The amount of physical and mental activity a dog needs varies widely depending on breed, age, health and more, according to the American Kennel Club. During winter, when there’s less time spent outdoors, you can still keep your dog physically and mentally fit with these activities.
Make your dog’s day with a wintertime stroll. Be sure to allow time for sniffing (it’s the best part of a walk, in a dog’s mind). One daily walk might be enough for small breeds, but larger, high-energy dogs often need two walks a day.
Play fetch. A tennis ball works fine for small and medium-size dogs (they like to chomp down on it), but use a softball-size ball with large dogs to avoid a possible choking hazard.
You can play this indoors (hiding behind furniture) or outdoors (hiding behind a tree). Dogs have to use their sniffer to find you, then receive praise and affection when they do.
Use a treat-dispensing toy like this Chase ’n Chomp Ribcage with Ball at Hy-Vee. Entice your dog to extract the ball from the ribcage by placing kibble or a smidge of peanut butter in the opening.
Stair-stepping can be good exercise for your pooch. Hold your dog by her collar while tossing her favorite toy to the top of the stairs, then release. Encourage her to bring the toy back to you by rewarding with affection or a quick bout of tug-of-war.
Tailor the amount of time spent outdoors to your pet. Dogs that are small, short-haired, very young or very old may have less tolerance to cold weather.
Cover small and short-haired dogs with a fitted coat or sweater.
After walks, check paws for salt or ice—which can irritate footpads—and remove any accumulations with warm water.
Never leave a pet in an unattended vehicle. Dogs can develop hypothermia or even freeze to death.
Shorter walks and less time outdoors can add up to weight gain. Keep an eye on your dog’s weight and adjust his diet if necessary.
Got a nice blanket of snow on the ground? Create a snow maze! Shovel out a winding or stop-and-start-over-again path your dog can use to explore the backyard. This works especially well with smaller dogs that won’t try to “cheat” by plowing through the walls.
Add a few treats to a smaller box placed inside a larger box. (Cereal boxes work great for this activity.) Let your dog tear apart the boxes (while supervised) to get to a chomp-worthy reward.
The nice thing about snow is you’ve got plenty of material for making snowballs. Throw snowballs across the yard so Rover runs and hunts for the remnants in the snow. Or toss loosely packed snowballs in the air and give him a chance to play centerfielder.
Set three treats in three spots, then call your dog into the room and say “Treat!” so she looks for the rewards. Switch up the locations each time to make her search more difficult. The mental stimulation will help keep boredom at bay.
Many dogs enjoy a game of tug-of-war, but be sure to keep it safe. Avoid the activity if your dog has bad teeth. And let them do all the tugging. Also, no fair using two hands. Remember, they’re pulling with their teeth and you’re not (at least we hope not!) Keep sessions short to avoid injury.
• Substitute praise, affection or a
quick doggie massage for treats.
• Feed with a healthy weight formula
• Use kibble-size morsels for training.
• Adjust the amount of dog food at
mealtime to compensate for treats
• Keep a dog occupied with toys and
Keep the calories under control with these tips:
Teach him a new trick or two, using low-cal treats for incentive. Mental stimulation can be especially helpful in winter, when dogs easily become bored from being indoors.
This shell game always has a winner! Place a treat under one of three identical opaque cups and let your dog sniff out the reward. Or, put the treat underneath a cup that is different from the other two so she learns to use her eyes instead of her nose to find the prize.
The easiest way to keep a dog active? Invite another dog over so the two can scamper, wrestle and play together. A fenced yard is imperative, as is supervision to make sure everyone gets along (dogs can become territorial in their own yards).
If your dog has a favorite toy, toss it across the room a few times, each time saying “Get the toy!” so he retrieves it. After he is fully engaged, put him in the other room while you hide the toy, then use the command so he hunts for it.
A dog park might not be as busy in winter, but that just means more space for Sparky. Bring some water for your dog, as well as a ball or flying disc in case canine friends are absent and you become the entertainment committee.
Hy-Vee has the food and toys your dog needs to keep fit and trim this winter.
Multipet Cross-Ropes Duck Tough Dog Toy
Paws Happy Life 3 Tennis Toys for Dogs
Blue Buffalo dog foods: Wilderness Adult Healthy Weight or Life Protection Formula Healthy Weight for Small Breeds
Milk-Bone Good Morning Daily Vitamin Dog Treats
Nylabone Edibles Nubz Bison Extra Large Dog Chew
Paws Happy Life Retractable Leash for large and small dogs.
Cut openings into a large cardboard box and coax your dog to walk through. As he gets more comfortable with the activity, connect additional boxes with openings to the original box to create a longer tunnel.
Make a teeter-totter by placing a tennis ball in a sock stapled to the center of a wooden disk and gluing carpet to the opposite side for traction. Hold a treat overhead so your dog has to work on his balance skills.
Prop a pole or broomstick on books to create a hurdle for your dog to scale to reach a reward. Start low and move it up gradually. To avoid injury, make sure the pole harmlessly drops to the ground if your pet hits it.
Hold a hoop at ground level and coax your pet to walk through it. As she becomes more comfortable, raise up the hoop a little at a time so she has to jump higher to get through it.
Use a carpet or exercise mat for less stress on dog joints and to keep them from slipping. If you hide a treat inside the roll, they can “nose” the carpet or mat open for added mental stimulation.