Thursday, January 14, 2010
By Linda Cole
Winter is one of my favorite times of the year. The air has a fresh crispness, and the beauty of a new snow dressing bare trees in a coat of white is awesome. In the cold night sky, stars twinkle brighter than at any other time of the year. It may be cold, but that doesn't mean you and your canine buddy can't enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and have some winter fun with your dog. Here are some winter activities to help keep you both from putting on extra pounds.
Play fetch in the snow
Just remember to pick a color of ball other than white! One winter, I tossed a white ball (the only one that still had air in it) into a clump of snow and we didn't find it until spring. Most dogs love to run and hop through snow. Playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee is great exercise for dogs any time of the year, but there's just something about a good game of fetch in the snow that makes this winter activity special.
Go for a walk
Snow provides plenty of winter fun for your dog, even during a simple walk around the block. Walking in deeper snow provides a great workout for you and your dog. A soft fluffy snow is best because it's usually a drier snow, and your dog won't get as wet. The merriment can end quickly if hypothermia sets in however, so it's important to make sure he doesn't get too wet. A waterproof dog coat can help keep him drier, and booties will keep salt, sand, chemicals or ice from collecting on his paws.
For those who want something more stimulating than a walk, hiking is a great winter activity as long as you and your dog are in good shape. However, winter hikes require extra cautions and preparations. If the ground is covered with snow, even your favorite trail can be confusing to a dog with few familiar smells he can pick up through the snow. It's best to keep your dog on a leash to prevent any rabbit chasing that could cause him to become lost or disorientated. A length of sturdy rope firmly attached to his leash will allow your dog to romp through the snow while staying safely tethered to you.
When hiking in winter, make sure to carry a backpack with emergency supplies that include a first aid kit, wooden matches, hunting knife, extra clothes, compass, flashlight and extra batteries, and extra food and water for both you and your dog, just to be on the safe side. Don't forget a waterproof/windproof coat and boots for your dog. It's best to stick to trails used regularly by other people and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Check for up-to-date weather conditions before you leave. With proper precautions, hiking on a snowy trail provides a great workout and plenty of winter fun for your dog.
Indoor activities for dogs and owners
For those who prefer the great indoors during winter, try scheduling play dates with other owners. It's a nice way to pass away an afternoon over coffee (or tea) and cookies for you, and gives your dog a chance to romp with familiar friends.
Work on basic commands
Winter fun with your dog can include teaching him basic commands every canine companion should know. Our dogs are eager to please us, and spending time working on commands like sit, stay, lie down, heel, and come helps you bond with your dog.
Of course the ultimate indoor winter activity that may suit you and your dog perfectly is sitting by a warm cozy fire with a good book or a favorite movie on TV, with your dog sleeping peacefully beside you.
Before engaging in strenuous activity, it's always a good idea to schedule a vet checkup for your dog. When outdoors, make sure they stay dry and watch them for any signs of hypothermia or frostbite. Dogs get cold too – consider proper coats or sweaters and boots for them whether they are outside for an afternoon or just for a short time.
Outside winter activities aren't for everyone or every dog, but if you and your canine companion enjoy getting outdoors, there are lots of things you can do together. If you take extra precautions and prepare for the unexpected, playing outdoors with your dog can help you both beat the cold weather blues.
(Photo by Seigo Nohara)
Read more articles by Linda Cole