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Cooler winter weather does not mean that the fun has to stop for your pup. For some dogs, winter is the ideal time to get outdoors, as certain breeds are better adapted to the cold than the heat and humidity of the summer months. That being said – your pup does not need to be a Siberian Husky to partake in winter fun – read on for some winter play and exercise suggestions for you and your dog.
Winter can be a great time to explore new trails and sniff some fascinating new ‘pee mail.’ Doing an internet search for hiking trails or parks near you can be helpful; this author is a fan of the Rails to Trails site as a good starting point.
Before you go off on a new adventure, make sure that you have snacks and water for both yourself and your furry friend. If there is snow on the ground, make sure to protect your pup’s paws with either a layer of Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Natural Dog Wax or paw protective booties. Rocks and rugged terrain can cause cuts and abrasions on even the most seasoned pup’s paws. Additionally, if the weather is cooler, bring along a light fleece layer for your pup to keep them warm, especially if they are not blessed with a thick coat of their own. It goes without saying that you should adhere to the rules of the trail and always tell someone where you are going and when you are expected to return.
Just because the weather is a tad colder doesn’t mean that you can’t get your run on with your pup. For those in snowier climates, snowshoeing alongside your dog can make for a great exercise, but be mindful of the depth of snow. If it’s higher than elbow height it can make for a lot of extra work for a dog to navigate.
Be sure to take into account the following winter running/snowshoeing considerations:
- Paw Protection. Protecting your dog’s paws is an important consideration as snow, ice, and street salt can be very irritating and abrasive to your pup’s pads. A light layer of Musher’s Secret can help protect from salt. For more rugged terrain, a sturdier boot is well worth the investment to prevent cuts and scrapes.
- Hydration. If you are out for a significant amount of time (over 30 minutes), have water available for your pup since they are still losing body water through evaporation during panting.
- Jacket. While running can help keep your pup warm (due to their insulating layer of fur trapping heat), smoother coated dogs may require a light fleece layer to aid in warmth. Make sure to check for abrasions in high friction areas such as the neck and armpits. If you have a northern breed dog like a Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute, a jacket is definitely not required.
Perhaps Fido is not really into training for that spring 10k race, but still needs to get some movement and exercise in. Getting outside for a game of fetch with a ball or frisbee is a great way to stay fit and tire out a high energy dog in the winter. Pro tip: make sure that your ball or frisbee is a bright color so it doesn’t get lost in a bank of snow!
Many beaches are closed to dogs between Memorial Day and October. Use this in-between time to check out these forbidden areas. Usually, off-season beaches offer a great opportunity to let your pup run off leash. Beware, some pups think they are mini polar bears and will enjoy a little dip in the ocean, so always bring a towel! Note that sand and rocky beaches can be abrasive; thoroughly check your pup’s paws for abrasions post-beach romp.
New Tricks/Indoor fun
If your pup is not the outdoorsy type, you can bring the winter fun inside. How about teaching your dog a new trick to impress your friends & family? This is a great opportunity to stimulate their brain, provide a little exercise, and bond. Clicker training is a great way to start. If tricks are not your thing, try conditioning your pup with these easy strength and flexibility exercises that are beneficial for dogs of all ages.
Despite your best efforts, there are some pups that do not revel in hiking, tricks, or frozen pee mail. For these fur babies, curling up next to you with a crackling fire and their favorite treat is a perfectly wonderful winter activity too.
Hopefully this list has inspired you to get out (or stay in) with your pup this winter.