5 Tricks to Keeping Your Dog Active in the Winter
Tips to help your dog stay healthy and fit in the winter
Some dogs like the feel of sweaters and coats when the temperature dips, while others resist. Take a cue from your pooch, and use treats as encouragement.
In the warm weather, it’s easy to snap a leash onto Fido and take him out for a long walk. But what if your dog doesn’t like the cold weather, or the thermometer won’t budge out of the single digits? How can you keep your pets active when they don’t want to (or shouldn’t) venture outside? Dr. Holly Kalba, Medical Director at Hudson Highlands Veterinary Medical Group (HHVMG) in Hopewell Junction, offers answers.
If your dog is reluctant to go out, maybe it’s because he’s cold. “You can use vests and/or jackets to give another layer of warmth,” says Kalba. “Start with a dry winter day and ‘high value treats’ to give them encouragement….Where one would think booties could help, some dogs like them, some don’t. If the dog has been walking in areas where there is road salt, it is best to rinse their feet off with warm water.”
If your dog loves being outside, you may think you’re all set, but too much of a good thing is not always your best bet. How long can she safely stay outside? “There are many variables. Truly, any weather that is too cold for us to be out for extended periods is too cold for them. In single-digit temps, they should only be out for their ‘business’ and right back in. Remember to have water available if they’re playing or hiking over 30 minutes on a nice winter day.”
“It’s fine to play fetch with snowballs, just be careful of the direction of your throws. Some dogs get so focused on the snowball, they will run in the direction of danger if you make an ‘unplanned’ toss. Eating snow is fine as long as it’s ‘clean.’ We discourage eating snow or slush from roadsides with potentially high salt content.”
If your pooch resists going outside to play, there are core exercises — ‘sit-to-stand,’ ‘cookie stretches,’ or ‘wheelbarrowing’ — that can be done inside to help maintain muscle strength. You can also make an indoor canine gym with a few pieces of equipment. Kalba admits it’s difficult to build cardiovascular strength with medium to large dogs indoors unless you utilize treadmills.
Couch Potato Pooches
“If your dog prefers to lie down all day, be proactive and reduce the daily amount of food,” Kalba offers. “Being overweight has serious health consequences for our dogs.” HHVMG (845.221.2244; www.hudsonhighlandsvet.com) assists senior and overweight dogs in its Canine Rehabilitation service. HHVMG will host a talk, open to the public, on February 7 at 3 p.m. on Advances in Canine Fitness.