Yes, it’s cold outside, and the number of daylight hours is short, but your dog does not hibernate, and it’s important that your dog get daily exercise. Vital for a dog’s physical and mental wellness, exercise is also a crucial part of the relationship between Pack Leader—you—and dog. On those days when bad weather makes walks impractical, you can still give your pup the exercise she needs with these six ideas for great winter exercise.
1. Play a game with your dog.
Hide-and-seek is a wonderful way to get your dog up and moving and mentally engaged. You can hide a treat or her favorite toy, but it’s better to make her come find you. Start by throwing a treat to get her to go away from you, and then hide in another part of the house. This game can really tire your pup out as she rushes around searching, and it’s good for reinforcing the “come” command.
2. Challenge your dog’s nose.
Dogs have incredibly powerful scenting abilities, so exercises that require your pal to use her nose are especially stimulating. Make her work for her dinner by creating an obstacle course she has to get through to find her food. Hide her meal in a box, or, better yet, put it in a Kong Wobbler or a Buster Ball.
3. Dog treadmills and indoor walking.
There are treadmills on the market designed specifically for dogs. But if you cannot afford one of these, use a human treadmill—but take the right precautions. Spend a few days familiarizing your dog with how it works. Use a slow speed and stand in front of the treadmill with a treat. Over three or four days, slowly increase the speed and the amount of time your pup spends on the treadmill. Work up to the same amount of time you normally spend on walks.
4. Sign your dog up for a class.
Sign up for an indoor agility or swimming class. Flyball provides good exercise, and a class comes with the added benefits of allowing your dog to socialize and boosting her mental agility by learning something new. Also, many cities have facilities with doggie swimming pools.
5. Practice targeting.
Being indoors gives you a great opportunity to practice targeting with your dog. Teach her to touch her nose to the back of your hand on command; this will make her focus on a target. It’s a great exercise because it gives you an activity you can do together. And once your pup has learned how to do this, you can use it whenever you want her to stop what she’s doing and focus. For example, if you’re out walking and she becomes excited when she sees another dog, you can use targeting to redirect her attention. Plus, your dog can’t bark when she’s touching her nose to your hand!
6. Don’t be a wimp…get outdoors!
Most bigger dogs love snow, and they can get a great workout by plowing through it. Spend 30 to 40 minutes in the snow, and your dog will get a workout that leaves her exhausted—and her muscles toned. When you come in, be sure to wash your dog’s paws to clean off any salt.