5 Winter Activities for Dogs

5 Winter Activities for Dogs

The cold weather months can challenging when it comes to keeping your dog physically and mentally active, but all is not lost. There are still ways to get exercise in despite the rising snow and falling temperatures. 

Before you head outdoors, its a good idea to review some winter safety tips for your pooch. In a nutshell, tips include:

* Limit time outdoors in the cold weather
* Make sure to have plenty of fresh water. Water is important for circulation and helping dogs keep warm.
* Dress your dog(s) in sweaters and booties to help keep them warm and to protect their paw pads from frostbite and de-icer.
* De-icer is toxic to dogs and rock salt can get in between paw pads so be sure to clean them thoroughly if not wear booties You can also cover their paws with a
coat of balm or petroleum jelly.
* A reminder that small dogs and/or older dogs with arthritis may not be as tolerant to cold weather.

Winter activities to try with your dog:

1. Skijoring — Skijoring is basically cross-country skiing with help from your dog. You are on your skis and your dog is in front of you on a long line that is connected to a quick release harness (never, ever by the neck). The dog pulls and the skier uses the skis and poles to keep up the momentum. Pulling comes naturally to most dogs and you may be surprised how quickly they can pick up commands for turning and stopping. Click here to learn all about skijoring and how to get started with your dog.

2. Sledding — Like with skijoring, sledding is great exercise for your pup. You can enjoy the snow by heading to a park or sledding hill. Using a harness (again, never ever by the neck), dogs can pull the sled downhill. If pulling children or adults on the sled, be certain that it is not more weight than the dog can handle. Also please make sure the hill is not too steep of an incline so the dog is not accidentally run over by the sled.

3. Indoor Parks and Agility Courses — If your dog is like mine and has no interest in being outdoors during the winter, then an indoor park or agility course is in order. A quick Google search should find that most cities have at least one facility. Here in the Cleveland area there is CLErun Agility, an agility training center offing an number of indoor activities. Also, if you happen to be a guest or resident at the Metropolitan at the 9 in downtown Cleveland, they have a wonderful indoor dog park as well.

Additionally you can create a DIY indoor agility course. You can set up chairs, broomsticks, blankets, hula hoops and tons of other items found in your house to make the course, and then use hand-targeting or treats to lead your dog through the obstacles. It’s fun, physically active and, best of all, warm. Just remember, it’s best to do this on a carpeted surface instead of hardwood, which can be slippery. And make sure the obstacles are stable and can’t be knocked over or otherwise injure your pet. Please click here for tips on making your own indoor course.

4. Fetch — Always fun, fetch provides mental and physical stimulation for your dog. In moderation, it is safe to play outdoors in snowy weather. Be sure to use a brightly-colored ball or disc that is easy to find in snow and do not play around ice to avoid slipping and falling. Fetch can also be played indoors if you happen to have a large enough area or a long hallway. It can also be played up and down stairs but you must be certain to exercise caution.

5. Snow Maze — A new trend that has developed thanks to the power of social media is building snow mazes for dogs. It involves making narrow pathways in your (fenced-in) backyard with a shovel that are then connected in clever twisting patterns just like in a maze. Your dog with get plenty of exercise running through the maze and mental stimulation from trying to find his way out. Check out one such maze in this video to see it in action.

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