By Therese Pope, a freelance writer based in California. Pope writes for Pets Best, a pet health insurance agency for dogs and cats.
Despite the frosty nip in the air, your dogs and cats still need exercise and playtime during the winter months. Here are 5 exercise tips to keep pets active, healthy and happy when the cold weather hits.
1. Sign pets up for a fitness class
Active dog breeds such as Labs and Shepherds need plenty of exercise and will greatly benefit from an indoor fitness class where they can run and jump. During the winter months, sign them up for an indoor agility, swimming or flyball class. Interactive fitness classes are also a great way for pet parents to bond with their fur babies. These classes also help dogs socialize and get along better with other dogs.
2. Play indoor hide and seek games
If it’s too cold for active pets to play and frolic outside, pet behaviorist Arden Moore suggests you create your own fun by playing indoor games. Hide and seek games with dogs reinforce their recall cues. Have your dog stay in one room while you hide in another room. Call out your dog’s name in a playful, friendly manner and tell him to find you. When he finds you, praise him with treats and lots of petting. Another fun game is to hide treats for cats and dogs in certain locations of your home. Dogs and cat are naturally curious and love to explore and sniff, especially when searching out their favorite treats.
3. Get pets moving with fun toys
When the temps drop, lazy pets like to sleep the day away by lounging in front of a warm fire. Get your pets moving! Find fun, engaging toys that encourage them to bat, run, jump and play. Puppies and kittens love to chase and pounce on toys that roll on the floor and make noise. Buy toys filled with catnip and watch your furry felines run around for hours. You can also play fetch games inside. Roll or throw a ball down a hallway and have fun watching them run back and forth. When playing with pets indoors, make sure there are no dangerous hazards that could injure both pets and humans.
4. Romp in the snow
Even though it’s cold outside, dogs still love to play in the snow. Plowing through snowbanks gives dogs an active cardio workout and keeps their muscles toned. Before venturing outdoors in the snow, check the temperature first. If temps are below freezing and are too cold for humans, then it’s too cold for pets (especially for pets with thin coats). Use good judgement, keep a watchful eye on pets at all times, and limit their playtime in the snow. Make sure to thoroughly wipe off wet, dirty fur and paws before they return inside. The cold can be tough on paws so check for redness between toes and cracked paw pads.
5. Take a leisurely walk or run
Get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air by walking or running with your dog. Take advantage of the daylight hours when it’s sunny. If it’s too cold to exercise outside, look into a dog treadmill for indoor walking and running. These exercise treadmills are designed specifically for pets. If you worry about cats wandering off in cold weather, leash train cats and walk them around the yard as part of their daily exercise routine.
Remember to keep your pets safe when exercising in cold temperatures. According to the ASPCA, pets burn extra energy trying to stay warm during the winter months. Add more kibble to their dish for extra calories and make sure they drink plenty of water. The cold air can dry out their skin so make sure your furry family members stay well-hydrated.
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