It’s cold and damp outside and a walk or run is the last thing on your or Fido’s mind. But exercise for the mind and body is as important for your dog as it is for you during the chilly months.
Like it or hate it, winter is the season that makes us move a little slower, eat a little more and generally puts a damper on the mood. This doesn’t only apply to us but to our favourite furkids as well. Here are some tips to keep your dog a lean, mean and adorable machine during winter.
You can just hear your mother’s voice saying: ‘No playing inside the house!’ Well, this is the time that phrase goes out the window. Grab an old tennis ball, or your dog’s favourite squeaky toy, for a game of fetch; a rope toy for tug-of-war; laser pointers (they’re not just for cats); even bubbles; and let loose.
Important: Vary the activity and the duration to keep your dog interested and keep all breakables out of the way.
HIDE AND SEEK
There are a number of ways to play this, but the simplest way is to grab your partner, or the kids, show the pooch the treat they are searching for, hold him at one end of the house, have your partner/kids go to the other end of the house with the treat and hide from the dog.
Important: Make it easy, so that the dog understands the game and the end goal. Increase the difficulty of the hiding spot once they have the hang of it.
Build your very own indoor agility course and get your athletic dog moving. Small hurdles, weaving posts and even hula hoops for them to jump through are a great way to get them up and about.
Important: Repetition will improve their times and always reward with a healthy treat. You don’t want to undo all the good work from the exercise they’ve just performed.
As South Africans, we’re lucky we don’t have snow as a deterrent and our worst day is equivalent to that of a balmy day in the UK. Get your buddy on the leash, take it slowly to warm up, and then work up to a brisk jog to get them moving.
Important: If your dog isn’t used to long walks in general, keep the outings short and increase the frequency. It’s great for their muscles and even better for their brains.
This is the perfect time to increase your dog’s mental stimulation and make mealtimes fun. Put food and treats into interactive toys, where they have to play with the toy to get the food.
Important: Grab your camera and watch as they try figure out the quickest way to the food.
PRACTISE NEW TRICKS
What better time than a cold, lazy day to spend a couple of minutes teaching your pooch new tricks. With as little as 15 minutes a time, you could teach them to shake your hand, retrieve a ball, sit or roll over.
Important: Remember the healthy treats again to reward good behaviour. This is a great way to bond with your pet and everyone likes treats.
Not everyone is in a position to have a treadmill on hand, least of all a pet treadmill, but, if you do have one (a human one), get your buddy onto the treadmill for a short canter.
Important: Start off slowly and increase speed gradually, allowing your dog to adjust. This is unnatural and will take some practice to get them used to this moving road, so patience and persistence is the key here.
WATCH THE ADDITIONAL FEEDING
As with humans, so it is with our pets. Our natural instinct to add extra meals/snacks is more of a mental requirement than a physical one. Boredom is generally the driver for most of the extra meals/snacks that we opt for, so don’t let your dog trick you into getting more food.
Important: Pets will be less active in the winter months and any additional food or treats will have a negative impact on their waistline, as with us.
ARRANGE A PLAY DATE
What better way to beat the winter blues than having a couple of doggy mates come through for a play date. This could be at your house or the local park.
Important: Ensure that all dogs are well socialised; otherwise like ‘that guy’ at a braai with his Klippies and Cola, there could be bigger trouble than you anticipated.