8 Ways to Exercise Your Dog This Winter
By Dr. Natalie Waggener, South Boston Animal Hospital
We have eight ways to keep your dog physically active when the temperature drops.
1. Walk your dog.
During winter, you can still take your dog outside for a walk. Pet owners should shorten their outdoor walking times during cold weather months, but not eliminate them. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), walking provides dogs with essential exercise and mental stimulation. The activity allows canines to explore new scents and smells beyond your home. Walking also burns excess calories and keeps them fit.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when walking your dog in the winter:
Get your canines evaluated before starting any pet exercise program. Schedule a wellness checkup at South Boston Animal Hospital. Our veterinarians will evaluate your pet for health conditions that can affect their ability to tolerate the cold. We'll also check for bone, joint, and muscle issues that can impact their mobility.
Pet parents should avoid walking their dogs during the coldest part of the day. And be sure to limit your time outdoors based on your pet's cold-weather tolerance levels.
Dress your dogs properly for the outdoor weather. Canine bodies were not built for cold weather and dogs have different levels of cold tolerance. Short dogs and those with light coats are easily affected by the harsh, winter weather. To protect their paws from snow and ice, dress them in dog booties and clothe them in sweaters and coats for extra warmth.
Check for signs of hypothermia. If your dog is weak, shivering or has a lack of mental alertness, take them inside immediately.
Bring several dry sweaters. Wet clothing can cause a dog to become cold and develop hypothermia. Change your dog's clothes when they play in the snow.
2. Make meals and treats an adventure.
Motivate your pet to get extra exercise by making them work for their meals and treats. Try hiding your dog's meals and treats inside of a fun toy. The items will release treats for your pet to eat as they play and the puzzles strengthen your dog's problem-solving abilities and critical-thinking skills. Additionally, the indoor physical activity burns calories.
3. Start indoor training.
During inclement weather, use the indoor time to train your dog. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers says that training helps dogs learn to socialize. Guide them through obedience training. Teach your pet how to politely greeting guests. Show them how to properly walk while leashed. Help them learn to sit. Get them to stop begging for food. Dog training will give your canine essential physical activity to burn off any extra winter weight.
4. Bring your pet to a dog agility park.
Take your dog to an agility park or trail. The facilities will provide your pet with a wonderful workout. Your canine can climb ramps, explore tunnels and walk across bridges. Some parks offer beginner's classes for pets starting the course for the first time.
You can also build an indoor or backyard agility course for your pet if winter weather makes it problematic to travel. Include teeters, tunnels, weave poles, pause tables and jumps in your homemade course.
5. Use pet treadmills.
Winter weather can make walking outside nearly impossible. Use an indoor treadmill to sneak in exercise for your pet. There are special treadmills constructed for pets. You can also walk dogs on ones designed for humans. Make sure the equipment runs at a safe speed for your pet. Exercising on a treadmill will help maintain your dog's muscle tone.
6. Take your canine to a pet gym.
Help your dog receive extra physical exercise at a pet gym. Most programs have exercise classes that give owners and their pets a workout. Some facilities even claim your dog will receive a much better workout than with regular exercise.
7. Schedule outings and playdates.
Take your dog out to play in local parks. Your dog can fetch items or catch Frisbees while outdoors. The added exercise will burn calories. However, as with walks, pay attention to your canine's physical symptoms to measure how long they can tolerate the cold weather.
A doggy playdate is another way to sneak in exercise. Invite local pet parents and dogs to a social gathering at your house. The activities will help your dog to socialize, stay physically fit and happy.
8. Take them to a dog daycare.
Your canine will receive stimulation, exercise and socialization at a dog daycare. Your pet can play with other dogs and trainers will also teach your dogs proper behavior.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.