When the temperature drops… does your enthusiasm for outdoor doggy walks drop too?
I have to confess – mine does – but when I get the ‘doe-eyes’ from little Ms Troublemaker that it’s ‘that time of the day’, well, what’s a little -10 degrees icy wind chill factor compared to a happy dog? (ok – so maybe that’s a slight temperature exaggeration).
But depending on your location, the fair-dinkum outside weather conditions and your breed of pet, there are some fun indoor alternatives to walkies which will get you over the winter hump without fear of frost-bite.
Firstly – why bother with exercise for your k9 when all his or her instincts are to curl up by the nearest heat source and snooze 'til Spring?
Well, Vets have proven that regular exercise impacts on your dog’s overall well-being things like a higher metabolism, a smaller appetite and better muscle tone which is important to maintain joint health and avoid injury from erratic high impact movement.
Dogs with ‘cabin fever’ who only get out on weekends are more prone to go nuts and put excessive pressure on their unused legs, sometimes resulting in painful cruciate ruptures requiring not inexpensive surgical repair.
So when that Arctic gale force wind hits and you simply can’t venture outside for a walk to let your dog check their pee-mail… what can you do inside to help keep them moving and using their brains?
Hide ‘n Seek
This works best if your dog already understands my two favourite commands ‘stay’ and ‘come’. We'll have more on that soon.
Ask your dog to stay and give them a treat, making sure they notice you have many more treats. Walk away from your dog and out of their line of sight and call their name and the word, Come. When they ‘find’ you, reward them with a treat, ask them to stay and again move out of their line of sight.
In the early stages of this game you won’t want to make it too hard to be found because the aim is to ensure the dog wins every time, and they’ll think this is the best game ever.
Increase the distance and the difficulty in being found, including hiding in wardrobes and other unusual places which means doggy has to use their nose to sniff you out. And remember to stop the game before the dog gets bored (or too full of treats).
* Treats don’t have to be fattening by the way. Consider using some of the following, plain popcorn, cubes of apple or pear, chunks of melon, slices of carrot, tiny pieces of lean meat.
This is a variation on Hide ‘n Seek in which the dog has to find a specific object such as a much loved toy. Why much loved? Because they will have a stronger scent from the dog’s own saliva and body oils.
For absolute beginners show the toy to the dog and then while he or she is watching throw it just out of sight, such as behind a sofa and give the command ‘find it’.
When they do find it, make a huge fuss and give them a big hug or petting.
Progressively hide the toy in increasingly more difficult to find places, remembering to provide hints such as pointing or walking towards the hiding place until they get the idea.
You can even do this using a second human as the object to be found!
If you do have a 2nd human, you’ve got the makings of a great game of tag which will see the dog using up lots of energy running between you.
Start with both people in the same room but on opposite sides. Call the dog to ‘come’ and reward them when they do so. Then the other person calls ‘come’ and rewards them.
the reward can be food-based or perhaps a tug-toy game.
Smart dogs will catch on quickly and even when much greater distances are involved will race from one person to the other to get their next reward and eventually collapse exhausted, mission accomplished.
Do check with your Vet before embarking on ANY exercise routine with your pet or starting a new dog sport such as Agility, Flyball or Noseworks.
Some breeds under the age of 12 months won’t have the bone strength for particular sports and some dogs, getting on in years, may have an undiagnosed condition which may be exacerbated by sudden exercise.
Always start any exercise slowly and build up the dog’s strength and enthusiasm.
Written by: Kaye Browne - Co-host/Producer VETtalk TV