“Great, another blizzard is in the forecast. My dog and I have had enough of winter already,” you think to yourself. Disappointment sets in because the chilly temperatures and upcoming snowfall mean you won’t get to explore that new trail with your canine companion. Instead, you bundle up on the couch for another Netflix binge session and consider exercising in the spring—maybe.
We understand how tough it can be to ensure you and your pet stay active in subpar weather, but daily exercise is essential for your four-legged friend’s mental and physical well-being. Although frigid temperatures and scorching conditions are not ideal for ensuring your pet receives enough outdoor exercise, the two of you can stay active all year with a few changes to your routine.
Cold-weather activities for your pet
Here in Iowa in the heart of winter, heading outdoors for any extended time can be downright miserable. But your pet still requires exercise, which may not always be feasible indoors. Before heading outside for an invigorating game of fetch or exploration of a new trail, ensure your pet is properly prepared for the cold weather by:
- Fitting your pet for doggy booties — Although you may think your pet’s paw pads act as tough shoes, they can be sensitive to extreme temperatures. Purchase well-fitting booties that will keep your pet’s paws safe from snow, ice, and chemicals like antifreeze and sidewalk salt for outdoor activities.
- Investing in a waterproof pet coat — Your pet’s fur coat may trap some body heat, but they can quickly become chilled if their fur is damp from snow or ice. Invest in a waterproof coat to shield your pet from frigid precipitation and help keep them warm.
- Checking the temperature — The best part of the day to head outside in chilly conditions is early afternoon when it’s generally the warmest, especially if the sun is shining. Keep an eye on the weather when playing outside to avoid sudden storms and temperature dips.
If your pet enjoys frolicking in the snow, you can devise games to make the most of the weather. For example, hide treats under a thin layer of snow for your scent-tracking hound to uncover, or create a snow maze or obstacle course to navigate with your athletic pooch. Otherwise, head indoors for fun activities you can play in the house.
Hot-weather activities for your pet
Although the blistering summer temperatures seem far away, the dog days of summer will be upon us sooner than you think, making exercising outdoors difficult. If you have a water dog, they’ll enjoy cooling off in a pond or lake, but keep a close eye out for fishhooks, boat propellers, and an inability to doggy paddle. Always provide plenty of fresh water for your pet when outside, and choose exercise times in the early morning or late evening when the temperature is lower. Avoid scorching asphalt and intense activities in the blazing sun to prevent burnt paws and overheating.
Indoor activities for your pet
When the weather won’t cooperate and you’re stuck indoors, try out some indoor-friendly activities to prevent your pet from getting cabin fever. Cats and dogs alike will enjoy the following games:
- Treat puzzles — Make your pet work for their snacks with a treat puzzle. These fun toys come in various difficulty levels and are great for distracting your pet for much longer than a “sit and shake” session.
- Agility course — Create an indoor agility course out of your furniture and other household items. Design jumps, obstacles, and a maze for your pet to navigate, encouraging them through the course with a treat or toy.
- Hide-a-treat — Cats can sniff out highly scented treats the same way as dogs, especially if catnip is involved. Choose your pet’s smelliest treats and begin by hiding them in easy-to-find spots around your home. You may have to lead them around the first few times, but they’ll quickly get the hang of sniffing out their snacks, and you can increase the difficulty of this hide-and-seek game.
Although extreme temperatures may seem like a good excuse to forgo exercise, your furry pal needs daily activity to remain happy and healthy. The next time poor weather rolls around, try one of the above activities to keep your pet entertained.
Before implementing an exercise routine with your four-legged friend, ensure their condition is up to snuff for a change in activity. Contact your Animal Clinic of Council Bluffs team to schedule a wellness visit before hitting the trails or engaging in a new sport.