January is national “Walk Your Dog Month”. With the days being short, cold, and dark, it’s the right month to try and give us an extra boost to walk our pets during the winter. Like us, our pets need daily exercise too no matter what the temperature is. Here are some tips to help you get through the winter blues with walks and how to care for your pooch while you’re at it!
Practice leash lessons as you walk. This can help take your mind off the cold and reinforce positive behaviour with your pooch. Don’t let them walk ahead; instead, use treats or some other form of positive reinforcement to get them to stick by your side. Keep the training sessions short but frequent and try not to get frustrated with your pup. It can take some time but with consistency and positive reinforcement, you are bound to see some improvements.
See a log or obstacle in your way? This is the time to either practice some agility or try to help a fearful dog learn that those “big scary garbage cans” aren’t monsters after all. Teach your dog how to jump over an obstacle or better yet, practice the circus trade of balancing. This will be fun for you both!
Change it up! On winter days that allow you to, change your typical walking route. Explore a trail, visit a new dog park (if your dog is suited for one) or just venture a new way that you both aren’t used to. Changing the route on a dog who is used to a particular way can be confusing and/or challenging at first, but it will help your dog’s mental health to venture on new paths and explore new scents.
Prepare your dog for the elements!
The number one rule in any weather is to know your breed. Breeds like Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Newfoundlands are examples of dogs who are better suited for the colder months and may not require winter gear to help them. Cold tolerance differs between each dog, regardless of breed, so know the signs to watch for if your dog is too cold. Things like holding their paws up or shivering are indicators that your dog should be brought in from the cold and be warmed up.
Gear like coats and booties can help your dog tolerate and even enjoy the cold longer. There are a lot of gear options out there, so best to do your research on what would be best for your pup. Take your dog to a local pet store and ask for help with options. They know their stuff and can help direct you with what’s best for your pup!
Remember to listen to your pooch too! On really cold days, or days they just don’t seem that into the cold, listen to them and do short bathroom breaks and/or walks around the block. Try to have some training or playtime sessions inside to get some energy out while giving them some mental exercise too.
Walking or exercising your dog in whatever way you choose is the simplest way to bond with your pup. Spending that quality time with them will benefit your relationship and help you become the best pet parent you can be.