Have a pooch who gets cabin fever when stuck inside? I asked Canine Fitness Trainer Gail Miller Bisher what she does to encourage her clients to commit to Fido’s exercise even on rainy days. “To live a healthy canine lifestyle, a dog should be getting 20 to 60 minutes of exercise each day and whether he needs to lose weight or is simply maintaining a healthy fitness level that means consistency,” Bisher reported.
Sitting Up to beg for 10 reps will help strengthen your dog’s core muscles improving balance and stability. Those core muscles are used for walking, trotting, jumping and many other actions so it is important to strengthen them regularly.
Rolling Over is another good exercise for core muscles. Do four to five rolls each direction so you are targeting muscles equally.
Shaking Hands is a nice stretch for the shoulder muscles but be sure to do both front paws 5 to 10 reps for a balanced workout.
Commando Crawling on his belly for 10 feet following a healthy, low-fat treat. This is good for rear end, shoulders and core muscles.
Tug-of-War with a toy or towel is a great indoor exercise for strengthening the rear end, shoulders and abdomen. Remember not to lift the dog’s head back when playing tug of war.
Indoor “board games” for dogs are designed to exercise a dog’s brain. These activity toys encourage problem solving in a multitude of ways: finding hidden treats via lifting and pushing blocks, pushing pieces and turning discs. My dog gets cabin fever when stuck inside too long, so imagine being under doctor’s orders not to walk. Put a treat in one hand or under a cup and see if your dog can find it from his seated position. Since sedentary dogs tend to gain weight, keep the type of treats to a low-cal or healthy minimum. Again, if you train a dog to enjoy kibble like Pinnacle, you can use the pieces as rewards during game play.
Dog Skiing or Snowshoeing
Over the years, I have interviewed many pet parents who have dog that love the snow. If your dog digs the powdery white stuff, consider a trip to a pet-friendly resort. At Mt. Van Hoevenberg, near Lake Placid, New York, visitors can ski or snowshoe the dog-friendly loop, with no fee required for pets.There are fantastic deals for pet-friendly vacations offering travelers and their pets discounted rates in the winter months.
Skijoring, in which a dog equipped with a harness pulls a cross-country skier across the trails, is another popular option. Ensure your dog is ready for such physical activity and always check with your dog’s veterinarian first. Of course, proper equipment and gear are required for warmth and paw protection.
Paint Like “Paw-casso”
Dogs channel their inner Rembrandt with this activity. Mix together cornstarch, flour, water and food coloring to a thickened consistency. Put paint on art paper, place plastic wrap on top of it and let Bowser walk all over it. Remove the plastic wrap, allow to air-dry, then proudly display. When I have done pawprint projects with my dog I always used nontoxic finger paints. You could always do this project and send pawprint holiday cards out.
Is your dog ready for the colder winter months? What do you do to keep him or her active in the winter?