A guide to exercising your pet in winter

In winter, like us, pets tend to spend more time inside, due to colder weather and as such may move less and get less exercise.

Ensuring your pet gets the right amount of exercise whatever the weather is important for their health and quality of life. During winter months if pets are inactive but consume the same amount of food, this could lead to unwanted weight gain. This in itself can lead to health problems, such as arthritis. In colder weather joint problems could become more prominent, especially in older dogs and cats. It’s important to keep your pets moving during winter to ensure they maintain optimum mobility, as well as a healthy lifestyle. Like us, when the weather gets colder your cat or dog may be less enthusiastic to go outside, but there are ways to help your pet to stay mobile this winter.

Dogs

Embrace the cold

Most dogs are happy to go out come rain or shine. If you do take them outside on a walk, be sure to keep them warm. Some breeds can cope with colder weather more than others, such as Newfoundlands and Leonbergers. For smaller dogs and short haired breeds, you could use a coat to keep them warm.

Interactive toys

Interactive feeding toys are a great way to help your dog burn extra calories. These can also keep them occupied and prevent boredom if they have to be left home alone.

Make your dog use their nose

Hide your dog’s favourite treats around the house in accessible places and make them work for their food. This helps to keep them physically and mentally active.

Use your stairs

If your pet would prefer to stay in the warmth, use your stairs for an indoor workout. Put your dog on their lead and walk up and down the stairs. Be careful if your dog is older and has joint problems, they may not be able to climb stairs as well as younger pets.

Teach them some new tricks

Despite what many people think, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Getting your dog to perform new tricks and actions can keep them active and their mind stimulated. Use their favourite treats to encourage them but be sure to limit treats and include them in their daily calories if they are not moving as much.

Consider their age

Older dogs may suffer in the cold more than younger dogs. Bear this in mind when on walks or during exercise, don’t push your dog too much if they are struggling. Be sure to consider their age and ability when planning activities.

 Jumping

For more mobile dogs, you can use objects such as hula-hoops to get them moving. Hold it just off the ground and encourage your dog to jump through. Once they have mastered it you could increase the height off the ground. Be sure to give them lots of praise and encouragement.

Cats

Puzzle feeders

Use puzzle feeders to make mealtime a game. Make your cat work for their food, which helps to keep them active, as well as keeping their brain active.

Hide & seek

Place smaller portions of food around the house for your cat to seek out. As well as being better for their metabolism, studies have shown that animals enjoy their food more when they have to work for it.

Use toys to encourage activity

Use cat toys to get your cat off the couch and moving around. Laser pens, feathers, balls or anything dangling from a string are great to help encourage your feline friend to get moving.

Teach your cat some new tricks

Like dogs, cats can also learn new tricks. Use treats to encourage your cat to practice new tricks and actions. Practice for around 15 minutes per day and you should reward them within 1-2 seconds, so they associate the treat with the command.

Create a cat jungle

Cats love climbing up to higher spaces to observe their surrounding environment. Cat trees can be a great way to encourage your cat to climb and explore. They’re also usually made out of materials which encourage your cat to scratch.

Agility course

If your cat is particularly energetic and mobile, you could try agility exercises. These could include obstacles such as bars to jump over, or tunnels to go through. These will help to push your cat both physically and mentally.

Consider their age

Older cats may not be able to move as well as younger cats and may prefer to sleep more. Older cats may be less mobile and may not be able to jump as high as younger cats.

Always consult your vet before starting your pet on a new exercise routine. They will be able to offer advice on what activities fit best with your pet and their health and age needs.