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Dog Exercises for the Winter Months

In the colder months of the year, people have a tendency to shy away from the outdoors. So do your pets. Most of the country experiences snow, chilly winds and low temperatures, which makes the normal daily walk somewhat of a burden. However, all dogs need exercise regardless of what time of year it is.

Consider these alternate tips for exercising your dog in the winter.

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1. Try going off-leash
Instead of doing your usual walk, consider playing outside without a leash, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes. Of course, this method is best for a dog that's off-leash trained or who has a fence to keep him closed in. These exercise periods don't have to be long. You can simply play a game of fetch or tug-of-war in the snow to keep everyone warm while having fun. If the temperatures are really low, try using treats as an added benefit. Give your pup a treat every time he returns the toy to you. He'll be more likely to want to play for longer, and will stay a little warmer given the extra exercise.

2. Enroll in indoor training classes
If the outdoors are too cold, why not go inside? Indoor training classes are a great way to have a little fun with your dog and keep him warm. Though there are basic training courses, there are more advanced ones too. If your dog is already an expert at heeling, staying, sitting and so on, consider agility or flyball classes. Normally, these courses are taught in heated facilities where your pup can interact with other dogs and get his blood flowing. Meanwhile, you'll be proud of seeing what your dog is capable of and watching how quickly he can learn!

3. Take a walk in the woods
If it's just a little too frigid to bear the cold conditions, consider going for a walk on a trail in the woods. Wooded trails can be much less harsh on a dog's feet, mainly because of the lack of antifreeze and snow. The woods partially trap heat and protect people and dogs from harsh winds. Snow can also block a pup's paradise of smells. Luckily, the woods keep their smells in the winter. Dogs will love to explore and smell all that the woods have to offer. They can also listen to the various animals in the woods, such as squirrels. Consider it the ultimate treat.

4. Go for games indoors
If all else fails and it's too cold to bring your pup for his usual walk through the neighborhood, consider trying indoor games, Paw Nation suggests. There are simple games that give your dog a little physical exertion, such as tug-of-war or continuous fetch. But why stop there? You could spice things up a little bit by creating a homemade indoor agility course, with one that includes rolled up towels that he can try to jump over or simply setting up two buckets and a broom for an even greater challenge.

5. Test his mental skills
Another way to entice your pup is to test him mentally. Play games such as hide and seek, using either yourself or hiding his toys. You can also make attempting to get a treat a challenge, creating an elaborate puzzle for him. Make a dog treat hunt where you stash all of his favorite treats in a toy or some other object that conceals them. Lay all of the treats throughout the house, and if you really want to test him, place a few in the backyard. Dogs are smart - make sure your pup doesn't watch you as you hide each object. If he sees you doing this, it'll be very easy to find. Once you've hidden all of the treats successfully, call your dog to the area where the treats are hidden and watch him go nuts.

6. Try his training
If it's been a while since you and your dog did some training, what better time than now to test his skills? Brush up on all the regular skills, including sit, stay, come, lie down and so on. Try and go through the lineup a few times, mixing up the order each time. Once he's got those down, get a little creative. Make him wait and hide in another room so that he can't see you. After a while, ask him to come. See if he's been waiting obediently and reward him for his hard work.

These are just six options to try during the harsh winter months, unless you live in an area that remains warm year-round. Knowing how to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated regardless of the weather is a great way to keep him having fun and give him the engagement he needs.