Winter Activities for Your Dog
Without exercise, your dog has an abundance of energy, and he will start burning it in ways you don’t want. Excessive barking. Inappropriate chewing. Whining. Engaging in rough play. Nipping or biting. A sedentary lifestyle is also not good for his health; dogs (and people) need to move. So… let’s get our butts and tails off the couch!
Walking gives your dog a bunch of healthy exercises and mental stimulation. They can stretch their legs, explore scents, and meet and greet the neighbors (or at least see other people/animals to encourage healthy socialization). Very few days in Asheville, NC are too cold to venture out, so get out there.
Depending on your dog’s breed, you may need to shorten your stroll. Short-haired doggos like pit bulls, beagles, terriers, boxers, etc., feel the cold fast, so instead of one big walk, take a few shorter ones, if you can. Also, time your walks so you avoid the coldest times of day (typically mornings and after the sun goes down). If your pup will tolerate it, try booties and sweaters/coats for extra warmth. This can help you extend their time outside.
Be sure to notice signs of hypothermia: your dog may shiver excessively, become weak, or seem less alert. If so, take him inside at once.
- Mealtimes Can Be Workouts
Make your pooch work for his meals and treats! Try using food puzzles: your dog has to figure out how to release the treat from the toy/puzzle, so this stimulates his mind - and it’s a moving game, so he’ll burn some calories and energy. You can also stuff a Kong toy with peanut butter and treats, freeze it, and then give it to your dog for some excellent playtime.
- Start Spring Training Early
If you’re stuck inside, use the time you would be out walking or at the park to do some indoor training. A training session not only helps your dog learn essentials from “sit” and “stay” to how to greet guests properly, it engages their minds and bodies. This can be quite tiring, so make sure to keep sessions short and sweet - and reward with a treat.
* You can find a great variety of dog training videos and guides online. If you want ideas that are aligned with your dog training philosophy and will most benefit your pet, don’t hesitate to ask us for suggestions.
- Go to An Agility Park or Pet Gym
We’re lucky enough to have some options for agility parks and pet gyms in the Asheville area. VIP Pet Resorts, for example, has a fitness center that includes doggie treadmills, aerobic classes, and more. The Blue Ridge Agility Club offers indoor obstacle courses and training that are guaranteed to tire even the most energetic dog (and a tired dog is a well-behaved, happy dog!).
- Try a Treadmill
There are special treadmills made just for dogs… and if you are willing to spend the money, this can be a great way to help him get his steps in on days when you can’t go out. If you have a regular human treadmill, consider sharing. If you set it at a safe speed, many dogs will take right to it. (NEVER tie your dog to the treadmill or force him to walk on it. Some are - understandably - scared of this contraption.)
- Go On a Playdate
Winter is better together. If you have a leash-free dog park nearby, go! Playing with other dogs, sniffing, exploring, fetching, and practicing basic commands gives your dog a tremendous workout. He’ll love the change of scenery. Watch for signs he’s too cold.
* Make sure to follow the rules of the dog park (e.g. constant supervision, no food in the park, etc.).
If you have friends with dogs, invite them over to the yard to play. Socialization is tiring for pups (and some of us humans!). He’ll be nice and tired after an hour or two. This also gives you a chance to break out of the winter doldrums and spend some time with friends, family, neighbors, and other dog owners.
- Think about Dog Daycare or a Weekend at a Great Boarding Facility
If you’re worried your dog is not getting enough stimulation, exercise, and attention, look into dog daycares. They’ll be well taken care of, have the chance to play with other pups, and even learn/practice manners and proper behavior.
If this is a little pricey for you, treat your dog to a few days or a weekend every now and then at an excellent boarding facility. The best ones provide stellar service, careful supervision of dogs, and individualized attention. Dogs play, they eat, they socialize, they relax, they play, they sleep… It’s the equivalent of an all-inclusive spa resort vacation for us humans.
Exercise and Attention
These are the keys to weathering the winter with your pet. Don’t let the cold weather become an excuse not to exercise - we know how easy it is for us humans to fall into this trap! Let your dog be your motivation… he needs physical activity, and so do you. Do it together. When at all possible, go outside, walk, and play. When it’s not, find fun activities and games to do indoors.
As always, your dog also needs love and attention. After a trip to the dog park, a brisk walk, or a round of indoor playing, make time to reward him with hugs, cuddles… and let him pick the next show on Netflix. A little couch time is perfectly fine at the end of a busy day too!
To make sure your pet is in top health for winter activity, get in touch with Avery Creek Pet Hospital. We’ll give you the all-clear for exercise and provide some helpful tips to get you through the long Asheville winter safely and happily.