Updated: Mar 8, 2020
Cold weather and short days make staying active and fit a challenge for both us and our pets. It’s easy to be lazy when the temperature drops, but it’s important to stay active in order to maintain optimal health. Today, we’ll be sharing some ways that you can keep your dog (and yourself) movin’ and groovin’ all winter long.
1. Take a brisk walk.
Physical exercise and mental stimulation go paw in paw. The two work together to help dogs relax and burn off excess energy. The most basic form of exercise that anyone can (and should) do with their dog is walking. It is recommended to walk for 30 minutes a day at a comfortable tempo that gets your heart rate up but doesn’t feel like strenuous exercise– unless you’re into that kind of thing. If you are ambitious enough to start up a regular running routine, it’s important for you and your dog to ease into it slowly as it can put strain on the joints. Make a pact with your pup to walk, run, or gallop every single day, rain or shine (within reasonable weather conditions).
With winter weather comes the inevitable freezing temperatures, snow, and ice, at least in our neck of the woods. As responsible dog owners/caretakers, we must take certain precautions in order to protect our furry friends from harsh weather conditions. Most medium to large dogs can walk for 30 minutes in temperatures above 20 degrees. Smaller dogs should limite walks to 15-20 minutes when the temperature drops between 32 and 20 degrees F. However, if it is raining, snowing, or some unpleasant combination of the two, body temperatures will lower much faster, so shorter walks are recommended. If the temperature drops below zero, no dog (or human, for that matter) should be out for a walk.
Certain breeds have a better tolerance to winter weather, like the German Shepherd Dog named Doc who happens to be in the photo provided, due to their thick, protective coats. However, small dogs and short-haired dogs need a sweater or jacket for added protection and warmth. In order to protect your dog’s feet from sharp ice, heavy snow and the harmful chemicals in sidewalk salt, consider investing in a set of booties.
2. Make mealtime and treat time an active adventure.
There are loads of awesome tools you can use to make mealtime and snacks more interesting for your dog. Can you imagine eating the same thing every day? It would be extremely boring. It’s no wonder dogs are always begging for human food! Food puzzles and interactive treat dispensers can transform monotonous mealtime into a tasty adventure.
Food puzzles and brain games are also great for mental stimulation, which helps keep destructive boredom behavior at bay. You don’t have to break the bank to make mealtime fun. There are plenty of DIY food games and gadgets you can make on your own for cheap! Check out this article for 10 easy ideas for homemade dog food puzzles that your dog will love.
3. Teach your dog new skills indoors.
Take your dog’s tricks to the next level this winter. It’s the perfect time to hunker down and give your dog a challenge, while having lots of fun! This article will show you 10 fun, impressive tricks you can teach any dog. For more ideas, check out the tips and tricks below from our National Train Your Dog Month series in January.
Remember that when training your dog, consistency is key. Dogs are hardwired to want to please their humans, but we have to teach them right from wrong in order to help them get there. If you give a cue one time one day, and three times the next, you are not being consistent. For more effective communication and training with your dog, try to make your verbal, as well as non-verbal cues consistent. It makes it much easier for your dog to learn new commands and tricks.
Other ways to keep your dog happy and healthy in the winter are coordinating outings, playdates and daycare visits. Coming up soon is a series of articles dedicated to the benefits of daycare for all ages. Stay tuned and as always, howl or yowl at us with any questions or feedback!