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When temperatures drop and winter weather moves in, it can become challenging to burn off your dog's seemingly endless energy! But we like a good challenge, and that's why we're sharing five creative ways to stave off cabin fever. These popular activities, both indoor and outdoor, can make for great winter exercise, enrichment and entertainment. Just remember to ask your veterinarian before starting any new exercise routine with your dog. Once you get the all-clear, consider these excellent options:
If you love to ski and your dog loves to run, skijoring may be the perfect winter activity for both of you! It's cross-country skiing with a little momentum help from your dog — you're on the skis, and your dog runs out in front of you with a long line that connects you to his harness. It may sound complicated but the pulling part of the sport comes naturally to many dogs, and you might be surprised by how quickly your dog picks up the commands for turning and stopping. Learn more about the awesome sport of skijoring and read some tips from skijoring trainer Louisa Morrissey of High Country Dogs in Colorado.
Your dog doesn't need to be an Iditarod champion or a canine ranger at Denali National Park to reap the benefits of learning how to mush. Like skijoring, mushing — which is essentially an umbrella term for dog-powered transport — can be a fantastic winter sport for active dogs who don't get enough exercise through walks or runs alone. You and your dog can enjoy it as a recreational sport or you can even investigate competitive events sanctioned by groups like the International Federation of Sleddog Sports or International Sled Dog Racing Association.
We bet you're picking up on a trend here — there is clearly no shortage of dog sports that can be practiced year-round, even in cold conditions! One of our favorites is nose work, which can provide great physical and mental stimulation for dogs who love to sniff. The sport challenges your canine to use his nose to locate a certain scent (like birch, anise or clove, for example) and alert you to the location of the odor. You can still practice this sport indoors, of course, but wintry weather is the perfect opportunity to get your dog to step up her game, as wind, rain or snow can all affect scent flow and make the activity more challenging. Check out our guide to canine nose work for advice on how to get started.
Maybe your dog just isn't the kind of canine who enjoys spending time in the cold, and that's OK. Training expert Mikkel Becker has plenty of suggestions for keeping your dog active indoors — one of them being a DIY agility course! You can set up chairs, broomsticks, blankets, hula hoops and tons of other items found in your house to make the course, and then use hand-targeting or treats to lead your dog through the obstacles. It's fun, physically active and, best of all, warm. Just remember, it's best to do this on a carpeted surface instead of hardwood, which can be slippery. And make sure the obstacles are stable and can't be knocked over or otherwise injure your pet.
If there's a day that's too blustery or cold for a trip to your neighborhood dog park, hop online and search for anindoordog park — you may find one nearby! We've seen them popping up everywhere, particularly at local doggy day care locations. If you can't find an indoor dog park close to you, consider treating your pup to a social afternoon at day care or signing up for a training course.
Which activities do you like to enjoy with your dog in the winter? Let us know in the comments below!
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