Winter is the season of cold and snow. It is a time when people prefer to stay indoors and enjoy the warmth of their houses. However, dogs are bound to get bored if they are kept indoors all day long. They need exercise, especially if they are young or high-energy. So, how do you keep your dog active during winter? If you live in a cold climate where it snows regularly, or even it's just rainy and cold outside, you might want to consider going for indoor exercises with your dog.
An Indoor Agility Course
It's fun to watch agility competitions on TV. You might want to try it yourself, but you don't want to leave your dog out in the rain or snow. Fortunately, you can create your own indoor agility course by using household items and a little creativity.
Use your imagination. Agility courses can be made from almost anything, including furniture, staircases, and even doors! Just be sure that everything is stable and safe for your dog. For example, if you're using chairs or tables, make sure they are well-anchored to the ground and won't tip over easily.
Make sure your course has at least three obstacles in it; one jump or hurdle, a tunnel, and one A-frame, or weave poles. Your home agility obstacles don't have to match competition obstacles. Two chairs with a sheet draped between them can serve as a simple tunnel, for example. If you're working with younger dogs or puppies, use open baby gates or low obstacles (like a pool noodle) instead of higher hurdles so they won't get hurt when they jump over them. You want the course to be challenging, but not impossible.
Decide how difficult you want your course to be by adding more obstacles as needed. Over time, you can add higher jumps, longer tunnels, and more turns between obstacles. Gauge how well your dog is doing on each milestone and determine when to make it more difficult from there. If you think your dog is enjoying it a bit more than others, you may even want to consider running them in an actual agility course!
Walking on the Treadmill
Before you begin working your dog on a treadmill, you need to take some precautions. Larger dogs typically won't fit on treadmills intended for human use. A smaller or toy breed might. There are treadmills made specifically for dogs, and these can be a good option for those who have the space and resources. Dog treadmills have safety features built in to keep dogs safe. Use caution, always monitor them closely on any treadmil, and never exceed your dog's ability to keep up or stay safe on the treadmill.
The first step in teaching your dog to walk or run on the treadmill is to get them acclimated to it. The next step is to get them comfortable walking on it. Once they are comfortable with that, you can move on to running.
You can start by placing your dog's favorite toy on the treadmill and letting them sniff around it. Then, place them in front of the treadmill and give them a treat as they go over to it. If they are hesitant at all, encourage them by giving them more treats when they go near or even on the treadmill itself. This will help break any fear or anxiety that they might have about being near the machine.
Once your dog is comfortable being near the treadmill, try getting them used to walking on it. Put their favorite toy out and let them sniff around for a few minutes before trying this step again. Then, place them in front of the machine and reward them as soon as they step onto it with a treat or praise and affection, so they know what they did was right!
Once your dog is comfortable with the machinery, you can entice them onto the stationary belt. Then, place the belt in motion and allow your dog to become accustomed to something moving under their feet. You may need a partner in this to provide treats for positive reinforcement while you are paying close attention to your pup.
Raise the speed gradually until your dog is comfortable walking at a brisk pace for about 15 minutes at most. Then, take them off the treadmill for a five minute rest before starting again. Over time, increase the length of time they spend on the treadmill by five-minute increments until they're able to exercise for 30 minutes at least once every day without getting tired or overheated. If possible, two or three times per day would be even better!
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a fun game to play with your dog in the winter. It's great for building their confidence and helping them feel more secure. Hide and seek involves you hiding, then calling your dog to find you. The idea is that they learn to follow your voice and recognize it as a signal to come back to you when they're lost or unsure of what to do next.
To play hide and seek with your dog, have them sit or lie down on one side of the room, then go hide on the opposite side of the room. Call their name and encourage them to come find you by saying "Come," "Find me," or whatever command would work best for your dog. Once they find you, reward them with lots of praise and treats!
You can increase the difficulty by leaving the room and hiding in another area. This helps work your dog's Stay command, as well. Take your time, be patient, and follow your dog's cues. If they're having trouble staying put if you leave the room, go back to single-room hide and seek games.
A Game of Fetch
Teaching your dog how to play "Fetch" is a great way to get some exercise indoors during the cold months. Start by showing your dog the toy and then toss it across the room so they will go after it and bring it back to you. Once they get used to bringing the toy back when you ask them to do so, start throwing it farther away each time until they can bring balls thrown down hallways and rooms with smooth floors.
Eventually, you can teach them how to play fetch with a Frisbee indoors. Then, you can teach fetch again once your dog can go back outside for long periods of time.
As long as you are careful, there are plenty more activities you and your dog can do together inside the house. Here are some additional ideas for indoor dog exercises that will help keep your pet fit and healthy:
- Take your dog for a walk around the house. Most dogs love to run laps around the living room with their favorite toy in tow. If they're really energetic, they may even want to do this several times throughout the day.
- Stretching exercises such as yoga poses are great ways for your dog to get some physical exercise along with you.
- Use a treat dispenser toy that requires your dog to work for their treat by pushing through holes with their nose or paws until they get one out at the end of the tunnel.
- Dance with your dog! Music can help get your pooch moving, and dancing is another fun way for you and your pup to bond. You can even teach each other new moves!
- Consider buying a ball launcher or another toy that shoots balls into the air so they can chase after them as they fall back down again.
There are all kinds of interactive toys for dogs that you can either purchase, DIY versions of yourself, or just use for inspiration as you plan out activities for your dog.
Use Your Imagination
Most dogs, like people, love to be active. They need to exercise to stay happy and healthy. Lack of exercise can lead to obesity, which can cause serious health problems. Besides becoming overweight, lack of exercise can be detrimental to your dog's mental health. The activities listed above aren't the only indoor exercises you can do. Use your imagination to determine exercises your dog would love. Some dogs love running and getting energy out through intense physical exercise. Other dogs would prefer to use their mind more than their body for exercise, which is where hide-and-seek would come into play. You can also try to think of the games your dog enjoys while they're outside, and modify these for an indoor environment.