Getting your daily steps in when temperatures drop is tricky for all of us—our pets included. But, whether you’re ready to brave the cold or would rather stay indoors, staying active with your furry friend doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are our top tips for staying fit when frigid conditions hit.
#1: Head outside later in the day
If your warm-weather routine has you up and outdoors early in the morning, consider switching your exercise regimen to later in the afternoon when temperatures are at their warmest. A few additional degrees can be enough to make your regular stroll more tolerable—and perhaps enjoyable.
#2: Try your hand—and paw—at a new winter sport
If you and your pet love wintry weather, why not pick up a new, cold weather sport? Skijoring, canicross, and classic snowshoeing are sure to please you and your dog, all while providing an excellent workout.
#3: Take the stairs
If you live in a multi-level home, take advantage of your stairs by incorporating them into a fun exercise routine with your pet. Dogs, cats, and people can benefit from marching up and down stairs as part of a workout routine. Race safely with your pet, or toss a favorite toy up and down the stairs, to encourage play and have fun at the same time.
#4: Create an indoor obstacle course
Stimulate your pet’s mind and body with an interactive obstacle course in your home or garage. Use furniture, toys, cones, hoola hoops, and other objects around your home to encourage navigating, jumping, crawling, and running. If you and your pet don’t mind the frigid temperatures, consider moving outdoors so you can use the natural surroundings, like trees, sticks, and snow, in your course for added fun.
#5: Work on your pet’s mental fitness, too
Did you know that the human brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy, including at rest? While we don’t have the same data for dogs or cats, focusing on mental fitness is clearly beneficial for humans and pets alike. Help your pet stay sharp by offering a puzzle feeder or toy, teaching a new trick, or learning a new game or sport this winter.
#6: Break out the tried-and-true laser pointer
If your cat is like most, they love a good, old-fashioned game of laser pointer fun. Help your pet get out the zoomies—and burn some extra calories—by playing regularly with the laser pointer. Cats love this prey-like game, but may become frustrated when they don’t obtain a reward, so ensure you weave in an occasional physical toy or treat for them to “capture.”
#7: Hop on the treadmill
An indoor treadmill is a mainstay in any fitness buff’s home, so why not use the equipment to your pet’s advantage, too? Any pet can be trained to walk—or run—on a treadmill, which can be a great alternative on particularly frigid days. But, remember:
- Never leave your pet unattended on a treadmill.
- Never attach your pet to the machine with a leash or tether.
- Never force your pet to run or walk longer than they’d like.
#8: Scope out an indoor pet center
For a change of pace, consider checking out your local doggy daycare or other indoor pet facility where your companion can socialize, play, and get a cardiovascular boost. Many centers offer a drop-off option, so you can leave your pet and go about your day. This can be a great way for pets to beat the winter blues, and maybe make a new friend or two.
#9: Get the right gear
If you’ll be facing the winter cold with your dog, you’ll likely need special gear to keep your furry friend safe and warm. Fit your pooch with protective booties to avoid chemical burns on their paw pads from melting salts on sidewalks and roads. For smaller pets, or those with shorter coats, purchase a vest, parka, or other thermal layer to keep them warm and cozy.
#10: Remember to relax, too
While exercising reaps a myriad of benefits for you and your pet, don’t forget to stop and enjoy what else this chilly season has to offer—lots of warm snuggles, belly rubs, and relaxing time together. Ensure you carve some time out each day to rest and reconnect with your furry friend.
We all know that fitness is important for overall health—in people and in pets. At Town and Country Animal Hospital, we are here to help you help your pet achieve and maintain your fitness goals, despite the temperatures dropping. For questions or concerns, or to schedule an examination of your pet before starting a new exercise program, contact us.