Getting pets who dislike the cold to go outside in winter can be a challenge, but chilly weather or not, pets need fresh air and exercise. ASPCA experts assure us that while short-haired and smaller breeds may require cozy apparel to protect them from winter’s bite, others simply need a little training to learn how to enjoy a cold-weather romp.
“With a few simple training tricks—and the right attire—pet parents can teach animal companions to be much more enthusiastic about playing outdoors in winter,” says ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation Kristen Collins.
1. Entice your pooch with off-leash exercise sessions, playing tug or fetch, or romping with canine buddies—the more aerobic the activity, the warmer the dog will be.
2. If your dog's playing off-leash, you can use treats to reward her for fetching toys—even if you usually don't have to. The extra incentive might further spark her interest in the great (and chilly!) outdoors.
3. Offer your pet special treats during outdoor excursions. While on a brisk walk, pop something delicious into her mouth every now and then—or feed her breakfast by hand while outdoors.
4. Winter is a great time to enroll in indoor training classes. Sports like agility and flyball are often taught in heated facilities and are excellent exercise for the canine body and mind—and you'll enjoy them, too!
5. Walk your pet in wooded areas during the winter months. The forest not only provides protection from wind, but the rich smells, sights and sounds can be infinitely interesting for dogs to investigate, distracting them from chilly temperatures.
6. Many dogs dislike going outside during winter because snow, salt and chemical de-icers hurt their paws. Canine booties can protect paws, while keeping them warm—and disposable latex boots are available for dogs who don’t like the feel of thicker boots.
7. Musher's Secret, a waxy substance that you can apply to your dog's paws, can be an effective alternative to booties for protecting toes and paw pads in snow and ice.
8. Getting your dog to play outside may simply be a matter of keeping her warm:
- Dress puppies—who don’t have as much body fat as adults—in a coat or sweater.
- Get waterproof gear for wet days.
- Invest in a well-fitting coat that covers your dog's back and underside. (Fleece is nice!)
- Staying warm during winter takes more energy, so increased food intake may be necessary. Good body condition means you can feel, but not see, your dog’s bones.
If you can see his spine, hips and ribs, then he’s too thin and you should talk to your veterinarian about increasing his food intake.
9. If you've tried everything and your dog still seems miserable when you take her outside, provide extra exercise indoors by playing games that involve physical exertion, like tug-of-war.
10. Help your dog expend mental energy by feeding her meals in food-puzzle toys, giving her plenty of things to chew, teaching her new tricks and playing interactive games like hide-and-seek.
Make sure your dog has access to shelter and water at all times. And please remember, if you’re cold, your dog probably is, too, and it’s time to come home.