How to Exercise Your Dog When It's Cold

Pet Health and Safety  •   Pam Karkow  •   Jan 09, 2017

Dogs were born to work for a living.  Beagles were bred for hunting, Collies for herding, and German Shepherds for protection.  So it is no surprise that dogs need exercise in order to be at their best.  However, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles mean dogs’ “jobs” are quite the opposite of their natural born instincts.   

So, how do we make sure our dogs are getting the exercise they need?  Let’s start with three things to know about exercise and your dogs…

  1. Exercise is important for all breeds.

  2. Exercise is important for all ages.

  3. Exercise is more than just letting your dog outside to play in the backyard.

As I mentioned before, most dogs were bred for a purpose.  And when dogs are not allowed the activity they need, behavioral problems can arise.  According to PetMD’s article, Exercising with Your Dog 101, “Without activity, your dog will become bored, frustrated, and unhealthy.”  The benefits of exercise and play include…

  • reducing and/or eliminating unwanted behaviors (destructive chewing, barking, whining)

  • keeping dogs healthy and agile

  • reducing digestive problems

  • keeping weight under control

Now that we’ve established the reasons for exercise, let’s talk about exercise guidelines and strategies for making it happen.  The PetMD article, Exercising with Your Dog 101 states, “Though exercise needs are based on a dog’s age, breed, size and overall health, your dog should spend between 30 minutes to two hours on an activity every day.”  Before you begin an exercise program with your pet, be sure to check with your veterinarian to determine exercise guidelines specific to your breed.  And be careful about exercising your pet soon after a meal.  

Here are five ways to make exercise happen…

  1. Go for a Walk: Walking lengthens and improves quality of life--for you and your dog.  Walking can regulate weight, improve agility, and aid in digestion.  See our post, 3 Reasons to Get Outside and Walk, for more advantages of walking with your dog.

  2. Play Dog Tag: Remember the games of tag from your youth?  Your dog will enjoy this game of chasing as much as you once did.  Tag your dog and allow him to chase you. Once he “tags” you back, you chase him.

  3. Run the Stairs: In the cold months, it can be difficult to get outside for exercise.  Do yourselves both a favor and get your heart rate up indoors.  Put on your dog’s leash and take the stairs two at a time.  For some variations, try jogging or sprinting the stairs, or take them sideways.

  4. Try Doga, Dancing, or Skijor: Dog yoga, canine freestyle dancing, and skijor (a type of cross-country skiing), are fun ways to get your blood flowing when it’s cold outside.  For more information on these workouts, see PetMD’s Top Ten Ways to Exercise with Your Dog in Winter.

  5. Provide Mental Stimulation: Take a new running or hiking path.  Introduce new toys and games to your dog.  See our post, Toys for Dogs, for some ideas for creative dog toys.  My favorite is the Spot IQ Puzzle, which challenges your dog to work for his treats.

Whatever you do, just make sure to make exercise part of your busy schedule, especially in the winter.  Your dog will sleep better, feel better, and behave better with activity built into each day.  And you will too!

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Pam Karkow

About the Author
Pam Karkow

Hi, I'm Pam. List maker, note taker, and avid reader. I'm married to my college sweetheart and we have three amazing kids, all of them boys. We also have one furry child, a golden retriever rescue dog. I have been blogging for PetPartners since 2015, and I love researching and writing tips about how to be a better pet parent. I spend most of my time sharing my adventures at, where I share the ways I am learning to be a better wife and mom--to my two and four-legged children.