How to Exercise Your Pet When It’s Cold Out

January 29, 2013 by Tails Magazine in Featured, Home, Wellness with 0 Comments

winterwalkBy Lara Jackson

During these chilly, dark winter months, it’s hard enough for us humans to get out of bed and get through the day sometimes, but imagine how our furry friends feel. Sometimes it seems as though our dogs and cats go into hibernation in the wintertime––exercising less and sleeping more.

“Exercising your dog in the winter can be a challenge for any pet [parent]. If you have a small dog and have enough space inside your home, you may want to exercise the dog inside – playing fetch or just let the dog run around the room,” explains Jim Park, DVM at Care Animal Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill.

The ASPCA also offers some winter exercise guidelines which include:

  1. Walk your pet in wooded areas during the winter months. The forest not only provides protection from the wind, but the rich smells, sights can be infinitely interesting for dogs to investigate, distracting them from chilly temperatures.
  2. Entice your pooch with off-leash exercise sessions. Play tug or fetch, or invite some canine buddies over to romp around––the more aerobic activity, the warmer your dog, so don’t worry if it’s a little chilly.
  3. Offer your pet special treats during outdoor excursions. While on a brisk walk, pop something delicious into her mouth every now and then; or, feed her breakfast by hand while outdoors.

“Since animals are less active during the winter months, cut back on the treats, watch the food intake, and don’t feed your pet any food scraps,” warns Park. “Make your pet ‘work’ for his food. For small dogs and cats there are toys which you put treats inside a ball and then your pet has to work at getting the treats out of the ball. For cats it’s a misnomer that they’ll always eat what they should––between 70 and 80 percent of cats are overweight.”

Cats usually are kept indoors year-round, but they get bored too during the long winter months, so a new toy will pique her interest, or better yet, get a laser pointer or a feather toy or some other toy attached to a stick––these two toys heighten cats’ natural hunting instincts, and they’d get some much-needed exercise too.

According to the ASPCA, “Many dogs dislike going outside during the winter because snow, salt, and chemical de-icers hurt their paws. Canine booties can protect paws, while keeping them warm, and disposable latex boots are available for dogs who don’t like the feel of thicker boots.” Also, there are sweaters for smaller dogs to protect them from the harsh elements.

When exercising your dog during the winter, Park sums it up like this: “Pay attention, watch for signs, and listen to your dog. [If your dog sits down and it is] difficult to get [him] moving again, this means that he has had enough and it’s time to go inside. Have a reasonable exercise regimen, but don’t overdo it, especially if you have an older or obese dog. Never force your dog to continue exercising,” explains Park.

Do you have any other tips for exercising with your pet in cold weather? Share in the comments!

Lara Jackson is a freelance writer and editor. For more tips, visit her blog.


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