By Mandie Sweetnam
We’re smack in the middle of the holiday season and I’m remembering how hard it is to maintain an active lifestyle during this time of year for myself as well as my dogs. During the warmer, less festive months, there’s ample time and daylight available for you and your pooch to take walks or play fetch during the week and on weekends. Once daylight savings time falls back and the holiday shopping begins, your afternoons become dark and the weekends become packed.
The truth is that our pets depend on us to keep them active, mentally and physically, during the winter months. If the time change has compromised your afternoon walks and free time on the weekends is rare, here are some suggestions to keep you and your dog active this season.
Rise and Shine. Wake up an hour earlier to walk in the mornings! You and your pup will love the cool morning air and you may even get to see some wildlife that you would have missed during a dark afternoon walk.
Fetch and Seek. For the dogs that already fetch like a pro – play Fetch and Seek! This game adds a new twist and a little more activity to the existing game of fetch. In the yard (or even inside, depending on how much space you have) toss the ball for your dog, then get behind a tree, shed or hedge (or any object) so your pup has to find you in order to return the ball.
They’ll love the task of looking for you and of course will love that you’re playing fetch with them. This can be an extra fun game when you get home from work or on the weekends.
Go to Class. Sign up for a training class with your pet. Most training facilities have evening and weekend classes to fit any busy schedule. Even if you’ve never been to a class with your pet, it’s never too late to start! There are classes available for a beginner level to advanced level. If your pet is already a master at obedience, try a class to learn new and exciting tricks or how to run Agility. There are too many classes to list! You’ll be able to meet new people and having a consistent class time makes it easy to plan for. Oh, and your dog will love it too!
Head to the Mall. Search your local area for pet friendly shopping malls. Here in Richmond, VA, we have two outdoor shopping malls that allow you and your pet to walk and window shop in a well-lit area. Typically, stores in the mall will have a sign indicating if pets are allowed inside each store and a leash is usually required.
Many pet stores are also a great place for you and your pup to walk around and socialize. This is also a great opportunity to allow the general public to fawn all over your precious pup while they model their new winter wardrobe. PS: Don’t forget to clean up after your buddy. Here’s a link to get you started: http://www.petfriendlytravel.com/?page=malls#Virginia
Doggy Yoga. Also known as Doga, Yoga for Dogs, etc. This can be a great way to keep you and your dog active while trying something new. A quick internet search will lead you to more information, at-home videos, and maybe even a studio with classes in your area.
Trick Challenge. Make a goal for you and your dog that you will teach them at least one new trick every week or month depending on your time available and the skill involved in the trick. This is something fun you can do indoors that will have both you and your pet thinking and moving. You could perfect existing behaviors such as Sit, Stay, Down or try to use your clicker to shape a new behavior. Get creative! By the way, don’t forget the cat! This is something you and your feline can do too!
- Make a Play Date. Just because your local dog park closes at dusk, doesn’t mean you should wait until the weekend to organize a play date. Check with your friends and relatives and find out if any (or several) of them has a well-lit, fenced in yard. Take turns hosting “doggy play dates” at different houses so your pets can run and play with their own buddies for a while. Remember to play safe and make sure everyone is up to date on all vaccinations and that all dog members of this play group are comfortable with other dogs.
Now that you have some ideas, go out and try some of them! You could even incorporate some of these into your New Year’s resolution – taking a training class, learning/perfecting one new trick a week, etc. It’s never too late to start a new, exciting activity with your pet. What are you waiting for?!
Tell us what you do in the winter to keep you and your pet active.