Zack Manko and his dog Sorcha remind us to get up, get out, and to get moving!
Winter can be a difficult time for dog owners. That cold weather and those icy winds are often enough to prevent us from leaving the house. The result is boredom, weight gain, and lethargy—for us, and our critters.
Fortunately, getting some exercise with fido can be as easy as lacing up those snow boots, digging out that winter jacket, and getting a little creative. Here are some tips and ideas to get you off the couch and help you stay physical this winter.
Get Your Head Right
Sometimes, the hardest part about getting outside and exercising isn't an activity or even equipment problem. It's a motivation problem. However, all it takes to beat that is a can-do attitude. But what happens if you don't have one?
Never fear. You can outsmart the lazy part of your personality with some intentionality—and some tricks. For example, you can make some goals for you and your pooch. Maybe it's to lose some weight. Maybe it's to get more fresh air. Whatever it is, goal setting will help you focus your attention and energies.
We also recommend setting specific, time-bound goals to help you. For example, instead of the vague objective of “exercising more”, you could set a specific goal of spending an additional fifteen minutes outside each day or exercising at least three hours per week. Adding these parameters (specificity and time) will give you a clearer idea of what you are trying to accomplish, and how much time you have to do it. It may even lead you to start scheduling these activities into your day.
But again, what if you just don’t have that kind of personality? The goal setting, self-motivating kind? Don’t worry, you can still use some clever “hacks” to fool yourself into making progress. For example, sometimes the simple mental and physical inertia of finding your leash, snow boots, and other equipment can be enough to stop you from heading outside. Do yourself a favor by gathering this stuff and keeping it close together by the door, so that it is there and ready to rock.
Yeah, we know it's cold, but remember—there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. With that in mind, don’t let your clothing prevent you from going outside. Be sure you have a good pair of snow boots and a quality jacket. Undergarments that include some old school thermal underwear or new high-tech moisture-wicking base layers are also a good idea. And, of course, don’t forget some gloves!
Your dog shouldbe fine with all that fur but keep some important points in mind. One is that, no matter what the temperature is outside, some dog breeds will need some additional protection from the winter elements (especially short-hairs). Similarly, some temperatures are so extreme that no breed, no matter their condition or how much they love winter, will need some type of protection.
Luckily, there are many options for keeping your hound safe and warm. From dog jackets to dog boots and even specialized harnesses for carrying gear, dog owners have a ton of options. For the fashion-conscious among us (definitely not me and Sorsha), you can ever go for dog gear that matches your own outfit.
Keep It Simple
Alright, now that we’ve covered the preliminaries, let’s get into the real stuff. There are a bunch of winter dog activities and sports but getting active with your critter during the cold weather months doesn't have to be complicated.
For example, many dogs are quite happy just going for a walk. They’ll jump for joy as soon as you reach for the leash. Others are quite happy to play fetch in the snow with their favorite ball (or with a snowball). Some dogs even like to roll around in the snow or dig through, trying to find hidden scents trapped under the weight of all that frost.
If you’re looking for a workout, you could try to make an agility course or maze out of the snow. You could also bury some treats throughout the yard, and have your dog go looking for them.
If you want something a bit more structured, there are several winter dog sports and activities you could pursue. Some of these will give the both of you some exercise, so they’re perfect for you if you’re still pursuing some health-related New Year’s resolutions.
Disc dog involves you, a frisbee, and a dog that loves to fetch. While people primarily play this during the warmer times of the year, there’s nothing preventing you from going out there and flinging a disc around for your pooch. We dorecommend choosing a color that will stand out in the snow, however!
“Mushing” is an umbrella term for dog-powered transport, and it comes in several variations. There’s the well-known dog sled racing, for example. However, this one takes time, experience, resources for gear, and a pack of critters. Skijoring, on the other hand, takes only you, a pair of skis, and a sense of danger—all necessary when your canine is dragging you through a stretch of icy ground! There’s also dog drafting, in which your dog pulls you along in a cart.
Before you begin one of these sports in earnest, take some time to do your research, and make sure your chosen activity is appropriate for your dog’s age, breed, and temperament. You might be ready to snap on the skis for some skijoring, but you won’t get far if you own a dachshund! Then again, if you have forty dachshunds, you might be onto something!
Take It Indoors
Don’t let the subtitle fool you—we’re not giving up. We don’t mean take it inside to the couch; rather, we mean take yourself and your dog to an indoor dog park.
These facilities are popping up in more and more places and promise to serve your canine exercise needs for those occasions where the winter wind has just a bit too much bluster. Check local dog trainers or doggy day care locations for recommendations.
An indoor dog park may have any and all manner of equipment (such as agility courses and the like), or it may simply be a large, open, and (most importantly) warm place you can take your dog during the winter months.
No matter what you choose to do this winter, just stay consistent and do it. You’ll thank yourself later, and so will your dog.