By Jodi Hartley

 Winter is here! Gone are the long sunny days that give you plenty of time for walks, visits to the dog park and games of backyard fetch. Even though the temps have dropped and maybe there’s some snow on the ground, your dog still needs exercise and quality time with you. Keep the winter doldrums at bay with these cold weather activities.

Play Games

Play hide and seek either with treats, toys or yourself. If hiding treats or toys for your dog to find make sure they have a strong smell and show your dog what you are hiding. Put her in a sit and stay while you hide it then tell her to go find it. If you are going to hide, put her in a sit and stay along with a treat to keep her busy while you hide. Then tell her to come find you. You can play fetch indoors if you have an appropriately sized area with minimal breakables such as a basement, room, hallway or stairs. Laser pointers and chasing bubbles also provide a fun way to get your dog moving and burning energy indoors.

Teach Some New Tricks

Winter is a great time to practice obedience commands and learn some new tricks. Teaching your dog to target is a good one. Targeting teaches her to touch her nose onto an object, such as the back of your hand or on a toy. The target command can come in handy when you want to break her concentration on an undesirable behavior, according to The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan. Another fun trick is to set up a doggie obstacle course using things you have around your house and teach your dog to complete it.

Brave the Outdoors

Despite the cold, it’s important for most dogs to have some outdoor time everyday. A walk or hike in the winter is a great way to get some exercise. Tracking also is a fun way to get both mental and physical exercise so long as you’re tracking a friendly critter. Instead of throwing a regular ball outdoors, try tossing your pup a loosely packed snowball for a wintry came of catch. If the family is sledding, your dog may enjoy riding along on your lap, and she might even pull the sled back up the hill for you. “Skijoring” is a new sport that combines human ski enthusiasts with their dogs who love to run and pull in cold weather.

Cold Weather Precautions

As with any outdoor activity, keep in mind your dog’s tolerance for the weather and use protective clothing as needed. If your dog has been playing in the snow or on a surface that has been treated with ice melt, salt, etc. be sure to wash her paws when coming indoors. Snow or ice can build up on paws can cause frostbite or irritation, and chemicals used to clear roadways and sidewalks can be harmful to paws.

References: Winter Tips for Keeping Your Dog Active and Fit

Cesar’s Way: 6 Winter Exercise Tips for Your Dog Winter Activities to Keep Dogs Busy

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.