As I’m typing this, it’s about 30 degrees here in Richmond – and quite a bit less than that when you factor in the wind chill. While no one would mistake that kind of chill for the kind you’d get in Minnesota or upstate New York, it’s more than enough to keep my dog and I from spending as much time outside as we prefer to do.
Our walks are shorter. We spend less time playing fetch the tennis ball or chasing each other around the backyard. And while we have fun playing indoors, it’s a lot tougher to wear my dog out when we’re confined to the living room. With reduced activity, burning calories becomes more difficult. Carrying around an extra pound or two is already an issue with my dog – just ask my vet!
So what can I do – other than stop feeding my little buddy the occasional treats that he loves? I spent some time researching what to do to keep my dog active over the winter, and found a lot of good ideas. Here are some of the ideas that resonated with me:
Enroll your dog in a class
In addition to finding several local classes on obedience, I was able to find some classes that improve dog agility and others that teach dogs new tricks. Some classes are outdoors, but thankfully some take place inside. I understand that there are classes that can teach you and your dog to dance, but I wasn’t able to find one here in Richmond. Sigh.
Spend time off-leash
You may be tempted to limit your dog’s outdoor activity to a single brisk walk, but you should make time for some more intensive off-leash activity. If your dog is less inclined to play in the cold, try using some small treats to encourage activity. You can also encourage your dog by incorporating some running into your walking routine.
Finally, if you haven’t been to one of Richmond’s dog parks lately, make visits part of your winter routine – seeing other dogs will encourage yours to be more active.
Go for a walk in the woods
The leaves may have departed until spring, but there are still several good reasons to go for a walk in the woods: You’ll enjoy a little extra shelter against the wind. And your dog will find an abundance of places to poke his nose and sniff, which will distract him from the fact that it’s cold out there.
That’s a good reason to visit a couple of my favorite dog-walking destinations: Deep Run Park out in the West End and the John Smith Trail along the James River.
As cold as it is today, we haven’t even reached Thanksgiving yet. The bad news is that it’s only going to get wetter and colder. The good news is that you’ve got some time to establish some more active habits before you really need them. Why not give your dog a real treat and start a new routine today?