Winter Workouts With Your Dog

Here in the Ozarks, winter weather can be unpredictable. This year, we’ve enjoyed mild weather for the most part with sporadic bouts of bitter cold and some freezing rain. And while this morning’s temperature was in the mid-30s, the rain was cold and edging into icy. I’ll confess I was sorely tempted to exercise Sasha indoors, but then I remembered reading a terrific post on the Chasing Dog Tales website about the benefits of outdoor exercise in winter. And so off we went, with Sasha proudly sporting her red plaid coat. In addition to keeping her warm, the coat kept most of her dry, making both of us happy!

And this Sasha’s very first stand-stay; didn’t she do well?

My Sasha

My Sasha, ready for a winter’s morning walk

Sasha enjoyed the outing so much I wanted to share the original post. Here it is, reblogged in its entirety courtesy of Elaine Bryant. (Thanks, Elaine!) That website is a wonderful resource, by the way, and I hope you’ll check it out.

do-you-hate-walking-your-dog-in-the-winter

By Elaine Bryant

It’s okay, I’ll be the first one to answer that question. Yes! Sometimes I do hate going for walks with Haley when it’s bitterly cold and miserable outside. When the weather’s really nasty, we find other ways to exercise like some of the ideas I wrote about in my article, 12 Easy Ways to Exercise Your Dog in the Winter. The problem is, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of skipping the walk and relying more on indoor exercise, rather than braving the elements.

I have to admit, I feel a little guilty when we opt for indoor exercise because I know Haley would much rather go for a walk outdoors where she can get more of a workout and have the joy of relishing all the sights, sounds and smells along the way. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, check out these solutions to the most common complaints and excuses we use to stay inside on cold winter days.

7 Complaints About Walking Your Dog in the Winter (and the Solutions!)

1. I’m just not motivated.

Cold weather can put a damper on your motivation to go outside. Use your dog’s excitement about going for a walk to help you get into the spirit or focus on how rejuvenated you feel when you return home from an invigorating walk. Instead of taking the same boring walk around the block, go for a hike in the woods or explore a new area of town. You already have one walking buddy, why not recruit a few more. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to join you on daily walks.

2. It’s too cold.

Yep, I can’t deny it feels warmer sitting on the couch inside your home, but with the right clothes and accessories you can stay comfortable on your wintertime walk. Invest in a good pair of boots, some wool socks, insulted gloves, a hat and how about a colorful scarf too? Layer your clothing to retain body heat and you’ll be all set to head outside for some fun with your pup. On days when it’s dangerously cold outside, use common sense and stay safe and warm indoors.

3. It’s too cold for my dog.

Most dogs are fine when walking outside in the wintertime but you’ll want to limit the amount of time for puppies, senior dogs and dogs with illnesses. There are several types of dogs that can benefit from wearing a sweater or jacket when it’s cold outside. Read Do Dogs Need Sweaters in the Winter? to find out if your dog would benefit from the extra insulation. Keep an eye on your pup for warning signs that they might be cold or uncomfortable. If your dog’s shivering, whining, looking anxious, picking up their feet or they hesitant to keep walking, it’s time to head back indoors.

4. My dog’s paws get cold or form ice balls.

Snow can cling to the hair between your dog’s toes and form painful ice balls. Prevent the ice balls from forming by trimming the hair between your dog’s paw pads. Also consider using booties or applying a wax such as Musher’s Secret to your dog’s paws before your walk. If your dog doesn’t wear booties, be sure to wipe their paws with a wet washcloth when you arrive back home to remove any residue from salt or chemical de-icers which may be dangerous if ingested.
Dog on Ice Puddle

5. It’s slippery outside and my dog pulls on the leash.

Ice and a pulling dog usually results with you ending up on your butt or worse. Here are a couple of things that will help keep you on your feet. First, buy a pair of ice cleats that fit over your boots, such as the Yaktrax Walk, to give you better traction. Next, prevent your dog from pulling by using a front clipping harness combined with a non-retractable leash for more control. Remember, every walk is also an opportunity to train your dog not to pull on the leash.

6. It’s hard to hold the leash and pick up poop while wearing gloves.

Besides juggling a leash and poop bags, you’re probably also dealing with treats, a cellphone and maybe even tissues for a runny nose. Don’t bother with gloves or mittens that you have to take off over and over again. Instead, buy a pair of fingerless gloves with an attached mitten flap that easily pulls over your exposed fingers. I have a pair of gloves similar to these that I absolutely love.

7. I don’t like walking in the dark.

The shorter days of winter mean some people might not be able to walk their dogs during daylight hours. A couple of items can help keep you and your pup safe. A headlamp rather than a flashlight will leave your hands free to manage the leash and other things and an LED collar or clip-on collar light will help make your pup visible in the dark.

Those are some of the most common complaints about walking your dog in the winter but there are plenty of benefits and reasons to love those wintertime walks too. Here are just a few!

Reasons to Love Walking Your Dog in the Winter

  • There’s something very special about a quiet walk through fresh fallen snow.
  • Winter walks are more peaceful because fewer people are outside. This is especially nice if you have a reactive dog.
  • Fresh air and a chance to absorb a little sunlight does wonders for your attitude during the winter months.
  • You and your pup will stay in great shape and avoid winter weight gain.
  • The mental stimulation and exercise of a walk will help prevent destructive dog behavior caused by boredom.
  • You won’t feel guilty. :)

Snow Hike with Dog

While I’m on the topic of winter walks, I want to throw in a couple of safety tips.
Always use a leash if you’re walking or hiking near frozen ponds or lakes. It’s not worth taking the risk of your dog falling through a partially frozen body of water.
Be careful about letting your dog walk in snow that has an icy crust over the top of it. Haley once ripped her dew claw because it got snagged on the ice as her paw broke through the crusted over snow.

Since January is National Walk Your Dog Month, I’m going to challenge myself to maintain the same walking schedule as we have during the warm summer months. If you hate walking your dog in the winter too, why not join me in the challenge and use the tips here to make cold weather walking more enjoyable. For you hardcore winter walkers, I’d love to hear your tips on how you make winter walks more comfortable and fun!

***

My thanks to Elaine for allowing me to reblog this post and share her excellent advice. If you’d like more information about helping your dog stay healthy and happy, be sure to check out Chasing Dog Tales

Have more tips and suggestions to help us all enjoy the winter? Leave a comment here!

One thought on “Winter Workouts With Your Dog

  1. First, Sasha looks awfully cute in her sweater! And a big “good girl” to her for her stay!

    Great piece, Elaine. We live in the country where I can have my dog, Shadow, off-leash if the footing is slick, but I think I’m going to invest in a pair of the ice cleats anyway. The fingerless gloves, another great idea, wouldn’t work for me (I think), because in addition to juggling a leash (sometimes) and plastic bags to scoop poop, I’m usually juggling a camera as well. I’m afraid the magnets might hurt the camera, but maybe I’m wrong.

    I walk pretty much every day, rain or shine, because Shadow is an energetic dog, and because I consider a daily walk my anti-depressant of choice. Neither of us feels good if we miss our walk. If the weather’s truly awful, we’ll usually walk, just to get outside, but shorten it considerably so neither of us gets too cold.

    Shadow does get horrible ice balls on his feet, and, frankly, all up and down his legs, so that he looks like he’s wearing puffy white leggings. I pull them off the best I can, then bring him in to melt. (In fact, I wrote a short photo-blog about it, “Snow Doodle” http://susankroupa.com/2014/02/16/snowdoodle/ ).

    Thanks for the good advice!

    Sue

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