Four Smart Ways to Exercise Your Dog This Winter
Learn how to keep pets happy—mentally and physically—even when stuck indoors.
Make no mistake about it: Exercise is essential for your dog's health any time of year. Not only is adequate daily exercise—which is usually around an hour a day but varies based on age and breed—important for the physical health of your beloved pooch, but it helps keep them mentally stimulated, too. "Dogs are happiest when they have a purpose and activity helps to give them a purpose," says Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at the American Kennel Club (AKC). "Bored dogs are also more prone to destructive behavior. There is a saying that 'a tired dog is a good dog'."
Whether you like to take your dog on long walks every day or simply let them play in the backyard, the cold weather season can put a strain on daily exercise routines. "Exercise in extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) can be dangerous to people and animals," Dr. Klein says. "Extremely cold weather may mean having to make clever adjustments in your dog's exercise, like choosing short quick walks or runs in areas sheltered from the wind." So, how do you maintain an exercise regimen even in the bitter cold? We asked Dr. Klein for a few of his tips for exercising your pup this season, and here's what he had to say.
Buy proper cold weather-friendly canine attire.
Just like humans, dogs also require physical protection from extreme temperatures such as boots and sweaters. "Extreme cold and wind can be dangerous to skin, causing frostbite, with concerns of dropping core body temperatures to dangerously low levels," Dr. Klein says. "Consider accessories such as boots and sweaters when taking your dog outdoors for exercise, but purchase them beforehand to get dogs used to them before needing to use them."
Provide plenty of mental stimulation for your dog.
On snowy days, Dr. Klein says you can count on puzzles and other mentally-stimulating toys to keep your dog entertained. "Activity to relieve boredom doesn't always have to be physical," he says. "Toys or puzzle-like games, like hide-and-seek or games of tug, will help keep your dog's mind stimulated so they don't get bored indoors."
Forge an indoor play area for your pooch.
If you're lucky enough to have the extra square footage, Dr. Klein says you can always carve out an area inside of your home for the dog to play around in. "If you have the room, try to make some sort of playground or agility course in an indoor area such as a basement or garage," he says. You can always run up and down the stairs in your home with your dog a few times, play fetch in the hallway, or set up an obstacle course that is rewarded with homemade treats when you can't get outside to exercise.
Seek out community indoor play areas.
When all else fails, you can always count on your local dog park or dog daycare to provide a place for indoor exercise. "Many communities have indoor play areas for dogs or groups of dogs," Dr. Klein says. "You'll want to make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccines and gets along well with other dogs before trying any communal groups.