Dr. Ashley Lim, Associate Veterinarian
As winter sets in and days get shorter, colder and wetter, dogs often miss out on their much needed exercise. Walks are important to your canine friend as it helps to burn off excess energy and serves as a form of mental stimulation. Without walks, dogs are more prone to boredom and unsocial behaviours like barking, chewing, digging as well as putting on weight.
Here are some ways you can keep your dog active and moving during the colder months. Keep in mind that not every activity is suitable for every dog so tailor it according to your dog’s needs.
1. Hide and seek
This is a great game to involve your kids and practice your dog’s sit-stays. Get your dog to sit and stay. Leave the room and hide- behind a door or counter top is usually a good start- with some dry dog food or treats in hand. Call your dog to come and look for you. Shower him with praise and treats when he finds you. Repeat by hiding in a different part of the house. Some dogs may need a few more calls before they find you. You can gradually increase the difficulty of the game as your dog gets better at it.
If your dog will not stay, if may help to get another family member to hold on to him while you hide. Play this game before meal times if your dog is less food motivated.
2. Find your food!
Instead of feeding your pup out of a food bowl which is emptied in less than a minute, why not put his dry food in different places around the house so that he has to use his nose to find it? A variation of this is using a treat ball that has to be rolled around for the food to fall out.
Making your dog run up the stairs is great way to burn off lots of energy. If your dog has joint issues or is still growing, this is NOT recommended. Hold on to your dog and toss his ball/toy up the stairs. Release him to run up the stairs but allow him to come down slowly to reduce the impact on his joints. Repeat 5-10 times.
4. Treadmill training
Do you have an old treadmill that you never use? Winter can be a great time to dust it off and use it…for your dog! Start by introducing your dog to the treadmill by putting treats on it. Your dog should be comfortable standing on the stationary treadmill. Once this is achieved, start the treadmill at a very slow pace and hold a treat out in front of your dog’s nose. He should walk towards it as the treadmill moves. Reward him as he starts walking on the treadmill. Gradually increase the speed and incline. Never leave a dog unsupervised on a moving treadmill.
5. Doggie play date
This one is more suitable for sociable dogs. Inviting a doggie friend over for a romp around can be a great way to keep your dog active in winter. If your dog has never met this other dog before, it is important to allow them to meet on neutral grounds and perhaps go for a short walk before inviting him in. An hour or less may be enough activity depending on your dog’s energy levels.
Have you found some other activities that keep your pooch stimulated and active in winter? Let us know!