PET FRIENDLY: Dog’s New Year’s Resolution, Keeping Your Dog Active in Winter

| January 22, 2014 | 0 Comments | Pet Friendly

In my last Pet Friendly article I suggested that the New Year offers pet owners and potential owners an opportunity to make a resolution to adopt a pet in need and/or to enhance the quality of their relationship with their current pet. My focus was on cats and the advantages associated with adoption of senior cats in particular. This week I’d like to concentrate on highlighting creative ways to boost your dog’s quality of life by increasing its mental and physical activity levels this winter. With our first genuine snowstorm having arrived this week, we can get started right away!

Many dogs, like most people, tend to become afflicted with the winter doldrums if they sit around inside for long periods of time without a walk, an outing in the car, playtime in the family room or yard, or engagement in puzzles or other mentally challenging activities they can enjoy on their own. Retail and online pet stores have lots of interesting options from which to choose. Many (PetValu, PetSmart, Lowe’s and Merrifield Garden Centers) are pet friendly, so why not take your pet with you and make it a fun “pack” outing? Maybe you can find the best hepa filter vacuum for allergies you were looking for. The key is to break the routine and add a dimension of fun and pack encouragement and you have the main ingredients for success.

All dogs are not built for and/or necessarily eager to participate in outdoor winter sports, but many are and enjoy it immensely if it becomes a pack activity or a one-on-one play date with you or another member of their family pack. Using our Black Lab Pepper as an example, as a young and even mature dog (from age 1-10 years), she always was eager to ride on a toboggan or saucer (either solo or with our kids) and sometimes even pulled it back up the hill using the rope attached to the front end. If you show enthusiasm, your dog almost certainly will catch the spirit and join in, even if it has little or no prior experience with snow or gets cold easily.

If your pet is willing to participate in snow-day activities, you might try everyone’s favorite: a snowball fight! Just be sure to keep it light-hearted and gentle and avoid throwing compacted ice balls toward your dog when the snow is really wet. In her prime, Pepper really engaged in low-key snow ball fights as our target (she tried to catch them in her mouth) and even today at age 14 looks years younger when she can romp for a few minutes in the snow with us. A simple short walk (with or without the snow) is usually sufficient to clear your dog’s mind of boredom. Above all it is your focused attention on your pet that drives the happiness of the occasion.

Following outdoor play in the snow or cold, remember to check your dog’s feet, gently dry them and remove any accumulated ice crystals, road salt or other debris that may have lodged between its paw pads. Particularly if your dog is small, its legs and belly also may be wet so keep a soft towel near your door and use it to carefully dry your pet’s exposed areas. It’s a great way to keep your house cleaner in the winter and spot any sores, cuts or other emerging health problems before they become troublesome. Stay warm and enjoy the New Year with your pets!

Chris Bates is the founder of Top Choice Pet Care LLC (, which trains you in how to make your dog a service dog for anxiety and also provides affordable, loving and reliable dog walking, pet sitting and other pet services to the Bristow, Gainesville, Haymarket, Manassas and Nokesville communities.  A farmer’s son, life-long animal lover and pet owner, Chris is a Certified Professional Pet Sitter (CPPS) through Pet Sitters International and is PetSaver™ trained in pet first aid and CPR.


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