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How to Keep Your Dog Active this Winter

Brrrr! The weather outside is frightful, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore your dog’s exercise needs. It just means his routine might look a little different these days. 

Exercise is essential for your dog—regardless of the frosty weather. Failure to exercise your dog can lead to destructive behaviors like chewing and barking, as well as aggression issues.

When the mercury dips below freezing and a walk through the icy cold is the last thing on your mind, try your hand at one of these indoor exercise options. These activities will help your dog maintain a healthy weight while strengthening your bond with him.

Walk off the winter weight with a dog treadmill

Yes, they exist. And with a price tag hovering around the $500-1,000 mark, they aren’t on the cheap side. Nonetheless, a dog treadmill could be the wisest investment you’ll ever make for your dog’s health. 

Running at a quieter volume than human treadmills, dog treadmills are less panic-inducing (great news for your high-strung fur baby). Dog treadmills are less bulky than human ones, so it will take up less space in your home. They’re also designed with safety features (such as raised sides) made specifically with your canine pal in mind. 

For first time users, let your dog adjust to the treadmill slowly. Start at the lowest speed, and gradually increase the difficulty over time. 

Our final thoughts: if you’re able to make the splurge, a dog treadmill can be a great way to get your pup moving when the wind chill dips into single digits.

Play a game of scent search

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Nose games are a stimulating way to keep your pup entertained while using his natural talents. Hide your dog’s favorite toy, instruct him to find it, and then reward him when he retrieves it. Get the whole family in on the action by taking turns hiding the toy. 

For a variation of this game, try a round of hide-and-seek to get your dog’s heart pumping. Instead of hiding a toy, hide yourself! When you’re out of sight, have your dog use his sense of smell to find you. Not only will your dog be getting in some solid cardio, but he’ll also give his brain a killer workout.

Run your dog up and down the stairs

Have a staircase in your home? If so, you’ve got a built-in winter-friendly activity at your disposal. Exercising your dog can be as simple as putting on his leash and talking a few trips up and down the stairs. You’ll use more muscle power than a plain old walk. And you’ll stay warm and dry!

Here’s another way to get Fido’s heartrate up: standing at the top of the stairs, throw a toy down to your dog and have him bring it back up to you. It’ll only take a few rounds of this before your dog is ready for a midday siesta. 

Create an indoor obstacle course for your dog

OK, so maybe this one sounds a little crazy. But c’mon: who didn’t love a good obstacle course as a kid? Look around your home—you’d be surprised at how many items you have lying around the house that you can use. Gather some cushions, blankets, chairs, stools, even a hoola-hoop. 

For inspiration, check out Animal Wellness Magazine’s list of DIY obstacle course ideas.

Give your dog a puzzle feeder

Exercise is more fun when there are treats involved! Puzzle feeders are an excellent get-up-and-move motivator. Depending on the design, your pup will have to use his paws, nose, or teeth to retrieve his reward. He’ll also enjoy the added benefit of stimulating his mental muscles!

Try a round of fetch—indoor style

Fetch doesn’t need to be a strictly outdoors affair. Bring this canine classic inside for some respite from the cold. Provided you have the space, of course.

Sign your pup up for a class

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You may be surprised to learn there are all kinds of local classes available to your dog. Consider enrolling your pup in indoor swimming lessons, a dance class (seriously), or a flyball team.

If those are less than appealing, obedience training courses will be sure to tire your dog out. Added bonus: your pup gets some extra socialization. 

Practice some “Doga”

Dog yoga (AKA “doga”) is the next big thing. It’s a wonderful way to reduce stress, improve circulation, and increase your dog’s range of motion. So what exactly does doga involve? Participants stretch and perform modified yoga poses—with their dog as their partner. If you can’t find a local doga class in your area, check out Youtube for free videos you can watch from the comfort of your home.

Give skijoring a shot

Image by Bob Denaro via Flickr

What’s “skijoring?” Think of it as a hybrid between cross-country skiing and dog sledding. If you and your dog are fans of the snow, this lively winter sport could be your new favorite hobby. 

To participate, you’ll need one to three dogs, a harness, and a pair of skis. As long as your dog‘s fond of running, weighs at least 35 pounds, and is polite around strangers, skijoring is definitely worth giving a shot.

Organize a puppy play date

To beat the winter blues, Invite your dog’s bff over for an afternoon of fun. If it’s not too cold outside, they can chase each other around the yard. Just make sure to monitor the temps and bring the dogs inside if the weather becomes too harsh.

If you’re stuck indoors, they’ll keep each other entertained while staying active.

Your dog’s health is in your hands

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to keep your dog mentally and physically fit. Proper exercise is a must, regardless of what the weather is doing. Staying active can decrease your dog’s anxiety, lower his aggression, and curb undesirable behavior such as chewing. 

Try incorporating one of the above exercises into your routine this week—you may just discover a new favorite activity you can share!