We’ve all experienced cabin fever and the stir-craziness that comes with the winter months, and, unfortunately, this happens to our pets too. And while it can be tempting for the whole family to melt into the couch for months of Netflix-watching, this inactivity can lead to obesity in your dogs. In turn, obesity can lead to other harmful conditions such as diabetes and/or arthritis.
Feeling uninspired? As veterinarians, we want your doggos to be as healthy as possible - no matter the time of year - so we’re here to bring the “fitspo”! Below we’ve shared some fun activities that you can do with your dog either inside or outside.
Fun Indoor Activities For Your Dog
Indoor Obstacle Course
Creating an indoor obstacle course is easy to do, especially when your dog is treats or toy-motivated. A great way to train them to do this is by having a nice “stinky” tasty treat to coax them over, around, and through the obstacle course. Once you know what motivator your dog has, it’s time to set up the course.
Start small, jumping up on the couch, then down. Give a little treat or pet after these accomplishments. Then work up to jumping over things, like a broomstick flat on the floor. Increase the height by putting pillows on the ends to lift it slightly. You can keep increasing the height, but be careful that your dog can jump over. You can also do this in reverse and have your dog crawl under. You want to measure up to your dog’s shoulders when they are in the “lay down” position. You will want your dog to achieve the goal of going over and under the pole. It is tough to mimic the weave poles unless you have 2x4’s and some PVC pipe.
Another option is to have tall bottles of water or stacked soup cans that will be high enough that your dog will go around instead of jumping over. Place them far enough apart that they won’t knock them over, as this might frighten your dog, and they will not want to play the game.
You can recreate the tunnel, similar to making a fort when you were a child. Place a blanket over chairs and secure so as not to collapse, and have your dog run through it and you meet them at the end. Kiddos will have fun getting in on this one, as they can play Follow the Leader.
A game of hide-and-seek with your handsome hound can be done in a few different ways and can take as many participants as possible. Keep your dog in one room and hide their favorite toy, person, or a stash of treats somewhere in the house—preferably where they will be able to get it. Once it is hidden, go and get your dog and say, “Find!” Point to areas around and ask “where is…” and “is it there?” this will get your dog’s nose and tracking skills going. They may not know what the word is that you are telling them, but the tone of your voice could be enough to get them excited.
This game can last as long as you can, and you can always repeat as many times as you and your dog are interested. The great thing about this game is it could keep your dog entertained without you if you need to leave. You will want to play together a few times to make sure that your dog learns different “good” spots where you hide the goodies so you don’t end up with 50 bones under a couch! You can also increase the challenges and get your furry friend to jump over pillows or other obstacles, just like an obstacle course.
Sorry, Mom—hallway fetch goes against the no playing ball in the house rule, so unless you are willing to bend it, this isn’t an option for you. This game doesn’t need that much explanation; you just need to throw a ball down a hallway or in a room where your dog can have enough space to get a nice pace. The ideal time to be playing this game is from 15-30 minutes, depending on your dog’s excitement to retrieve the ball. Some dogs will be over it and start to slow down; if this is the case, then change direction. Just be careful where you are throwing the ball, as you don't want anything to fall or break. Hallway fetch is a nice alternative on days when it’s too chilly or snowy for a long walk outdoors.
Outdoor Winter Activities For You and Your Dog
Depending on the outside elements will determine how long you and your dog will be active outside. Dogs have a natural fur coat that helps to protect them from the elements so that they might outlast you!
Go For a Walk
A walk is always a great way to exercise for you and your dog. As long as your dog is comfortable, you can walk as long as they want. If your dog has a short coat, you can always provide them with a jacket to extend their walk. If you are on slick terrain, some dog booties will be helpful. We know that walking in cool temperatures doesn’t always sound appealing, but it can reinvigorate you if you’re feeling sluggish from being inside with the heat on in your home.
Go For a Run
If you usually run with your dog, the winter weather shouldn’t stop you. Although if you are starting this up, slowly increase your jogging distance little by little. Just like with people, your dog needs to get used to long-distance running. Some dogs aren’t fond of running for long periods, but, instead, prefer short sprints. Your dog will generally tell you when they have had enough, so don’t push them.
Stay Away From Water
As much as your dog may want to go swimming, water can lead to hypothermia very quickly in the winter. Keep your dog on a leash when going around water to keep them from jumping in. If you have an ice pond, some dogs don’t mind the slick surface, but be cautious; they can slip and injure themselves.
If you suspect your dog has injured themselves on the ice or has hypothermia, take them to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately.
Create a Snow Obstacle Course
Snow is a great way to build your own obstacle course. You can create jumps and use little snowmen as your weave poles. Instead of an enclosed tunnel, you can build snow walls and make it challenging by curving the tunnel. Get creative—your playful pooch will appreciate it!
Like the inside version, you can do this outside and use the snow to hide the treats and toys. Make a bowl in the snow and place the treat or toy inside. Don’t cover it, as this could entice your dog to dig into your landscaping when you don’t want them to do that!
No matter what the winter activity, just make sure to get your faithful friend moving. As with humans, exercise is a key component of dog wellness. If you have any questions about how to keep your pooch trim and toned during the colder months, give us a call!