5 tips to keep your dog in shape during winter

Winter diet and exercise tips for dogs and dog owners

How do you keep your dog healthy and fit during the winter months? Summer months offer the perfect weather for walks and outdoor play, but the winter months tend to drive many of us indoors. It is crucial to your dog's health that he gets regular exercise. Unfortunately, both you and your dog may lack playtime motivation when the weather cools. Instead of hibernating, try these tips to help keep your dog fit and healthy this winter.

Reevaluate your dog's diet. While it seems obvious that winter activities require a different mix of nutrients for dogs in seasonal climates, it is easy to forget the need for dietary adjustments. Discuss your dog's nutritional needs with your veterinarian to ensure that he is getting the proper balance of nutrients for his lifestyle and individual fitness level. Additionally, dogs with conditions like arthritis sometimes require nutritional supplements during the winter that may not be needed in summer to remain active in colder temperatures.

Attend an agility class. Check out local agility class offerings. Many areas offer indoor courses and training facilities year around. Agility classes are terrific ways to keep both you and your dog active during the winter, since you must learn to run the agility course with him.

Find an indoor play space for dogs. If your schedule simply does not allow a lot of play and exercise opportunities, or your community does not offer an indoor dog park or play space, check out dog daycares in your area. You will pay a fee for the service, but many offer drop-in style care that can be adjusted to your budget and needs.

Get creative with indoor games. My home becomes a winter agility course for our dog and our children. We have indoor space for games like fetch and hide and seek, but also play tug of war, blow bubbles for the dog to chase, and offer treat puzzles that keep our foxhound active when we cannot venture out to the park. Take a look at your indoor space, visit the dog toy department at the local pet store, and use your imagination. You may already have an agility course in your house; you just need to introduce your dog to it.

Try some dog-friendly sports during the winter. My dog loves to play in the snow with my daughters. If your dog loves being in the snow and winter cold, check out some dog-friendly, winter sports. Find a pet-friendly trail for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or skijoring. There are even dog skijoring competitions for those who wish to take winter exercise to the next level.