Exercise for Dogs: Winter Guidelines

How to exercise your dog in the winter?

Over the course of the blustery and snowy winter months, everyone has a tendency to put on some extra weight as they opt for cozy, long winter’s naps instead of venturing out into the cold. Your dog is not exempt from the consequence of lazy days of winter. Being overweight increases your dog’s risk for developing diabetes, heart problems and mobility problems. Here are some guidelines to help your dog take in some exercise over the winter.

Get your pets active during winter!

How to Exercise Dog in Winter

Warm Up
Just as their human counterparts, dogs should stretch themselves out and warm up their muscles before engaging in exercise. You can accomplish this simply by getting your dog excited at the prospect of doing something together. Call your dog and announce in enthusiastic tones the words that get him moving and that indicate that something fun is about to happen. Continue talking to your dog in this manner and coax it to follow you through the house as you put on your shoes, coat and gloves. By the time you are headed for the door, he should be ready for action.

Dress the Dog
If your dog is a young puppy that has a limited insulation of fat to preserve warmth, you may want to consider dressing your canine companion in a dog sweater or coat before heading outdoors. You should also bundle up your dog if it is a smooth-coated breed, such as a greyhound, and toy breeds should always be dressed since they have little body mass to maintain heat. For walks, consider putting booties on your dog’s paws. These will protect the paws from the cold and from the irritation of salt that may be strewn on walkways to melt ice.

Check Under the Paws
If your dog enjoys digging through snow to fetch brightly colored toys that you toss, limit the snowy play to short spurts. Check your dog’s paws after each play session for snow that has packed in between the pads. Snowballs lodged in between paw pads can inflict frostbite, which can be painful for your dog to walk on. If you find snow in the dog’s paw pads, gently remove them and head indoors.

Beware of Icy Ground
If a sheet of ice or snow that has hardened overnight covers your yard, refrain from outdoor exercise for your dog. Running on icy ground can cause slips and falls that result in sprains, strains and painful cruciate ligament tears. Test the grounds first before letting your dog outside. If it is slippery for you as you cautiously walk like a penguin, then it is too slippery to be safe for your unsuspecting dog to take off into a full sprint.

Use Common Sense
Never turn your dog outdoors on a frosty winter day and leave it unattended for lengthy durations. Some breeds were originally developed to withstand the harshest winter conditions, but unless your dog has been working as a sled dog for its entire life, it is not accustomed to the lifestyle of its ancestors. The general rule of thumb for outdoor activity should be that if it is too cold for you, then it is probably too cold for your dog. If your dog is shivering or looks miserable, then it is time to go indoors.

Increase Indoor Play Time

If the coldest days or rainy downpours prevent your dog from getting an outdoor workout, you can increase interactive playtime indoors to stay on track with the exercise program. Try playing fetch down a long hall or up and down the stairs. Enlist other family members to get involved in game play to help keep the exercise regimen new and interesting for your dog. Children are creative when it comes to making up new games and this will get kids and dogs to move off of the couch and about the cabin. Be sure to supervise children and dogs so that nobody accidentally gets hurt during the excitement of active play.

Enroll In Dog Sports
Consider enrolling your dog in a canine sport, such as an agility-coursing program. Many of these classes are held indoors. Many breeds are known to excel at dog sports. As long as your dog is well socialized with other dogs, this is a good opportunity to try something new in an environment where you can both make new friends and interact with others while your dog gets some exercise. You may even learn of a new dog park in the area while conversing with other dog owners, which can lead to additional exercise possibilities.

Play Dates
If your dog is well socialized and gets along with other dogs, consider inviting a friend or relative’s dog over for a play date of romping and playful activity indoors or out. Be sure to invite dogs with temperaments that are compatible with your dog’s personality, and always supervise the dogs when they are interacting together to make sure that competitive play does not get out of hand.

Take a Hike Outdoors

When the winter season presents an occasional sunny day, leash up you canine friend and hit a local hiking trail for a long and invigorating walk that will be beneficial to both of you. Be sure to pack drinking water for your dog, and always keep the dog leashed. If the trails are covered with snow and the dog runs off after a squirrel and becomes lost, it may not be able to pick up scents to find its way back.

Winter Exercise Guidelines for Dogs

Getting your dog to exercise will reap the reward of keeping its figure fit and trim and its internal health in optimal form. Interrupt that long winter’s nap on the hearth and get your furry couch potato on the move this winter.

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