Rolling out of bed early in the morning to hitting our exercise targets and even walking the dog can prove to be challenging in the cold winter months. So, to ensure our four-legged friends get the daily exercise they need, what other activities can we do with them if we miss a walk?
Ali Smith, award-winning dog trainer of Rebarkable, gives guidance on how to encourage dogs to burn energy and keep them happy on those bitter cold winter days when a walk outside isn’t an option.
Ali Smith’s top 10 recommended activities to stimulate your dog’s mind and muscles:
- “Hide and seek with toys is a favourite. If you’re new to this, start simply with easy hiding places. The idea is to take a toy, or treat, and hide it somewhere and then allow your dog to go search for it. This enforces the use of their muscles, brain and nose, making them engage and demonstrate their natural hunting desires
- Try flirt poles – The dog version of the cat toy on a string and pole is a great toy for dogs who love a more motivated chase or hunt
- Start a tug game – While there’s not a whole lot of movement involved, it entails strength training, interaction and a lot of satisfaction. Using a tug toy that incorporates a bungee cord can absorb your dog’s brute strength while taking the strain off you
- Teach a new trick – There’s always something to learn, whether it’s how to rest their head on your hand, or how to jump a broom handle
- Arrange a playdate indoors – Let them enjoy some time with friends, bouncing around and getting a good play in
- Purchase game training toys like Kong’s toys, snuffle mats and lick mats. These work in a variety of ways as sniffing and licking are very soothing activities for dogs. In addition, these can help provide the mental stimulation that your dog craves
- Practice scent work which will actively engage your dog’s nose. Dogs have some of the most powerful noses in the animal kingdom, which is why we use them for tracking and medical detection. But it’s also incredibly rewarding for them as it releases hormones that can contribute to your dog’s happiness
- If you own a treadmill, let your dog exercise on it with proper supervision. It may not be as stimulating as a walk outside, but it’ll get those muscles working
- Book a session at a doggy daycare. Doggy daycares let your pup burn off energy while improving their social skills with other dogs
- Check your local area for indoor dog parks. These are becoming more common in the UK and allow you to stay warm and exercise your dog in a safe and secure environment.”
Additionally, do not use a laser pointer. Dogs can get much more obsessed with this than cats do and it can create some quite serious behavioural issues that should be avoided.
Salman Haqqi, pet insurance expert at money.co.uk, commented, “Missing walks with our dogs can leave us feeling guilty regardless of the weather. But with drops in temperature, the motivation to go outside decreases even more.
“From buying specific skill-training toys to collaborative games with your dog and family, everybody can exercise within the comfort and warmth between four walls.”