9 Winter Exercise Hacks for Dogs

winter exercise hacks for dogs

Winter’s here! Sometimes its too cold to take your dog outside for exercise, but that exercise is sorely needed! Let’s face it, even the heartiest dogs get cold at times. Here are our top 9 winter exercise hacks for dogs.

Our Favorite Winter Exercise Hacks for Dogs

1. Invest in a Solid Coat or Sweater

Initially, I had a tough time learning my dog couldn’t handle the cold. Before Wallace, I never owned a dog that was so adverse to the cold. Originally, I remember thinking he was a sissy and would acclimate. How wrong I was, and what a relief that was to learn early on. Wally is not a sissy, but he is not built for cold weather either.

Check out your dog’s stomach, armpits, and the backs of his legs. If there’s a lack of fur or pink skin, chances are your dog gets cold.

Here are some signs your dog is cold outside:

  • He doesn’t like to stay out for long
  • He lifts his feet or whines on winter walks
  • He may even fall down on walks because his paws are so cold
  • Your dog shivers and shakes

If your dog displays any of these behaviors, we recommend investing in a winter coat. Yes, it sounds excessive (at least it did to me at first) but this was one of the best winter exercise hacks for dogs we’ve ever used. That winter coat makes long walks or hikes pleasant for Wally and for me (because I don’t have to carry him or feel bad that he’s shaking).

Our favorite coats are the Hurtta Extreme Warmer and Wally’s Duluth Trading Company Grab Jacket. Bonus, the Hurtta is on massive discount right now. Additionally, the Duluth parka has pockets and is easy to get on and off for quick potty jaunts and rides in the car.

I am not promiting these products make you buy them, nor am I making commissions on any of them. These are just products we’ve tried and loved.

2. Consider Booties Too

Wally’s rubber Pawz boots are one of the winter exercise hacks for dogs that we swear by. The only thing we don’t love is that they’re disposable, however they do last through many uses. One package (12 boots/3 pairs) lasts an entire winter season.

If your dog lifts his feet, whines, or cries outside they’re cold. One one of our first winter walks early in our relationship, I coated Wally up and got about 1/2 mile from the house. He began to wimper, wimpers increasing to ear-splitting cries, until he finally collapsed on the ground. I realized his poor toe beans were cold. I quickly scooped him up and started carrying all 30 pounds of him home. We even elicited the attention of traffic with one woman stopping to ask if we needed help.

After that, it was boots all the way. One of our top winter exercise hacks for dogs is to invest in a good pair of booties. Yes, there are booties for dogs! Chances are if you read this blog on the regular, then you know that and probably have some (because if you read this you want the best for your dog!).

Some of our favorite boots are the Pawz rubber dog boots. They’re simple rubber boots that look kind of like balloons. They’re a little tough to get on, but they serve the purpose of keeping your dog’s feet dry, which keeps your dog from getting too cold.

3. Interval Walks

Another one of our favorite winter exercise hacks for dogs is a brisk interval walk. Interval training is short bursts (about 30 seconds) of high-intensity work like running or walking at a brisk pace iterspersed with less intense training (walking or strolling) for 1-2 minutes. You continue this procedure for 30 minutes or more.

Intervals are beneficial because they help you maximize your time and torch your metabolism. Plus, you get the added benefit of warming up quickly. Your dog is sure to think an interval walk is an exciting new game and will be delighted to go along with it.

4. Skijor

A new favorite book?

I may be reaching, but this is a fantastic winter workout to share with your dog, particularly if you’re already an adept skiier and have a well-trained dog. Skijoring is the act of being pulled by your harnessed dog while you’re in skis. This is a classic mushing sport, and any healthy dog over 30 pounds can partake.

To be fair, skijor is one of the odder winter exercise hacks for dogs that we’ve tried, but we encourage you to test it out if you’re an adventurous type. I recently picked up the book, Skijor with Your Dog, and intend to bring Oliver along on a skijoring run this winter. Past attempts with Franklin were subpar at best. Now that I have better dog training skills, I am confident my skijor with Big Oliver will be a wonderful bonding adventure for both of us.

5. Indoor Exercise Options

Of course, you may have a softie boy or girl who would prefer to exercise indoors. That’s OK! Indoor options include fetch, hide and seek (below), scent work (also outlined below) and stair/leash work. What better time to polish up those leash skills than indoors on a bitter cold day.

Stairs are one of the simpler winter exercise hacks for dogs. You’ll get your own heart pumping, and surely will exercise your Best Friend. All you have to do is attach the leash to your dog and lead him up and down the stairs. Make it a fun game by incorporating treats and praise. What a way to get moving in the winter!

Additionally, Chuk-It makes indoor friendly fetch tools. These are softer and nubbier than the traditional Chuk-It ball, therefore will not break things in the house. Finally, if you want your Best Friend to be a top-notch fetcher, starting in the house is the perfect place where you have full control of the environment.

6. Indoor Enrichment Options Work Too

Dog enrichment is a hot topic! There is a veritable world of options to enrich your dog, from lickmats and slow feeders, to puzzle toys, coursing lure games, and special toys! Enrichment also happens to be one of our favorite winter exercise hacks for dogs. When properly executed, enrichment is also just as beneficial as a heart-pounding walk or run!
Here are some of our favorite indoor enrichment activities:

  1. Lick Mats and Bowls: The act of licking is soothing and comforting to our dogs. It also benefits them by slowing down their eating and improving digestion. Feeding regular meals on a lickmat or in a lickbowl serve the purpose of challenging your dog’s brain and body. Although it doesn’t seem like it, this will tire them out. If you feed kibble, soak it in water until it softens enough to smear on the mat. Bonus! Soaking in water hydrates dry kibble and makes it easier to digest.
  2. Creative Feeding: Use an old towel, newspapers, cardboard tubes and hide kibble in them. Papers can be wadded up and stuffed in a box, sprinkling the kibble in it. You can fill cardboard tubes with kibble and fold the ends shut, leaving your dog the challenge of getting the food out. Finally, sprinkle kibble into an old towel, wrapping, folding and wadding it up. Let your dog figure out how to get supper out. Whole meals can be fed this way.
  3. Treat Puzzles: These are another interactive way to challenge your dog’s brain and keep him enriched and active. Simply put kibble or treats in the puzzle and let your dog figure out how to get those tasty morsels! This is one of the winter exercise hacks for dogs that tires out his brain.

7. Scent Work

Scent training is another one of our favorite winter exercise hacks for dogs, and a way to get your dog’s mind going. In short, scent work helps your dog use his natural instincts to learn a skill and challenge his brain. This is something I’m looking forward to teaching Oliver, as he always has his head to the ground and can sniff out anything. Rather than letting it be an annoyance on walks, I’d like to capitalize on his natural bloodhound talents!

Here is an article from the American Kennel Club on how to get started with scent work at home.

8. Dog Tag

You know your dog is pretty much game to try and do anything with you! Tag is a fun, interactive game that strengthens your bond and gets both you and your dog moving. To start is simple, tag your dog! Then run off. This can be done in an open space, throughout the house, or even in the back yard. Bonus if you have children that will play tag with your dog! If not, don’t fret; it is perfectly acceptable for a grown adult to play tag with the dog in the house. Especially when it’s freezing cold outside and neither of you want to spend much time there.

9. Hide and Seek

Finally, one of our favorite winter exercise hacks for dogs; hide and seek. This one is simple, rewarding, and yet another way to bond with your Best Friend. Don’t worry, this is also perfectly acceptable for grown adults to partake in with your dogs! Simply make your dog stay in a separate room and hide from them! Better yet, bring a treat with you and wait to see how long it takes for him to sniff you out! (I bet it won’t take long).

Hide and seek is one of my personal favorite games with my dogs. Every time my husband comes home with the dogs, I hide. It’s so satisfying for them to find you, and for you to see their excitement when they do.

There are so many options and different winter exercise hacks for dogs. These help challenge our dogs’ brains, strengthen our bond with them, and even help us get moving in the cold winter. What are your favorite winter activities with your dog?

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