How do you keep Fido fit, healthy and happy when it’s blistering cold outside? Kylie Baracz finds out how to get off the couch and get motivated with some winter dog exercises.
Getting motivated during the cold, dreary winter months can be a real challenge, according to trainer Jodie Sultana from Advanced K9 Communications Dog Training. However, finding the motivation to be active is important for the health of you and your pet.
“Dogs need time to be active no matter what the weather is like. Getting good exercise and stimulation regularly not only keeps our dogs fit but it also keeps them out of trouble,” she says.
Sultana has four dogs and knows if she doesn’t stimulate them or provide exercise, they will become bored. “Bored dogs can become frustrated, anxious or very destructive. However, there are some great activities you can do with your dogs during the cold, rainy weather to avoid this,” she says.
1. Hide and seek
This is a great game for inside or outside. It involves telling your dog to stay or getting another person to hold your dog while you go hide somewhere around the house or park. When you’re ready, call your dog and let them try to find you. You can also squeak a toy as their cue to start searching for you. This provides excitement for them and makes a great reward when they find you.
2. Scent detection
Getting your dog to use his or her nose is such a great form of stimulation and it is also surprisingly exhausting for the dog, Sultana explains. “Two of my dogs had basic training in finding ingredients for explosives, such as black powder. For these dogs I put some black powder in an envelope and hide it somewhere around the house — under pillows, in the shower or in a cardboard box. Then I tell them to ‘find’. For my other dogs I use their favourite toy or food. To keep it interesting I use different food every time. They get so excited over this game,” she says.
3. Chasing a torch or laser
This game is a lot of fun and requires very little effort. Using a flashlight or a laser pointer, move it along the ground where your dog can see it. They will follow the light wherever you shine it, providing much-needed inside activity. It’s a great game of chase and it’s amazing how long they will chase it for.
4. Teach a trick or skill
“I love teaching my dogs new tricks and skills,” Sultana says. “It’s a great form of problem solving for your dog and really gets their brain ticking.”
Teaching a complex skill can take quite a while, depending on what the skill is, so this type of training is something you can work on for a bit each day. It’s a great way to tire your dog out but also provides a bit more stimulation and concentration than just obedience exercises. You can teach them to skateboard, play dead, retrieve objects, spin, wave, jump over things or crawl under things.
5. Car ride
“This may sound odd but sometimes I just put my dog in the car and go for a drive and listen to some music,” says Sultana. If your dog enjoys the car this is a nice, warm way to give them a change of scenery.
6. Collect the objects
This game involves setting up a box and getting five or so objects that are all the same. Sultana uses wooden blocks but you can use balls, plastic bottles or anything that is safe for your dog to carry in their mouth. These objects get hidden around the house and must be found by your dog one at a time and put back in the box.
When all the objects are collected the dog gets a prize, such as a food treat or a toy. If your dog does not yet know how to retrieve, it’s a great time to start teaching them.
7. Agility and flyball
If you’re still keen to brave the cold and get outdoors, flyball and agility are great activities to get involved in. They provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation for both you and your dog and are a great way to get warmed up. There are plenty of great clubs that run these activities every week.
8. Puppy party
Invite some of your friends and their dogs around to socialise and have a puppy party. Organise some competitions like “best trick” or “best-dressed dog” for a bit of fun.
You could bake some doggy treats and get creative. You can even play some training games like musical dogs, where all dogs walk in a circle and have to sit or drop when the music stops. The last dog to do so is out — and so on until only one dog remains. After a puppy party, your dog will be pooped!You need to look after your pooch's health - check out our all-new DOGSLife Directory