How to keep your dog active in the winter

By: Alyssa Ashton

Image courtesy of Kurt Bauschardt/FlickrCC Author: Canadian Living Credits: Image courtesy of Kurt Bauschardt/FlickrCC


How to keep your dog active in the winter

By: Alyssa Ashton
Between the frigid temperatures, the snow and the ice, staying active in the winter is a challenge for everyone, including your dog. So how do you make sure your four-legged friend is getting enough exercise during the cold winter months? Dr. Troye McPherson, a veterinarian in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, shares some fun ways you can get your dog active despite the slush.

Go for winter walks with your dog

You can still walk your dog in the winter, just be sure to check the temperature and wind chill before you head out, Dr. McPherson advises. "If it's too cold for you to be stepping out without bundling up and putting on layers and layers, then it's probably too cold for your dog to be out," she says.

On milder winter days, however, when there isn't a lot of ice, you should definitely go for a walk or a hike. If your dog is small or has short hair, Dr. McPherson suggests you buy your dog a coat for extra warmth. And you might want to invest in a pair of dog boots or a dog balm that protects the pads of their feet. "The salt stings them so much," she says, "It would be like you pouring salt on a cut."

Winter sports to enjoy with your dog

There are lots of fun winter sports that both you and your pup can enjoy, starting with ski joring. "Basically you're harnessed to your dog and your dog pulls you on your skis," McPherson explains. "It’s quite fun and popular."

Another great winter activity is dog sledding. Dr. McPherson says she has quite a lot of friends who do it and it's an intense workout for your dog. Look up a local dog sledding company in your area and see if they'll let you bring your furry friend to give it a try.

Indoor activities for you and your dog

On cold winter days, Dr. McPherson sets up an indoor agility course for her border collies. "They do jumps and they run through tunnels," she explains, "And they have a platform that they have to go up on and a teeter totter."

You don't have to do official agility training, like you would see at Dog Shows. Instead, think of it as an obstacle course for your dog to play around in. Set up tunnels and jumps in your basement or garage and then run with your dog to get them through the course. "It's fun, but it's good mental exercise for them too," Dr. McPherson says.

Another activity that's becoming more popular is dog yoga—doga. Dog yoga is like partner yoga, where you and your dog are doing poses together. There may be doga classes in your area, but you can also find lots of free videos online. So you and your dog can find your inner ohm together.

Winter safety precautions for dogs

If you walk near a lake, you should check the weather network to see if the lake is frozen. If it's not frozen, avoid the lake and any ponds so there's no risk that you or your dog will fall through the ice.

When Dr. McPherson walks with her dogs she always brings wire cutters and some bandages.

"A lot of people still snare for rabbits and the last thing you want to happen is your pet getting cut in the wire," she explains. "I also bring some bandage material in case they cut their foot on some ice."

Does your dog need less food in the winter?

Like humans, dogs often experience winter weight gain. So do you need to cut back on your dog's food? Dr. McPherson says no. In some instances you may need to increase their food if they’re burning a lot of calories while sledding or hiking.

"You may need to feed a bit more if they're hiking through heavy snow," she says. "If you've ever been outside cross-country skiing, you know you get hungry after a few hours. So carry some snacks and some water for your dog."

Before making any changes to your dog's diet, you should always consult your vet.

If you are planning to enjoy the wintery outdoors with your pet, check out these 7 winter essentials for your dog, that will help protect your furry friend!
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How to keep your dog active in the winter