Dogs need to be kept busy and active for their mental and physical health and, just like for humans, a lack of outings can have negative effects, like health issues including obesity, behavioural problems, excessive barking, destructive behaviours at home, and leash pulling to name but a few.
Always enthusiastic for a good romp, the Montreal SPCA has a few ideas to share of how to keep your dog fit and happy—and their human companion in a good mood—throughout the winter season.
1) Mental stimulation
When the weather gets cold and our walks tend to get shorter, it’s possible to stimulate your companion animal indoors, by teaching them some new tricks! There are many ways to mentally stimulate your dog, but the bests are certainly training and treasure hunts for treats. The Internet is full of videos showing easy exercises you can try at home with your dog (be sure to look for ones that use positive reinforcement!). Use their regular meal or a naturally low-calorie treat as a reward. You can read more about mental stimulation in this article.
2) Sniffing on a leash
Even with two walks a day, your dog never seems to get tired of being out and about? Do you let them smell everything all along the way? SMELLING is a great source of stimulation for dogs. Let your dog sniff everything that interests them for as long as they like. You’ll have one happy dog at the end of the walk, guaranteed!
3) Obstacle courses
You can teach your dog to jump, climb and crawl through a course of natural or snow obstacles! If you have a fenced yard, try shovelling paths and building mazes and other hurdles. The obstacle course will be 100% fun for your human and canine family.
4) Dog parks
A dog park is a fenced area where dogs can run freely and play with others, and Montréal has over 50 of them. If your dog is used to socializing with their canine companions and has been spayed, neutered and vaccinated, a dog park is a great place to give them free rein to let loose a little.
However, dog parks are not good places for children 12 years of age and under, and an animal who is sick, injured or in pain should never be taken to a dog park. Always supervise your pup so you can intervene, if needed, before things get out of hand with another dog. When the park is overcrowded, it’s best to postpone your visit to a time when the risk of conflict is less.
5) Canicross or ski joëring
For the most athletic among us, canicross is a great way to get out with you dog! Increasingly popular with runners, cyclists, and triathletes, it combines cross-country running with harnessing one or two dogs of equal physical strength. Ski joering is similar but combines cross-country skiing and animal harnessing. Interested? There are surely associations of these sports in your area!
Taking advantage your dog’s enthusiasm to get active outdoors every day and in every season is certainly one of the pleasures of life with a canine companion. We hope you’ll enjoy these fun ways of making the most of winter! After all, sharing the adventures and being active outdoors not only improves our relationships with our dogs, it’s a fantastic mood booster, too!