Exercise in Winter
When it’s cold, wet and foggy outside, not to mention blowing a gale, the last thing you might feel like doing is taking the dog out for a walk. Whilst wrapping up warm and getting a good walk outside could blow away the cobwebs for you and your dog, we thought this might be the perfect time to look at some of the many indoor activities you can enjoy with your dog that will use up some of their excess energy and stop them getting bored in the house.
Requiring a high degree of training and skill and providing high energy exercise, agility classes are a very popular option among dog owners who enjoy the social side of joining a club as well as the opportunity to learn new skills and burn some calories. In dog agility, the handler directs their dog through a varied obstacle course, competing for both quick times and accuracy in dealing with obstacles. Moreover the handler is not allowed to use food or toys as an incentive or touch the dog or obstacles, which means they are limited to voice and hand signals to control their dog. For those who like to challenge themselves as well as their dogs, agility could be the indoor exercise for you.
For fast-paced, rowdy exercise, joining a local flyball team could tick all the boxes. Dogs must clear a series of jumps before catching a ball and returning with it to the start, at which point the next dog in the relay sets off. An exciting and highly competitive sport, flyball also has a tight-knit community and can be a great way to make new friends for both you and your dog.
Heelwork to Music
Heelwork to music is a great form of exercise for those who would like to nurture their musical side and either already have a good bond with their dog, or would like to build a better bond, because the sport relies on a firm relationship between owner and dog. Choreographing, learning and showing heelwork to music routines provides not only physical exercise, but a huge amount of mental stimulation as well.
Originating in the US, Rally (or Rally-O as it’s known over the pond) is an obedience based sport, in which handlers must get their dogs through an obedience ‘obstacle’ course. A basic course is made of fifteen signs, set by the judges, which direct handlers to perform certain obedience tasks before they pass on to the next sign. Handlers start the course with a perfect 200 score and lose points for inaccuracies and non-completions. Interestingly, they are also strictly penalised for physical or harsh verbal corrections of their dog, so Rally encourages and rewards gentle, enthusiastic and positive obedience training methods. Competitions are often held outside, but there’s no reason why training can’t take place indoors during the colder months.
Indoor Games At Home
The dog toy retail sector is a booming one, with more innovative toys coming to the market all the time. Toys such as the i-Fetch, which entertain dogs when their owner is either busy or out of the house are proving very popular with busy dog owners. Whilst nothing can replace human attention and affection for dogs, if used wisely indoor dog toys can be very useful for those times when you’re having a busy day or you have to pop out without the dog. Indoor games needn’t involve expensive gadgets though and can be as simple as hiding treats or dry dog food in a kong or toy and playing ‘hunt the toy’. Memory games are another good way of providing mental stimulation for dogs. There are heaps of ideas in Claire Arrowsmith’s book ‘Brain Games For Dogs’.
Regular exercise is as important to dogs as it is to humans. Aside from the physical benefits of regular exercise, such as a healthy body and avoidance of weight gain, many unwanted canine behaviour problems can stem from not getting enough exercise and are simply solved by increasing physical activity alongside games that provide mental stimulation. For active dogs, it’s important to make sure you’re feeding to condition with a good quality, nutritionally-balanced dog food that supports joint and bone health, such as Dr John Titanium or Heritage Adult. Dogs that are overweight can be supported with a dog food specifically catered for them, such as Gilpa Slimline or Heritage Senior/Light, which won’t skimp on essential fats, oils, vitamins and minerals, but will have a slightly lower overall protein and fat content to aid a controlled diet. It is of vital importance that all dogs have access to plenty of fresh, clean drinking water, and this is especially important after exercise and alongside a dry dog food diet.
More information on your local clubs and societies can be found at The Kennel Club or simply by searching online.