12 Ideas for Keeping Your Dog Active Indoors During Winter

bored dog indoors on couch

Winter is tough for dog owners who live in colder climates. It’s a challenge to think of enjoyable activities to do when you’re stuck indoors. Especially those of you living in places with snow and sub-zero temperatures. Mildly cold locations might allow you to get out for an occasional walk, but what if you can’t? It’s not always convenient or even safe to go outside for a walk. Even if it’s cold, however, your dog needs to stay active to maintain its mental and physical well-being. Studies show between 20% to 40% of dogs seen by vets in the US are considered overweight. It’s important to keep your dog active whether the weather keeps you inside or out, so he or she doesn’t develop serious health issues, too.

Here are 12 ideas for keeping your dog active when it’s too cold to go outside. They’re all great on their own, but your dog might love you even more if you mix them up and mix them together.

1. Play hide and seek

You’re the hider and your dog is the seeker. Hide and seek is a great game to play with your dog because you can do it alone or with help from a friend or family member. If you have help hiding’s going to be a whole lot easier, but if you’re alone you still have options. You can toss a treat in one direction then while your dog goes for the treat you can run and hide in another direction. This gives your pup a chance to think, use his ears and nose, and ends in some fun excitement when you’re found. If your dog is good at or needs to learn the stay command, hide and seek could also be a wonderful training opportunity. Either way, you and your dog will enjoy the bonding.

2. Work your dog’s nose

Many dogs have an excellent sense of smell. That means activities that let them use their noses can be extra fun for them. You could use meal time to create an obstacle course where they’ll have to work for their dinner. You could even hide the meal somewhere, so your dog will have to find it. Making your dog use its nose is like giving your dog a job. Dogs love to have jobs. Like humans, having something to do makes them feel happy.

3. Walk your dog on a treadmill

This one might seem out there if you’ve never considered it, but lots of people have success exercising their dogs indoors on treadmills. These are great when it’s cold, but really when you’re stuck indoors with your pooch or are unable to exercise your dog enough on your own. There are special treadmills just for dogs that are typically wider and quieter than most built for humans, but with a little patience, practice, and the right treats for motivating your dog you can teach Fido to walk on a normal treadmill, too. It’s advised you start out slow and don’t go for too long. Build up comfort levels with your dog being on the treadmill and eventually, you’ll be able to incrementally increase the time spent on the machine until it’s as long as a walk you would take outdoors.

4. Socialise at dog classes

Dog classes are a little more involved than the activities you’re able to do with your dog alone inside your home, but they are one of the best ways to let your dog get out some energy through socializing. Most dogs love other dogs. Even the ones you don’t think love other dogs. Some dogs need more practice being exposed to other dogs. Whichever category you’re in, a dog class is a great way to meet some canine pals, let your dog stretch its legs a little bit, and be active indoors somewhere that isn’t your living room during the cold season. You can try an obedience class, a dog athletics/agility class, a social call, or any other offerings that may be available. Check your local pet adoption and doggie daycare centers for information about dog courses that are available in near you.

5. Practice targeting

Targeting is so fun and you can do it anywhere anytime. Targeting is getting your dog to touch your hand with its nose. It’s an act of gaining your dog’s focus and having them touch your hand with their nose, on command. It can be a great way to redirect your dog’s attention from other things (like squirrels or barking) and back onto you. An easy way to practice targeting is to show your dog a treat in your hand. Most dogs will come up to your hand to sniff the treat. When they touch your hand with their nose speak your word for the action and toss the treat a few feet behind them. Let your dog run for the treat which offers some activity. Once he’s finished eating, display another treat in your hand and repeat the drill.

6. Try Dog Yoga (DOGA)

Stimulating your dog’s mind can be as effective as a walk. And, dog yoga – often called Doga – is heaving for any dog lover. Lay your dog down on the floor or a yoga mat and gently stretch them. Relax them. Relax you. Try breathing at the same pace. It’s great for bonding and your dog’s going to feel extra special loved after a doga session.

7. Stair climbing

It ain’t pretty, but it’ll do the trick. Stair climbing might not be on your checklist of fun things to do in the house, but a few rounds of up and down the stairs for your dog could be exactly what it needs. Be cautious if you have wood floors. You’ve likely seen your dog slip already if you do, but dogs paws don’t come with built-in anti-slip and slipping on a wood floor can result in serious doggy injuries like torn ACLs, broken bones, or pulled muscles.

8. Tricks and Training

It’s always a good idea to practice training your dog. Repetition is your friend when it comes to teaching your dog to do things on command. And, dog’s love working for affection and treats. “Sit, stay, come” can be a good training task to give your dog a chance to run to you. Throwing your rewards away from your dog, so it has to run to them and use its nose to find them can also be a good way to get your dog moving. Targeting, mentioned above, is an excellent training activity you can do indoors that doesn’t require much space, too.

9. Dog gyms

Most dog owners enjoy dog training. A major reason you love your pet so much is because he is exactly who you want him to be and the reason for that is because you put a lot of effort into molding him to be that way through teaching and training. Dog gyms are a great way to continue your dog’s obedience training, as well as have lots of fun doing the different activities you’ll find at a dog gym like trying out a treadmill for dogs and sometimes swimming.

10. Doggy daycare

Less involvement required from you, but it’s going to come with a cost. You can send your dog to a doggy daycare where they’ll be able to socialize with other dogs and play in a safe environment for the day. This is actually a good option if you have to work and leave your dog. Not all dogs can handle being alone in your house all day. Many people who are able to be with their dogs all day still send their pups to doggy daycare during winter months, however, because it gets them out of the house and lets them have fun while burning energy.

11. Hire a dog walker

Hiring a dog walker during winter might be cruel and unusual punishment, but it’s an option. If there’s a dog walker who is willing to venture outside at times when you are not then it could be a good deal for you and your dog. Do a search for dog walkers nearby you and see if any are operating.

12. Plan a play date

Plan a play date for your dog. This lets your dog and you see a friend. Who doesn’t love laughing with a good friend about all the silly things their dogs are doing together? The dogs will run, play, and tire themselves out and you’ll have a good time letting them do it. Plan a meal. Make it a date. Have fun while you’re being an awesome dog owner.

There you have it. Get up and keep your dog active in the midst of winter and the cold season. Get exercise done indoors, so your dog can stay warm and healthy year round.

Leave a comment below with tricks and tips you use at home to keep your dog active when it’s too cold to go outside.

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