Winter can be a tough time on our pets, especially if you live in an area that frequently gets cold temperatures and snow. It can be hard with the shorter, colder days to keep our dogs moving and exercising, as it is for us,
especially when given the choice of relaxing in front of a warm fireplace or taking your dog for a walk in the snow.
Luckily, with a little creativity, you can stay inside where it is warmer AND meet those goals for getting steps in for both you and your dog!
Here are 5 of the most common enrichment and exercise activities we recommend to our clients. All but one of these activities are indoor activities.
If you are a lover of the outdoors, or long to try to be one, you probably already realize what a great release going for a hike can be when you are stressed and frustrated from all the craziness going on around us.
Afterall, isn’t that why so many people are moving to the mountains of North Carolina…for the great outdoors?
Hikes give you the opportunity to break free from the daily doldrums, enjoy our scenic mountains, forest, trails and vistas while giving your pup the opportunity to experience and socialize to new sights, sounds and smells
too. Meet up with a group of friends or a dog training group like we do with our training clients to make your outing even more fun and enriching for both you and your dog.
If you are less likely to want to spend time in the cold, or have physical limitations that prevent you from hiking, treadmill training your dog is a great way to get them both mental and physical exercise. There are always
used treadmills on the market at affordable prices. Start off by acclimating your dog to the texture and noises of the treadmill, rewarding them for being calm and following your lead and take it slow introducing them to the
movement. It must be a little odd to the dog for the group to start moving, but it also causes them to engage their brain and burn off mental energy in addition to the obvious benefits of the physical movement. Just make
sure the treadmill deck is long enough so your dog can make full movement strides, doesn’t step off the back and set the pace to match their cadence for a natural pace and gait. It is fun to watch a dog that enjoys a good
walk on their treadmill. We had a friend with 3 Chihuahuas that would jump up on the treadmill and walk 90 minutes just about every day then hop off when they were done…what a sight to see!
Maybe you have a dog that loves to play fetch with a ball or favorite toy? Scale down the game to be able to play in a long narrow hallway on a rainy or cold day. You can even put your dog on a long line (a long leash) to
guide them to move away and then back towards you if you don’t have the benefit of a hallway to keep them focused. Layer obedience skills like, sit, wait, get-it and drop over the play as another way to engage their
brain. Step up the enrichment even more by keeping their focus on you and the game while other distractions are going on around them. Studies show a little play incorporated into training reinforces the training session.
The fourth activity is an enrichment activity that one of my personal dogs loves to do. A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly more powerful than human’s. Incorporating “scent work” with most dogs opens up their brains and works their most innate skill. Instead of the daily monotonous task of feeding your dog out of their dog bowl, save up small yogurt cups, divide their meal amongst a few of them, hide the cups, then send your dog out to
look for them and alert you when they make a “find”. You will watch the joy in dog blossom when they “get” the game. There are also various feeder toys and puzzles on the market to make the most of mealtime in other
Lastly, most owners are after the best ways to exercise their dogs…walks, jogging or running, frisbee, bicycling ( a personal disaster for me with one of my prior dogs ), agility, ballroom dancing (yes, you can do that with your
dog!), and the list goes on…The problem is that exercise is not always the “cure” for a highly active, energetic dog. You are just continually creating more of an athlete that will be able to run circles around for you!
Training “opposite” skills is a common approach in training. Instead of continuing to endurance train your dog, teach them calming skills as a complementary skill. Place command, down-stays and calm-on-queue are all ways to help your dog learn to calm themselves and learn how to deal with their energy when you need them to take a calmer approach to life. It is all a part of helping your dog understand the need for an ON/OFF switch.
Hopefully you can find enrichment for your relationship with your dog in one of these 5 suggestions. At minimum, they should encourage you to be creative with more ways to exercise your dog, both mentally and
physically, to help them be an even better companion for you and your family. Got other ideas?
We would love to have you share them with our community on our Woof in the Woods Facebook page, www.facebook.com/woofinthewoods.