Helping your pet stay active on cold and snowy winter days isn’t easy — especially if you are one of the many folks who prefers staying inside where it’s nice and toasty. Unfortunately, if you are only taking your dog outside for quick potty breaks and rushing back inside, they probably are not getting enough exercise. Even your indoor cat could experience boredom if you spend winter evenings camped out in front of the television rather than engaging them in play.
As veterinarians, we’ve seen far too many pets suffering from health and behavioral issues due to inadequate physical activity. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that pet obesity is an epidemic. That’s why we decided to share a few fun ways to keep your pets active during the winter. Keep reading to find out more!
Gear Up and Head Outside
Going for a long walk outside might not seem like an appealing idea during the winter, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your canine companion. However, taking precautions is vital. Pay close attention to the actual temperature and the wind chill, and prepare yourself and your pet accordingly. Sweaters, coats, and boots help protect dogs from snow, ice, and cold and make it possible to spend more time outdoors. And, of course, there is plenty of cold-weather gear to help you stay nice and warm while enjoying a wintertime trek with your pet.
Keep a close eye on your dog while exercising outside in cold weather. If they show signs of discomfort, such as shivering or holding their paws up, get them inside as soon as possible. A Great Pyrenees will have a blast going for a long walk and playing in the snow. A short-haired Chihuahua won’t.
Sign Your Canine Companion Up for Doggy Daycare
Sending your dog to daycare is an excellent way to help them get some much-needed exercise. Daycare is an ideal place for your four-legged best friend to gain confidence and learn to interact with other dogs and people, too. If you have trouble meeting your dog’s exercise needs at home during the winter months, enrolling them in daycare will help them stay active.
Make Mealtime More Engaging
Instead of just feeding your pet treats and offering their meals in a bowl, make them work for it! Puzzle toys and feeders make dogs and cats work to earn their reward, and they are a great way to help your furry friend stay active. For cats, you can even hide food and treats in several locations throughout your home to encourage them to “hunt.” Doing so is sure to get even the laziest of couch potatoes up and moving!
Set Up an Indoor Agility Course
Practicing indoor agility is a fun way to provide your pet with physical and mental stimulation. And since you can use several things in your home to create obstacles, you don’t even need to buy any fancy equipment.
Create an indoor agility course using household items, including:
- Cardboard boxes
- Laundry baskets
- Broom/Mop handles
Arrange the boxes in your living room, and teach your dog to weave around them. Train them to jump over broom or mop handles like hurdles. Make them jump into a laundry basket. Open both ends of a large cardboard box to transform it into a tunnel for your dog to run through. With a bit of creativity, you can build an engaging obstacle course for your dog using household items without spending a penny.
Unleash Your Cat’s Inner Hunter
During the winter, your cat might not “hunt” for much other than their food bowl. Laying around all day isn’t good for their health, though, so it’s crucial to get them up and moving. One of the best ways to do this is with toys that mimic the sounds and movement of prey animals, like birds and mice. When it comes to bringing out your feline friend’s inner hunter, you can’t go wrong with teasers. These toys feature feathers or other toys attached to a flexible rod. When you wave the rod, the attached feathers flutter and move like a real bird. Very few cats can resist their appeal.
Teach Them a New Trick
Training dogs and cats is beneficial for both these pets and humans. It strengthens the human-animal bond, makes living with pets more enjoyable, and helps your canine companion or feline friend (Yes, you can teach your cat tricks!) build confidence. Teaching them new tricks provides mental and physical stimulation, too.
Winter takes its toll on everyone, and staying active isn’t always easy. However, your pet is susceptible to boredom, obesity, and behavior problems without regular exercise. This winter, commit to giving your pet the best life possible by making sure to meet their daily exercise needs. If your pet seems lazier than usual or struggles to do things they once enjoyed, they could be suffering from osteoarthritis or other painful conditions that are worse during cold weather. Contact us to schedule an appointment if you suspect that your pet’s decreased activity level could be due to an underlying health problem.