9 Ways to Keep Your Dog Active Inside During the Winter

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Keeping your dog active inside during the winter months keeps them happy and healthy. Here are some creative ways to encourage active play indoors.

Freezing temperatures and heavy snow or rain during the winter months force all of us, including our four-legged friends, inside. Just because winter weather makes outdoor play a challenge, doesn’t mean your dog has to sit around and lounge and eat all day.

It’s important to keep dogs active during the winter, even if they can’t play outside. Dogs that remain inactive while inside are not using up all of their energy and can develop behavioral problems, says Dr. Michelle Burch of Safe Hounds Pet Insurance.

“Problems I tend to see are the destruction of household items. I’ve also had owners tell me their pet starts going to the bathroom in the house. Keeping dogs active indoors will also help to burn calories and decrease the risk of weight gain. Weight gain can have detrimental effects on a dog’s health,” Burch says.

Each dog, depending on breed and age, will require different amounts of activity time. Burch says most dogs need a minimum of one to two hours of activity a day, while some breeds, such as Labradors, Jack Russells and Blue Heelers, need up to five or six hours a day. Older dogs will require less activity.

Here are some ways to keep your dog active inside your home during the winter months:

Play “Find It”

Use small dog treats, like Zuke’s Mini Naturals, and hide them throughout the house but somewhere your dog can easily access. Good spots include behind a door, under the coffee table, on the edge of a chair, etc. Let your dog go to town, sniffing his way around the house, finding the treats. Encourage them by saying “find it” and offer praise when each treat is found.

Create an Obstacle Course

Use household items like a foot stool to jump over, a coffee table to crawl under, a hula hoop to jump through and some shoes to weave around. Use your imagination to make the most creative obstacle course for your dog. Or you could splurge on the Cool Runners PVC Dog Training Tunnel or the Midlee Dog Agility Hoop Jump, if you’ve got the space. Activity like this is good for both mental and physical stimulation.

Have a Treasure Hunt

This game involves your dog using their nose to find their favorite treat or toy. Gather up empty boxes or containers. Place them upside down and spread them around a room. Only place their treasure under one or two of the boxes. Your dog will have fun moving around the room trying to sniff out his favorite toy or tasty treat.

Set Up a Play Date

For some indoor fun, invite a friend or neighbor’s dog over for a play date. Play dates are a great way to keep dogs active and help with socialization. You’ll want to designate a play area, like the basement, garage or set up a play pen so the dogs don’t get injured running freely around the house (and so your house doesn’t get trashed).

Play Fetch

Get creative with the space in your home and use a soft ball, like the Chuckit Indoor Ball, This lightweight ball is designed to protect indoor surfaces. You can throw this ball down stairs at let your dog run up and down. A long hallway is also a good space for an indoor game of fetch. If needed, move some furniture around in the living room to create some extra space for play.

Engage in Tug of War

A good round of tug allows your dog to use their whole body and engage muscles to pull with you. Just make sure there’s nothing dangerous your dog may bump into or knock over nearby. The Goughnuts Dog Pull Toy is a good durable toy for dogs looking to get their tug on!

Do Some Training

Being stuck inside is a great opportunity to do some obedience training. Grab your training tools, like treats, a clicker and your patience and work on some commands. Reinforce the essential commands, like Sit, Paw, Down, and then move on to Come, Wait, Drop it and Speak. Training is good for both mental and physical stimulation and is also a good bonding experience.

Practice Doga (Dog Yoga)

Doga is the practice of yoga with your dog. It focuses on meditating, stretching and dog massage. Although your pet might not be getting the same kind of exercise as going for a long walk, doga does have other benefits like teaching them to stay calm, relax and balance. Doga classes may be offered in your city or town. If not, there are instructional YouTube videos.

Splurge on a Doggy Treadmill

Treadmills can be a good option for dogs that need more activity. The dogPACER LF 3.1 is durable, foldable and can accommodate dogs up to 180 lbs. To avoid injury, you will need to properly train your dog to use a doggy treadmill to avoid injury. Start by letting your dog hop on and off. Once they’re comfortable, start your dog at a very low speed and always supervise your dog. Treadmills should not be used with dogs in poor physical condition or those who have a history of joint or hip problems.