As winter tightens its icy grasp on Aurora, stirring yourself to head outdoors to exercise with your furry pal may be the last thing that appeals to you. We understand—the Loving Family Animal Hospital team often feels the same way—but we know how incredibly beneficial physical activity is for your pet’s mental and physical health. No matter the outdoor temperature, you can always find some form of activity to add to your pet’s daily routine inside your toasty-warm home. And, for those pets who enjoy frolicking in the snow, you can bundle up and head outside for a fun-filled day of health-boosting activity. Here are a few ideas to help you get started with creating an exercise plan with your four-legged friend.
Activities for dogs
A dog is a built-in exercise buddy. Your canine companion needs daily outdoor exercise, not only to eliminate, but also to burn off pent-up energy and be mentally stimulated. However, you may not always be up for outdoor activities, especially in frigid or snowy conditions. Then, stick to indoor exercises in inclement weather, and venture outside to enjoy the day when conditions allow. Try the following activities to boost the physical health of you and your pet:
- Sign up for a sporting class — The world of canine sports is vast, and you can take many sporting classes with your dog. As your dog becomes more skilled in their favorite sport, you can enter competitions to see how talented they really are. Try doggy sports such as flyball, dock diving, agility, obedience, treibball, and lure coursing. Search for local classes at kennel clubs and training facilities to help get your pup’s paws wet in a new sport.
- Engage in scentwork indoors — While physical activity is great for dogs, they also need to exercise their mind, and there’s no better way than putting their nose to work. Training your dog in scentwork can be fashioned however you like—you can teach them to focus on food, essential oils, or prey scents, always rewarding them for sniffing out the chosen scent.
- Gear up for outdoor activities in the snow — Some dogs love romping in huge snow drifts, and these dogs make great candidates for winter outdoor exercise. If your pooch loves the snow and you’re a talented skier, look into skijoring with your pet. Or, simply explore your local park, nature preserve, or backyard after a fresh snowfall. Before heading outdoors, outfit your pet for the winter conditions with a protective waterproof jacket and doggy booties.
Activities for cats
Although you likely think your cat is not interested in exercise, all they may need is a little encouragement to get up and get active. Try to the following activities to exercise your cat:
- Discover your cat’s prey preference — Believe it or not, not all cats favor rodents as prey. Some cats would rather pounce on birds or bugs, so they ignore fluffy stuffed mice, and are considered lazy. Discover the perfect toy that will entice your cat into daily playtime and exercise by first determining their prey preference. Ohio State University has outlined how you can learn your cat’s prey preference, and boost their interest in certain toys.
- Feed your cat from food puzzles — Does your cat sit by the food dish and wait for it to be refilled, meowing incessantly until you comply? Make your feline friend work for their meals by feeding them only from food puzzles. Ditch the food dish and use a kitty Kong, LickiMat, or a food puzzle of your own design that will encourage your cat to use their mind and paws to access their daily rations.
- Create daily training sessions — Yes, you can train your cat, although it often seems like they’re training you instead. Provided you offer valuable enough rewards, you can teach your cat to sit, high five, and come when called. Keep training sessions short, though, as your cat will likely lose interest quickly, no matter how delicious their rewards.
If your pet is typically a couch potato, ease them into an exercise routine. Also, have your Loving Family Animal Hospital veterinarian perform a thorough physical exam to ensure your furry pal is ready for hiking, playing, or training before starting their exercise program. Call our team to schedule an appointment.