With shorter days, colder weather, and lots of rain in the Comox Valley, it is easy to fall into a winter slump when it comes to staying physically active, and mentally sharp. Although some dogs may not mind the blustery weather, it can make exercising less than enjoyable and may leave our pets, and even ourselves, feeling less content. Here are some tips to help keep the bond between you and your dog strong, and keep them feeling satisfied, and sharp despite the weather.
Shorter leash walks that focus on training vs. distance is a great way to get outdoors without staying out so long that everyone is soaked and cold. Training can include some stop-go games, direction changes, sitting at crosswalks, and even obstacles if you can find some easy and fun objects that you are allowed to let your dog walk and/or sit on.
If you are walking on sidewalks in the colder winter months be aware of potentially irritating substances on your dog’s feet, such as de-icers, and think about potentially putting booties on your dog to protect their feet. If your dog is particularly susceptible to the cold a sweater or jacket may be beneficial as well.
Working on training skills indoors is also a great way to keep your dog’s mind sharp and focused, and drain some mental energy when you are not able to get them outside to exercise. Obedience skills, such as sit, down, stay, and recall are an easy go-to option. Tricks, such as shake a paw, roll over, sit pretty, etc. are also fun and easy to teach. Focus tasks such as leave it, place, watch, and longer duration sit/down/stand stays are excellent for helping your dog to relax and focus.
Winter is also a great time of year to work on desensitizing your dog to different objects, handling, and grooming. Taking the time to get your dog relaxed and happy about having their body handled, feet touched, nails trimmed, and coat brushed will be very beneficial for your dog, especially if they ever have to take a trip to the groomer or the vet. Desensitizing your dog to having booties and a jacket put on prior to use is also a great training task to work on while you are relaxing indoors.
Making mealtime and treat time fun for your dog is also a great way to stimulate their brain. Using treat toys, or putting their meals into toys rather than their regular bowl is always fun and rewarding. It can be really fun to watch your pet troubleshoot and learn!
Keep training sessions short, so you don’t lose your dog’s focus and use lots of little treats as a reward. Have fun with it and enjoy spending some extra time strengthening that bond with your furry best friend.
Submitted by Jessica McKay, RVT