If you live in a place that experiences harsh, snowy winters and extremely low temperatures, you likely know the struggles of dog ownership in the cold seasons. When blizzards hit and you’d rather be anywhere than outside, it can be challenging for your dog to get their normal daily exercise—something that is needed both for physical health and mental stimulation.
If your pup is cooped up for too long, they may start to get stir crazy and bored, which could lead to destructive behavior and mood changes. Fortunately, spending lots of time outside isn’t the only way to keep your dog active during winter. Consider these fun activities to help your pet stave off boredom and remain fit until spring.
Most dogs get their required exercise by going on walks or runs outside. Unfortunately, winter weather might make it unsafe for your dog to go out for long periods of time. Between very cold temperatures, chemical de-icers and low visibility during snowstorms, there are many winter hazards for pets of all sizes.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to exercise your pup during winter. Try out some of these fun activities:
- Short outdoor walks: Although walking outside for long periods of time can be dangerous for pets in winter, taking short, more frequent walks may help provide your pet with physical exercise and allow them a change of scenery without getting too cold. Aim to take these walks when the sun is highest in the sky for the best weather. If your pet is small or has very thin hair, use cold weather protection like jackets or sweaters, and don’t forget booties to protect their paws from ice and salt!
- Indoor walking tracks: Many cities have indoor gyms designed for pets—much like gymnasiums for humans. Although some are more robust than others, all you truly need to help your pet stay active is a dog-friendly walking track. Visit this type of facility on days it is far too cold to walk outside or anytime your pup needs a change of pace. Enrolling your pup in indoor agility classes or trainings can also provide indoor physical stimulation in a controlled environment.
- Indoor swimming pools: Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean your dog can’t enjoy a nice dip in the pool! Many doggie daycare facilities or canine fitness centers are home to indoor swimming pools to allow dogs to paddle and splash in comfort. If your dog doesn’t know how to swim, swimming classes are a great winter activity. If your dog is comfortable in the pool, inquire about open swim hours. This activity is also a great option for dogs with arthritis—particularly since winter weather can make joints feel more sore than usual.
- Doggie daycare: If you don’t have much time during the day to take your pet out or visit canine fitness centers, consider enrolling your pup in doggie daycare. Most daycare facilities have a large indoor space for dogs to run around and play in, and they may even have a pool and other unique activities for your pet to enjoy while you work!
Although physical exercise is critical to your dog’s health and happiness during winter, you can’t forget to engage your dog’s mind this season, either! Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise, and, fortunately, it’s easier to do while your pup is stuck inside.
If your pet is acting a little bored, try these fun and engaging mental challenges and games to help them stay sharp:
- Hide and seek: Games like hide and seek combine a physical activity with a mental challenge for your pup. You could hide from your pup within your home and allow them to come and find you, or you could hide one of their favorite toys and encourage them to sniff it out. If your dog gets good at this game and knows the names of their toys, try hiding multiple toys and instructing them to find a specific one.
- Puzzle feeders: Mealtimes and treat times can be turned into mental challenges through puzzle feeders, which deposit kibble or treats when your dog solves a problem. While your dog probably won’t want to work for all of their food, this idea is particularly useful when you want to entertain them while you’re away at work.
- New tricks: Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks, and winter is the perfect time to do so! While you and your pup are snowed in or hiding away from the cold, work on teaching them a few new tricks in short bursts. They’ll stay mentally engaged and will hopefully learn a thing or two!
You and your dog don’t have to stay cooped up all winter long. There are tons of fun activities for you to do together, from physical exercise to simple puzzles at home. This season, try new things with your dog—inside and outside of the home—to keep your pup as happy as can be.