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It's hard to stay active when cold weather sets in. But it's important to make sure your dog gets plenty of activity and exercise through the cold months to keep them fit, healthy and happy. Read on to learn how to keep dogs active in winter.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on their size, breed, age, physical condition and energy level, says the American Kennel Club. Smaller breeds typically need less exercise than large dogs, and puppies generally need to exercise more often while seniors may need to move less. To find out how much exercise your dog should be getting, research their breed. If you're still not certain, ask your veterinarian, "How much exercise does my dog need?"
How to Keep Dogs Active in Winter
While cold temperatures and wet weather might make dogs of any age want to slow down, it's important to keep them active through the colder months so they don't pack on pounds or engage in problematic behaviors due to boredom. Here are some ideas to help your dog beat the winter blues and stay active.
1. Get Outside With Your Dog
Although you may not want to, one of the best ways to keep your dog active in winter is to keep up their daily walks. When the weather permits, take your dog outside to walk, play and explore. Just make sure they have the right gear, like booties to protect their paws from ice, salt and chemical ice melts. Small dogs and short-haired breeds should also wear coats to keep them from catching a chill.
2. Exercise Your Dog Indoors
On bad weather days, you can still get your dog up and moving inside the house. If you have a treadmill, you can train your dog how to safely walk on it — although if you have a large dog, you may need to purchase one that's specially designed for dogs. But treadmills aren't the only way to walk your pooch without leaving the house. If you have enough space, simply clear objects out of the way and do laps around the living room together. Or, if you have stairs and your dog isn't prone to joint or back problems, encourage them to follow you up and down the steps. Keep it fun with treats, encouragement and praise.
3. Engage Your Pup in Indoor Play
Vigorous play is another effective way to engage your pooch and help them burn calories. Games like fetch and tug-of-war are both excellent forms of exercise that are easy to do inside. Hiding treats and toys for your dog to find is another great way to get your pup up and moving while engaging their mind, natural instincts and scenting abilities.
4. Try Agility Training
Consider enrolling your dog in an agility class if one is available in your area. Many agility courses are offered in indoor facilities, making them a perfect wintertime activity. You can also construct your own indoor agility course at home, making use of furniture cushions, ottomans, cardboard boxes, broom handles and other household items. Enlist the whole family to come up with creative obstacles and challenges for your dog to master.
5. Keep Your Dog Occupied
While exercising and playing with your dog is a great way to bond, you may not always be available to actively engage with them. For times when you need to be somewhere else or doing something else, take advantage of treat-dispensing toys, snuffle mats and interactive puzzle toys to provide your pup with mental stimulation, give them an outlet for chewing and sniffing, and prevent them from becoming bored.
It might take more planning and effort on your part, but with a little creativity, your dog can stay just as active when a blizzard is raging outside as they can on a warm and sunny day. And keeping your dog moving and engaged through the winter will benefit their mental health as much as their physical health.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a freelance writer and blogger who has been writing in the pet health and lifestyle space since 2014. Her clients have included Hill's Pet, American Kennel Club, Chewy, and more.