Keeping Your Dog Active in Winter

Winter can be tough, unless you are a winter sports enthusiast like me. The cold weather and limited sunlight affect many people. Winter can be even tougher on our pets! Shorter and less frequent walks lead to boredom and weight gain. Both are detrimental to your pet’s health.

Come spring, we will see many patients who put on their “winter weight” and while they may lose it over the summer, it is easier and healthier to keep them lean year round. If your dog is less active in the winter, it is important to adjust his calorie intake accordingly. Feel free to drop by for a free weigh-in to keep on top of any changes and don’t hesitate to ask a technician for feeding advice.

Being indoors more can drive many pets stir crazy and boredom can lead to anxiety, OCD and destructive behaviours. Here are a few tips on keeping your pets entertained when it’s too cold to stay out.

  • Puzzle toys: Puzzle toys are available in many different forms and varieties. Providing your pet with mental stimulation can help to tire him out just as well as a long walk. Food puzzles are usually well liked such as the “tricky treat ball” or the “Aikou”. These toys require your dog to work for his food which is also beneficial for dogs who eat too quickly.
  • Brush up on their basic obedience. Most dogs love to learn. Take the time to engage them in learning new tricks or brush up on their basic obedience. Gradually increase the amount of time you ask them to stay and don’t forget to reward them to keep their focus and keep it fun. In the beginning you may treat more often until they understand. Once they know the command, you should be like a slot machine; continue to use food or play rewards every once in a while so they don’t come to expect it every time, but are still motivated.
  • Teach them to play Hide & Seek or Find It. This is a great game for a rainy day or a snowstorm. Have your dog wait in another room (or ask someone to hold them) and place a toy or treat in plain sight. Now let them find it and reward them when they do. (A reward can be a game of tug with the toy, praise or a treat). Repeat this a few times, always placing the item in a different spot until you feel your dog is immediately searching for the item when you let them go. Now you can put a verbal command and say “find it” when you let them go. Continue to praise each time they grab the item. Gradually make it more difficult, place the item around a corner or behind an object so it is not in plain sight as soon as they enter the room. Eventually you can work up to hiding it under or on top of things so they really have to work their sense of smell. Alternatively, you can also hide yourself and call your dog.

If venturing outdoors is too difficult, you can always train your dog to use a treadmill. Ask us about our doggy gym or come by and see for yourself. We can teach you simple exercises to do at home or you can drop your pet off for a workout and day stay at our hospital.

Gabrielle Vachon
Certified Animal Health Technician