It’s simple; when it’s cold outside, you don’t want to go on hours-long walks with your dog. But your dog needs exercise; without it, his or her behaviour will inevitably deteriorate and he or she will drive you absolutely crackers in no time at all. With this can come destruction of property and any number of other unpleasant behaviours, so making sure you head this off at the pass should be your first priority!
The first thing to consider is your dog’s walks. It’s a relatively unknown truth that many dogs don’t get that much from normal walks. Even quite a long walk, at human pace, doesn’t necessarily help your dog burn much energy – especially if he or she is on a leash. That doesn’t mean letting your dog off the lead is the right thing to do – in fact, for many dogs that is not a good idea at all as it can lead to fights, your dog being run over in traffic or simply getting lost. Working out ways to make your walk more interesting and exhausting for your dog is a much better idea. Playing little training games would be a very good start indeed, or going jogging with your dog instead of walking. Cycling can be a good choice, but be sure your dog is properly trained and slowly introduced to the concept; you’ll want a dog who listens perfectly to the relevant commands to ensure he or she doesn’t pull you over or run in front of the wheels; again, the safety of your dog (and your safety in traffic!) is the most important consideration.
Playing games such as fetch or even roughhousing in general can help; sometimes the living room is acceptable, or a garden or yard will do. But remember that your dog doesn’t just need physical stimulation; mental stimulation is important too, especially if you have a working breed such as a Border Collie or a Husky. And don’t forget that the size of the dog isn’t an indication of the amount of energy he or she needs to expend on a daily basis. Terriers, for example, were bred to work and as a result they need a lot to do. Jack Russells, which are very small dogs, are among the most high-energy dogs, for example. And of course, breed is not the only indication (or even a 100% reliable one) of your dog’s energy levels, so assess your own dog’s needs and begin to cater for those specifically.
An excellent way to help your dog expend mental energy is by enrolling in a sport if you can; agility, flyball, nosework – there is a wide variety out there. Or you could order a clicker and step up the training, working towards a dog which responds quickly to all commands and beginning to work on tricks. Daily training – presented, ideally, in various spurts of up to 10 minutes – will help you and your dog bond and give him or her something to focus on and think about. Feeding your dog in a Kong or other food-dispensing toy is another good idea; it will allow your dog to work for his or her food, and take up a lot of time and effort versus simply scarfing down a bowl of kibble. Other chew toys such as deer antlers or bully sticks are a great plan, as are uncooked bones from the butcher (be aware that cooking bones makes them a danger to your dog and cooked bones should never be fed to any canine) but be wary of leaving your dog unsupervised with a chew that can break into pieces small enough to choke on.
Finally, many people have a vast aversion to dressing up their dogs. Of course, putting an unshaven Old English Sheepdog in a coat is silly – but if you have a short-haired or underweight dog, putting a coat on in cold weather can be an excellent idea and may help your dog enjoy walks even in the coldest of weather. In snowy conditions, booties can help avoid sore paws from snow or salt, too, but again you’ll have to help acclimatise your dog to them slowly, using treats to help him or her see them as a good thing.
With these handy tips you and your dog can enjoy your walks together more, and you’ll be able to help your dog expend the necessary energy to remain fun to live with… You may even rescue some of your more chewable possessions!