Being active in winter keeps your dog healthy

Winter tends to force families inside the house, under a cosy blanket and next to the fireplace. With hot chocolate in the one hand and the other hand on your dog, you realise that both of you need to be active, but you lack the motivation. Certain parts of South Africa experience colder winter temperatures than other parts, making it more difficult for you and your dog to brave the outside world for some exercise. But it is crucial not to slack in your dog’s exercise regime, so we consulted Jenna Harris, a Pet Wellness Worx high performance dog coach, to give us a few ideas to stay active.

Stay healthy

Jenna says that keeping your dog fit is critical throughout the year, even in winter or in lockdown, to prevent any injuries from happening and to increase your dog’s lifespan. “Conditioning your dog will build up his muscle and ligament strength. If you were doing a sport such as agility, flyball or any endurance sport, it will be a key focus area,” explains Jenna.

She adds that one way to keep your dog active during winter is canine conditioning, also known as K9 conditioning or K9 fitness. It is a workout with specific exercises for healthy dogs to improve their muscle mass and strength, general fitness level, coordination and balance.

Canine conditioning

There are a couple of canine conditioning exercises that will help with building the muscles throughout the year. Jenna suggests that you consider one of these exercises – some of them can be done inside the house, while others are ideal for outside on a warmer day.

1. Paw pods

What it is A set of four half-round plastic apparatus. The flat side is soft and the round side is ‘bumpy’.

Why and how Place the pods under the dog’s feet for balance training and core strengthening. Paw pods can also be used for improving weightbearing issues for individual limbs, a great tool for canine rehabilitation practitioners.

2. Exercise ball

What it is A ball that is made of durable plastic and which is available in different sizes.

How it works The ball is used for core muscle conditioning of sporting and working dogs. It increases the range of motion and flexibility, joint alignment and balance control.

3. Cavaletti exercises

What it is An adjustable agility kit.

How it works One of the big things cavaletti exercises do for your dog is help him learn where his feet are in space at any given time. If you watch dogs walking, you’ll notice that they often shuffle their feet, especially one or more of their back feet. Cavaletti exercises will help him to fix that while also strengthening all the limb muscles, giving him mental stimulation and promoting coordination and flexibility.

4. Walking your dog

What it is Walk your dog on leash around the block or to the park. Do this during the warmer times of the day.

How it works Getting out will work wonders for your dog physically while giving him the opportunity to sniff around the environment. Walks provide both mental and physical stimulation.

Be creative

There are also a variety of games that you can play with your dog during the winter months. Another form of entertainment is to teach your dog to do various things on cue. Not only will you keep him active, but you will also stimulate his mind. If he can’t do so already, you can for instance teach him to sit or lie down. For tips on how to teach him this, go to www.animaltalk.co.za/sit and www.animatalk.co.za/down.