How to stay fit in the winter time… a few easy exercises for you and your dog!
Let’s face it, when it is dark, cold and wet outside you don’t want to go out and play. But your dog? He’s ready for adventure and has energy to burn, so there has to be a happy medium, right?
During the winter months it is hard to get in the same level of physical activity for your dog, which can lead to weight gain or worse yet destructive behavior. Here are a few fast and easy games to play with your dog to burn off some mental and physical energy when it is too cold to play outside.
I use my dog’s regular morning and evening kibble to do their training exercises. We follow that principal that they have to “work for their food” at both meals. This takes a little more time and effort on your part beyond just setting the food bowl down in front of your dog. Once you both get used to this routine (it takes a few days!) you will both enjoy this time together and you will be amazed how quickly your dog will learn some new behaviors.
You will need to find something to serve as a platform for your dog to step up on. If you want to go out and buy something there are several brands of canine fitness equipment out there. Or you could just go to the yoga section of your local sporting goods store and get a small inflatable balance disc. They are about 12 – 15 inches in diameter and you can use it too! You can also just use something around the house that is an easy step up for your dog. For a small dog just 1-2 inches, medium size dogs about 4-5 inches and a large dog about 6-8 inches. This could be a large book, a wood block, a box etc.
Clicker: I am also a clicker trainer and find this is the easiest way to teach a new behavior. Once your dog understands that the Clicker means Yes! You did it! You will be able to quickly train them new behaviors with your clicker.
You want to teach your dog to step up onto a platform with both front paws. You are teaching front end awareness and working on their core – especially if you are using a balance disc. Just a few reps of step up onto their platform. Mix it up with asking for alternating paws once they get up there or a high 5. Remember to reward at every step up and paw touch.
Put Your Rear On
This is just like Step Up, but instead of putting their two front paws on, you are asking for their two rear paws, front feet on the floor. This one is a real challenge for some dogs. This teaches rear end awareness and rear strength. Often as our dogs get older, they lose their hind end strength. Start now and work on this rear end awareness and strength! You may need to help your dog by placing their rear paws on your platform item, then clicking and treating until they understand. This is a hard one but so worth it in the long run if you can teach this. You can also mix this up with asking for a front paw or high 5 once they master it.
This really two exercises. Try it first with both front paws on the platform, then once your dog gets really good, rear paws on the platform.
Front paws on, ask your dog to pivot, by moving around the clock. You will need to start with one step at a time. Keeping their front paws in place, moving both back legs around. Lots of rewards, and move around with your dog, and they will “get it” so that they can eventually end up making a full 360 degree pivot around their platform with their rear legs. Make sure they don’t step off the platform with their front paws.
Once your dog masters this… it is time to try it with their rear on, moving their front legs around “the clock”. This one is really tough and a big challenge for your dog. Keep those rewards coming for even the first step!
We always use this time to practice our “Push-Ups” (Sit, Down, Stand) and Sit Pretty (Up on haunches in the “Beg” position) repetitions to build out rear and core strength.
Dogs love to work – especially for food. So take advantage of it and take the time to give them a mental and physical workout twice day… your dog thanks you!
Kathryn Durno’s passion is canine sports, nutrition and fitness. She is a freelance writer, the owner of Dog Mamma’s Organic Dog Treat Company and is owned by three Brittanys – Biddy, Tristan and Nate. Visit her on the web at www.dogmammas.com