With winter well and truly upon us, pet parents in some parts of the country are faced with a unique problem: when it snows, how do you make sure your dog gets enough exercise?
The good news is that there are plenty of simple ways to help your dog stay fit when you’re stuck inside. Keep reading for our simple tips on how to create a snow day exercise plan for your dog.
We all know how vital exercise is to our own health and wellbeing, and it’s exactly the same for our pups.
Regular physical activity helps your dog stay in a healthy weight range, reducing the risk of a range of serious health issues like heart disease. Staying in shape also ensures that there’s not too much strain on your pet’s joints, which in turn lowers the risk of arthritis.
And exercise has mental benefits too. It decreases anxiety, helps your pup form a stronger bond with you, and offers mental stimulation to help their minds stay sharp. Working breeds in particular relish being given a job to do, while any dog will love exercise activities that tap into their natural instincts.
In other words, there are lots of good reasons why dogs need to stay active.
A Pug has very different exercise needs to a Border Collie, so exercise plans are one of those areas where one size certainly doesn’t fit all.
There’s a good chance that you already know how much activity your dog needs each day to stay happy and healthy. If that’s the case, you can get started — just make sure to watch your dog closely and ease off if they’re showing signs of slowing down.
If you’re unsure about your pet’s physical capabilities, ask your vet for advice on indoor exercise ideas for your dog. Your vet will also be able to give your pup a physical and make sure they’re in good enough shape to start whatever workout regime you've planned.
Okay, now it’s time to start doing some simple exercises and activities with your dog. The good news is that, as you’ll see in the list of suggested activities below, working out and playing with your pup often seem very similar. Some of the activities you and your dog can try include:
Indoor fetch. That’s right, if you’ve got enough space and don’t mind moving any breakable items out of the way, this classic doggy game is also great to play inside. Find your pup’s favorite toy, throw it for them to fetch and return to you, then repeat. Snow-day exercise doesn’t get any easier than that!
Tug-of-war. Another canine favorite that transfers well to indoor spaces, the humble game of tug-of-war can help get your dog panting. It also doesn’t require a whole lot of space, so is often suitable if you live in a smaller house or apartment.
Up and down the stairs. If you live in a two-story home, this game is a simple way to get your pup’s heart rate up. You can encourage them up and down the stairs with a game of fetch, or simply by playing a little follow the leader. Just be careful that you don’t encourage them to take the stairs too quickly and risk a dangerous fall.
Hide-and-seek. This is a fun game that the whole family can enjoy. When your dog is distracted or out of the room, sneak away to a hiding spot and wait for your dog to come looking for you. Start with somewhere easy, then gradually increase the difficulty as your dog gets the hang of it. This will encourage them to put their incredible sense of smell into action and also help them stay active.
Obstacle course. This next activity essentially allows you to bring the sport of agility into your own home. Using whatever everyday items you can find, set up your pup’s very own INDOOR OBSTACLE COURSE! You can include jumps, tunnels, weaving poles — pretty much anything that’ll provide an athletic challenge for your pooch. You might need some patience while you teach them how to tackle the course, but it’s a great way to give your dog a physical and mental workout.
Nose work treasure hunts. Another way to help your pooch stay active is to make them work hard for their food. Instead of just dishing up their dinner in a bowl, why not hide bits of kibble around your home and encourage your pup to sniff them out? That way, your pup gets some exercise while they eat, not to mention plenty of mental stimulation. And as their treasure hunting skills improve, you can choose increasingly difficult hiding places to provide even more of a challenge.
Best of all, a lot of these activities encourage you to raise your heart rate too, so your dog isn’t the only one who can benefit from a snow day exercise plan.
Exercise doesn’t just have to be about physical activity — it can also provide some much-needed mental stimulation for your pup. So why not work a few training exercises into your workout?
Maybe you’d like to teach your pup to roll over, to walk politely on a leash, or to put away their toys after use. Alternatively, you could try your paw at some advanced party tricks, like teaching your pup to fetch objects by name or jump onto your back. Even working on your pup’s recall is a simple way to help keep them on the move throughout the day.
Whichever training tasks you tackle, remember to stay patient and keep training sessions as fun as possible. This will help boost your pup’s brainpower, help strengthen the bond you share, and help stave off boredom when you’re stuck inside.
Finally, nobody said your dog had to stay at home to exercise. Sure, it might be too cold to go outside, but they can always stay indoors and get active somewhere else.
For example, maybe you’d like to take your pup along to a dog yoga (doga) class, or take them to doggy daycare so they can run and play with some other pups. You could even head over to a friend’s place for a play date with their pooch.
It doesn’t really matter how your dog stays active during the winter months — as long as they do. This will ensure that your pup stays in tip-top shape and is ready for lots of outdoor adventures when the weather starts to warm up once again.