Our dogs can have as much trouble with winter weight gain as we do when it’s cold and snowy outside — especially if you’re not into outdoor winter activities. The reality, however, is that it’s easier to prevent weight gain than to drop excess pounds when the weather warms up. Dealing with winter weight gain isn’t easy, so here are several helpful tips to help keep your dog healthy and fit.
Change up your dog’s exercise routine
When temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, conditions aren’t just uncomfortable for you and your dog, they can be downright hazardous — potentially putting you both at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Sure, with the proper cold-weather gear, you can stay warm. Despite your dog’s fur coat — even if he or she is one of the thick- or double-coated breeds — he or she still may be vulnerable for frostbite. Consider taking shorter, more frequent walks to keep your dog from getting too cold for too long.
Once temperatures rise, backyard activities such as sledding and building snow forts or snow people can be fun for the entire family, your dog included.
Get creative with indoor play
Playing and walking outdoors isn’t always an option when you live in areas where snow is common during winter months. You may need to get creative with indoor activities. Try these ideas to get your dog moving:
- If you have a large open area or a long hallway in your home, play fetch. Just be sure to use a soft toy to avoid breaking any windows, lamps or home accessories.
- Got stairs? Race your dog up and down them several times. You could also stand at either the top or bottom of the staircase and toss a toy for your furry friend to retrieve. Climbing steps is a great cardiovascular workout!
- Play tug-of-war using a chew rope to help your dog release some pent-up energy.
- Visit an indoor dog park if there’s one in your area.
- Have your dog spend one or two days a week at a doggy daycare so he or she can run around indoors and socialize with other dogs.
- Enroll your dog in an indoor agility class. Participating in agility is both mentally and physically stimulating for your dog and a fun bonding experience for the two of you.
- Join a doggy playgroup or schedule a playdate. Getting together with other dog owners and their pets allows for some rowdy play and socialization. Not only will your dog make new friends, you might too!
Cut back on treats
Rewarding our dogs with a treat or two is an important part of the bond we share with our pets. If your dog isn’t getting as much exercise during the winter as he or she does during the other seasons, consider decreasing the number of treats you give. The easiest way to do that? Break your dog’s usual treats into smaller pieces, if possible, and offer one or two pieces rather than full-size treats. Your dog won’t know the difference, and you can still feel like you’re spoiling them!
Another option is to switch to a lower-calorie treat. If you put low-calorie treats in a puzzle toy, you can keep your dog busy at the same time.
Adjust or switch your dog’s food?
Unless your dog maintains or increases his or her activity during winter months, they won’t need as many calories as when they are more active. Since less activity and exercise means fewer calories are burned, you may need to feed less food or switch to a low-calorie version to help your canine companion maintain a healthy weight. Just be sure to talk with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
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Avoiding winter weight gain isn’t easy, especially when it’s more appealing to spend frosty winter evenings on the sofa watching Netflix with your canine companion. But with a little creativity and minor adjustments to your dog’s diet and exercise, you may have one less New Year’s resolution — “Help Max lose a few pounds” — to keep.