As a dog guardian, you know how important exercise and mental stimulation are for your furry friend. But what do you do when the weather outside is frightful? Keeping your dog active and engaged during the cold months can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are four tips to help you ensure your dog stays exercised and enriched, even when it’s freezing outside.
1. Social Interaction with Their Own Kind
Dogs are social animals, and interaction with their own kind is crucial for their mental well-being. There are some exceptions, such as dogs that are very fearful or aggressive towards other dogs, but in general, interacting with other well-adjusted canines is a basic need.
Outlet: Dog Daycares and Indoor Dog Socials
For larger dogs, braving the cold for outdoor play sessions might still be on the table. However, smaller breeds, which might not handle the cold as well, can benefit greatly from indoor activities. Half-day visits to dog daycares or attending Small Dog Socials can provide the necessary interaction and play. Alternatively, renting an indoor facility through services like Sniffspot allows you to host a private indoor dog party. This setting not only keeps them warm but also lets them socialize and play in a controlled environment.
2. Physical Activity
Physical activity is key to a dog’s health, helping maintain their weight and improving their overall mood.
Outlet: Outdoor and Indoor Exercises
While large dogs, especially those with thicker fur, can handle hikes and off-leash time in cold weather, smaller dogs might require alternative forms of exercise. A flirt pole, for instance, offers an excellent way for small dogs to engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) indoors, providing both physical exertion and an outlet for their prey drive.
3. Foraging and Scavenging
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical activity. Dogs have a natural instinct for foraging and scavenging, and fulfilling this need can prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.
Outlet: Food-Dispensing Toys and Snuffle Mats
To stimulate their foraging instincts, use food-dispensing toys and snuffle mats. You can make mealtime more engaging by hiding these toys around your home, turning feeding time into an exciting scavenger hunt.
4. Physical Strength and Conditioning
Maintaining physical strength and conditioning is vital for a dog’s overall health and agility.
Outlet: Canine Fitness Activities
Simple canine fitness activities can be done indoors and are great for keeping your dog in shape. These include practicing position changes like Sit to Down, Down to Sit, Sit to Stand, Stand to Down, and Stand to Sit. For core strengthening, try activities like ‘shake a paw’ while standing (mimicking a three-legged dog) or common tricks like Spin, Twirl (in both directions), and Sit Pretty, which are taught in our Tricks Class.
5. Learning New Things
Learning new things constantly keeps the brain sharp, and being cognitively challenged by learning new behaviours and tricks is the best way to fill your dog’s cup and strengthen your relationship with them.
Outlet: Training Classes
Signing up for Foundation Skills or one of our Advanced Classes is a great way to make it easier for you to know what to teach, receive coaching, and accountability. It also gets you and your dog out of the house, as working in novel environments is great for both ends of the leash. If it’s hard to get out during the winter, our Foundation Skills class is now available as an on-demand, self-paced course.
Remember, the goal is to keep your dog healthy, happy, and engaged, regardless of the weather. With a bit of creativity and these tips, you can ensure your dog gets the exercise and mental stimulation they need all year round.
Andre Yeu, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
Founder, When Hounds Fly