For me, the mere thought of exercising during the winter makes me cringe. When I see people running outside, I stare at them with contempt, wondering why they can’t be normal like the rest of us – hibernating, baking cookies, and binge-watching Netflix for three months.
Unfortunately, the way I stare at runners is the same way my dog Henry stares at me, saying Hey mom, just because you want to be fat and lazy for a while doesn’t mean I have to be. (Also, stop watching Mob Wives because I’m starting to hate you.)
Even though it’s cold outside, it’s important for dogs to still get daily exercise and the winter weather shouldn’t stop that from happening. The more exercise they get and energy they burn, the less likely they’ll become overweight or have the wintertime blues.
Here are 7 great ways to exercise your pup during the winter:
1. Play a game with him indoors
We play fetch, tug-of-war, and Monkey in the Middle with Henry so he can get both physical and mental stimulation. Our neighbor complains he sounds like a galloping horse, but whatevs, he needs his exercise and he has a fantastic time. Cesar Milan also suggests playing hide-and-seek with your dog to get him moving and mentally engaged. He says hiding a treat or his favorite toy has two benefits: it tires him out and is good for reinforcing the "come" command.
2. Step it up
If you live in a multi-level home or apartment building, take advantage of the free workout equipment that’s at your disposal – stairs. As long as his knees are healthy, walking or running up and down stairs will provide a great workout for both you and your dog. You can also try using dog or human treadmills to exercise your dog. Just make sure you take the right precautions and spend time familiarizing your dog with how treadmills work.
3. Create an indoor agility course
By using household objects like chairs, blankets, brooms, and buckets, you can create an agility course in which your dog will enjoy navigating and weaving. Take short breaks between obstacles for obedience training and small workouts.
4. Exercise her mind
While physical exercise is important, so, too, is mental exercise. If you’re stuck inside, teach her new tricks or give her a puzzle toy. Teaching her to "spin" or "back up" will really get her mind and body moving. Puzzle toys hide treats, which is not only fun for your dog, but it’s also interactive and strengths her cognitive abilities as she tries to figure out how to get the food.
5. Take him on a date
Dogs like being wined and dined just like the rest of us, so take him with you on outings throughout the week. If he’s struggling with cabin fever, take him to the pet store for a new toy or a dog-friendly coffee shop next time you get a cup of joe. For more dog-on-dog interaction, consider arranging a play date or taking him to an indoor pet center or doggy day care, since socialization is vital to your dog’s mental and physical health. What’s more, allowing him to run around with another dog gives him the exercise he needs and the break you need.
6. Go skijoring
While you’ve probably heard of dog sledding, you’ve probably never heard of skijoring, a combination of cross-country skiing and dog sledding. To skijor, your dog gets a dog sledding harness which is attached by rope or towline to a harness that you wear, and using skis or poles, you power yourself while your dog pulls you. As long as your dog is 35 pounds, healthy, and has the energy and stamina to pull you around a mountain, all you need is basic training to get started. You can also take her snowshoeing.
7. Stop being a baby and go outside
Sure, it’s cold outside, but that’s what coats are for, right? Bundle yourself (and your dog) up and go play in the yard or a dog park. Walking or running through snow will tire and tone your dog, helping her exert energy and get the daily exercise she needs. When you’re back in the house, make sure you towel her off to remove any lingering snow or ice on her fur or in between her foot pads. If you really hate the cold and can’t bare it, hire a dog walker so Fido can still get some exercise.
Whether you learn a new sport or take more advantage of your living room space, it’s important to exercise your dog’s mind and body throughout the winter so he stays healthy and fit. If you do, you’ll be amazed at how happy and relaxed he is, counting the days until spring right next to you.
Image: Nicole Nicky