My poor dog has not gotten many walks lately. It is just too darn cold! This morning I thought I’d take her for a quick one, but when I went outside and felt the wind chill, I immediately decided against it. I always thought dogs would be fine outside with their fur coats on, but heard recently that if it is too cold outside for you, then it is too cold for your pets. So inside we stay yet again. What’s a pet mom to do when her vivacious pup can’t get outside to walk off some pent up energy?
Why, find some creative outlets, that’s what! Below, find five ideas for exercising your pup in the warm, dry, comfort of your home (or if you get desperate, a place of business).
- Go Stair Running. You’ve probably run bleachers some time in your life, right? Why not find a staircase--preferably a carpeted one--and race your dog to the top? You could always throw in some exercise for yourself too--why not do a set of squats when you climb that last step? Run back down and hit the floor for some push-ups. Your dog will love it, and you’ll get your heart rate up too!
- Engage in Doga. If yoga is more your speed, this may be the workout for you. Check out Doga: Yoga for You and Your Dog, by Mahny Djahanguiri, if you are interested in involving your dog in your yoga sessions. The author, a certified yoga teacher, includes full color photos with practical step-by-step guides to clearly communicate how to do the poses with your pet. One reviewer of the book commented on the creative names of the dog poses and liked that the book, “included extra sections such as doggie massage.”
- Do Dog Squats and Walking Lunges. For the squats, have your dog sit and then stand back up, sit and stand back up quickly, over and over. Dr. Beth Ellen McNamara, a veterinarian at MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets in Chicago calls this "Sit to stand" and says this activity will work the hamstrings and glutes. McNamara also mentions, “You can make these harder by having the dog place his front paws on an elevated surface such as a step. We can work the shoulder and forelimb muscles by doing a play bow to stand (basically a push-up).” For the lunges, perform a basic walking lunge, with your dog at your side. As you extend and bend your front leg, encourage your dog to walk under your leg. Come back to standing. Repeat on the other side. I was skeptical about this one at first, so I tried it with my golden retriever. I had to use a little treat to entice her, but she loved it! And I got a workout in too.
- Go Indoor Swimming. I have to admit I had my doubts about this one too. Indoor swimming for dogs? So I googled indoor swimming for dogs in my area and came up with a couple places where my dog is welcome! So go ahead, plan an outing to the pool for you and your pooch. Swimming is easier on your dog’s joints than walking or running, and will wear him out quickly! Dogs do not “swim” like you and I do, they basically trot like they would on land, so swimming will wear him out quickly. You’ll have to be careful to work up his endurance. Once you have taken your dog swimming a couple times, you can play a game of chase. Jeris Pugh, owner of The Martial ARFS in Long Island, New York is a big fan of swimming as a cardio workout. “Swimming from your dog or after your dog will get both of your heart rates up. A weight vest will also make your dog swim harder,” says Pugh.
- Walk on a treadmill. Certified canine rehabilitation practitioner Lisa Blanchard, who owns K9 Fitness Coach in Michigan, likes the treadmill because it challenges a dog more than a leash walk would. She says that playing fetch and leisure walks do not encourage a dog to engage his prefrontal cortex, but walking on a treadmill forces dogs to “use mental concentration to maintain balance and coordination.” Blanchard also mentions the advantage of the treadmill taking less time to tire your dog out physically than a leash walk would. If you do decide to try a treadmill to exercise your dog, make sure you do so safely. Certified professional dog trainer Deana Noonan, who runs Paws for Companions in Illinois, recommends dogs owners introduce the treadmill slowly. She offers these tips as well: “Never put the dog on the treadmill and expect her to just start walking. Always have the dog on a back-clip harness, not a collar, and a leash, and never leave the dog on a treadmill unattended.”
So, what are you going to try first? As long as your dog has a clean bill of health from your vet, the sky’s the limit when it comes to exercising him, even indoors.