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March Dogs - How to Exercise Your Dog When It's Too Icy Out: Strategy #3

In February we covered Strategy 1: Feeding is Fun when we learned how to use food to build a stronger bond with your dog. Early this month we also discussed how to use your pets daily ration to exercise their minds along with their bodies in Strategy 2: Mind Puzzles.


Now, for those of you with Jack Russel Terriers bouncing off the walls this winter, you know food puzzle and fun feeding isn't even close to enough - which is good, because it really shouldn't be enough for any of our pets. Going from one hour a day of exercise to nothing is going to lead to an anxious, unruly dog.

The big question is - what can you do about it? No one wants their dog to slip on the ice or end up with an ACL tear. Well, we are going to cover 6 different indoor exercises you can try with your pets. Not every dog is the same and not every exercise is going to work with your home. Do not feel discouraged if some of these won't work for you. The reason we offer so many options is because every pet is an individual all their own, and we want everyone to be able to find a fun and successful way to keep yourself and your pet active this winter.


1. Fetch

You can't go wrong with a classic! Instead of having your dog run a couple long distance chases at the dog park, you can have your dogs do more, shorter reps inside your home. Ideal places for this would be down a hallway or in the living room.


Pro Tip: I have 3 dogs and a game o f indoor fetch can be tricky, so I have my dogs take turns chasing. By placing Maya in a down stay, Gemini is more active in chasing the ball because she doesn't have to go head to head with Maya for it. Then when Gem brings back the ball, she sits and it's Maya's turn to play. For Riley, he prefers to play at night once the big dogs have gone to bed.
My dogs are more excited to fetch when it's their turn than when we go to the park and let them all run at once. Plus, it's a great opportunity to teach them good things come to those who wait and that a stay command doesn't mean they will miss out on something!

2. Stairs

If you have a set of stairs in your house you can incorporate them in your games for a more intense exercise session. I ended up starting this by accident one day when I was trying to reach my own step goal and noticed Maya was trailing behind me. Sometimes I put her in a sit stay at the bottom of the stairs and then 'hide' upstairs. Once I'm thoroughly 'hidden' I'll call her release command and let her rush up the stairs to find me!

It's also great exercise to incorporate stairs and fetch as you have intensified the workout and were able to extend the distance you can play with. Your dog will panting in no time!


3. Obstacle Course

A fun activity to try would be to set up an obstacle course in your house using your pre-existing furniture. Use their favourite toy as a motivator and speed it up as they learn the course a bit better. It's the perfect way to exercise all sorts of muscles and you can get as creative as you want!


4. Tug

Maya LOVES this one! Again, a classic game that is simple to do and doesn't require much space. I generally let the dogs choose which tug they want to use and we spend a good 10 minutes just tugging. Once I get one dog involved, usually another one wants to join in so I can just hand off the toy and let them tug with each other!


Pro Tip: To mix it up, I like to use an open space in the living room to tug with Maya and then pull her in with the tug and push on her hips a bit, switching sides. It keeps her interested in tug longer and is a great way to help exercise those hip and leg muscles. By encouraging her to maintain her balance and move around a bit more I get to help her strengthen her hip and knee muscles - a trick I learned from physiotherapy!

5. Play Dates

Chances are you're not the only one with a pet feeling a little wound up. Talk to your friends and family and see if they have a dog that would like a play mate for a few hours. Take turns hosting so that each dog gets the excitement of a new environment. It's the perfect excuse to meet up with the girls or watch the game with the guys.

Another great place for a day out would be at a large pet store or pet friendly building. You can take your dog for a walk in a temperature controlled building and get out of the house. In Spruce Grove, our Canadian Tire Store has a sign inviting dogs inside so as to discourage leaving animals inside your vehicle. Even something as simple as a trip to pick up some dog food can be a great opportunity to get your dog out of the house and socialize.



6. Treadmills

If you are looking for something a bit fancier, you can train your dog to walk on a treadmill. I personally don't have treadmill so I can't say too much on the subject based on personal experience. However, a lot of people are quite intrigued by this idea. If you want to get your dog walking on a treadmill at home, check out this article by Veterinary Behaviour Solutions.



So now you and your dog are prepared to combat those icy walks and winter blues with some fun!


Alyssa, RVT

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