Winter can be a trying time for those of us with active dogs! It’s COLD out there! For most of us, that means we’d rather be home in front of the TV than out walking the dog in the cold. And really, some of our dogs are just not designed for cold winter weather either! This does not reduce their need for exercise and activity though. Any of you who’ve spent much time around me have heard it before, “a tired dog is a good dog”. Many, many behavior problems can be solved just by getting the dog enough exercise. So, what’s a person to do? (Yes, it’s STILL cold out there!)
First, you can look for indoor options. If your dog will play “fetch” with you, spend 20 minutes letting her chase a ball down the hallway – that will help take the edge off. Then give her something to occupy her brain. Training that can be done in small, indoor spaces includes many of the “obedience” behaviors we teach in classes: sit, down, stay, come, “spot-heeling”, finishes. If you use the right motivators and a happy attitude, you can polish your obedience behaviors and your dog will think you’re playing a fun game! If you want to lighten things up a little, do some trick training. “Stupid pet tricks” are awesome! Everyone has fun, and the dog has a blast with them! (If you need some “stupid pet trick” ideas, email me… I have a million of ‘em!)
If that’s not enough to tire out your active pooch, consider day-care. There are different day-care facilities to meet different dog’s needs. At All Bright Dogs, we have a separate pen for small dogs and puppies (so they don’t get stepped on by the big guys when they’re playing), we also have the ability to divide the big floor into two sections to accommodate different play styles. The dogs run together, playing all day. Our clients report that their dogs go home, eat dinner, and crash for the night! (What a great idea if you need to go out after work!) There are other day-cares that crate or ex-pen all the dogs, letting two or three out at a time to play together. If your dog is overwhelmed by a large group, this might be a better answer for you. (If you need some referrals, email me, I know some great dog places!)
If you’re constituted to play outside in the cold, go for it! Just make sure your dog is dressed for the weather! If your dog is not a double-coated breed (you’ll know if they are, remember all the fluff around your place at shedding time?), he’ll need a good winter coat. Try to find one that’s water and wind proof, with a nice amount of insulation to keep his spine warm. There are actually snow-suits out there for dogs! You’ll probably have to do an online search for them though, they’re not common. And don’t forget boots! Boots protect your dog’s feet from ice cuts, salt, and ice balls that form in between the pads. Find a pair that fits well and has secure fasteners. It’s really frustrating to buy a set of boots for your dog and come home from the first walk with only 2 or 3 of them!
Some dogs don’t care to wear boots, you can condition them to be a good thing if you try. First rule – don’t laugh at how your dog walks when he’s first trying them out. Dogs have feelings too you know! Put boots on, praise, treat and take them off. Repeat a few times. Then put boots and leash on and go outside for a nice long walk. Your dog will probably forget he’s wearing them after a couple trees and a fire-hydrant.
Just don’t forget, dogs aren’t bears. They don’t go into hibernation for the winter, they still need exercise and activity to be happy and healthy!