When it gets cold out, it’s hard to make ourselves get up and take our dog out for some exercise. It’s hard enough to keep ourselves active when the air is chilly and the sun goes down early. We’d much rather just stay home where it’s cozy and eat a nice big plate of something deliciously comforting.
But…common sense prevails. We need exercise year-round and so does our dog. There are ways to make those chilly weather walks fun for both of you, and even smart alternatives for when the weather is just plain too nasty to go out in.
Here are some great tips for staying active with your dog in winter weather.
If you have a dog with lots of energy, don’t skimp on the outdoor activity unless you absolutely have to. Keep them warm and dry with a water repellant doggie jacket or vest. Like you, maintaining body core warmth will go a long way toward keeping them comfortable and healthy. If they have sensitive feet or you live in an area where it gets really cold out, consider protecting their feet as well. You can do something as simple as putting petroleum jelly on their feet before you go out, or you can buy dog foot balm or dog booties.
Even when you have all these protective measures in place, pause to put your hand on them once in a while to make sure they are warm. Feel their ears and behind their front legs where the fur is thinnest. And if they are whining and mincing and cowering under the cold, take them home.
Another thing to think about is your dog’s natural strength and energy. Cold weather walks may need to be shorter, and if they are, will they burn off enough energy? Dogs who have excess energy or suffer from boredom can develop bad habits like digging through the trash or chewing. If you have a particularly energetic pet, get them a backpack that has room for weights so that going to for a walk or racing around the dog park uses more energy.
For those times when the weather is just too awful to go outside, figure out a few ways to help your dog burn off their energy indoors. Play games like hide and seek or tug of war with them, or create an obstacle course for them to find treats. They’ll love the interaction with you and it will get their bodies and brains moving.
If your dog requires social time, sign them up for a class during the coldest months. Just about any dog can benefit from an obedience class, and a mild-mannered dog could even work toward becoming a therapy dog.
Don’t Neglect Yourself
Bundle up. Wear waterproof or windproof gear as needed, strap on your own protective booties, and keep your ears covered. Yes, we know we sound like your mother, but really, your mother is right. It’s cold out—wear a jacket. Buy thin gloves if you need to keep treats in your pocket and don’t want to peel a glove off each time you dole one out.
Find a nice route near your home—a walk around the park or a path through the neighborhood—and take your furry best friend out for some fresh air and adventure. They will thank you over and over in happiness and doggie smiles!