5 Tips for Exercising your Dog in the Winter

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Today’s post is from guest blogger Jonathon Ensor, who shares some tips about making winter exercise more manageable for you and your dog.

Exercising our pets outdoors in temperate climates is generally a treat for everybody involved; our furry friends get to expend some energy, and we get to give our heart-rate a bump. In the cooler winter months (especially if cooler means snow, ice, and frost), taking our pups outside can be less than motivating for countless reasons. It didn’t take me long to realize that hibernating in the winter with an energetic dog (or two) is impossible and not healthy for me or the dogs. After years of experimentation, I have come up with this list of my top tips for making winter exercise not just bearable—but enjoyable as well.

1. Protect Sensitive Paws

One of my two dogs has sensitive footpads, so running outside in the colder months was uncomfortable for her. Snow, rock salt, and unforgiving low temperatures put a swift halt to our daily walks and occasional runs. After trying a myriad of solutions, my wife brought home a pair of Muttluks, and our family hasn’t looked back since. These little gems have lasted us 3 years now, and I see no signs of them being retired anytime soon.

While many dogs are fine without paw protection, some (like ours) genuinely benefit from it. There is a relatively impressive variety of types and styles of booties for dogs out there, so find the one that works the best for your situation. If your dog refuses footwear entirely, try Musher’s Secret (essentially, a wax coating that helps protect the footpads).

Warm coats and bright colored toys make playing in the snow more fun for all.

Warm coats and bright colored toys make playing in the snow more fun for all.

2. Keep the Mess Outside

The winter and spring seasons, coupled with one or more sets of paws, can take a toll on flooring, especially carpet. It seemed inevitable that the dirt and grime held captive in the snow and rain would inadvertently hitch a ride on the dogs and find itself a new home as a stain on our carpets. Don’t let dirty paws deter you from exercising your pet outside.

The first move we made was to invest in some stain resistant carpet. This made a world of difference in our home and (for us) was worth every penny. Other less expensive options that we’ve used included towel-drying our mutts from head to toe BEFORE they were allowed inside and restricting the dogs to the portions of our home with hardwood floors, which are much easier to clean than a carpet.

3. Hydrate

Despite the fact that it’s cold outside and there is water (in various phases) covering everything, I still make sure to bring along drinking water for both myself and the dogs. Going for long walks or runs can still potentially dehydrate everybody involved, despite the chilly conditions, so be proactive and bring your own H2O.

4. Choose Toys Wisely

It only took me a couple winters to realize that I could probably supply every Wimbledon tournament for the next decade with the amount of tennis balls that we lost in various snow banks. Additionally, it turns out that nothing gets more matted than a plush toy covered in slobber and frosted grime. During the winter months, consider using a Frisbee, a fluorescent rubber ball, or even a good old fashioned stick (it’s the simple things, really). Toys like this are easier to keep track of (and clean off — save for the stick) and are generally pretty weather resistant.

5. Respect the elements.

For those that are committed to getting in outdoor exercise year round, don’t forget to respect the elements and adjust routes and pace as conditions require. There is actually something quite serene and beautiful about running with your dog in the snow. But be careful to watch for slippery spots and monitor wind chill conditions to ensure that your outdoor activity is safe and injury free.

A little snow isn't gonna keep me inside.

A little snow isn’t gonna keep me inside.

If Old Man Winter brings snow to your neck of the woods, don’t let it put a complete damper on your outdoor playtime. Do you have some tips of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below.
jon ensorAbout Jonathan Ensor

Jonathon loves his wife, his corgis, and occasionally growing a beard. When he’s not doing his home-reno or honey-do’s, you can find him writing about the best things in life.

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34 Comments

  1. Great post!! In the winter, I generally put coats on my dogs. In the snow I will often have them wear muttluks as well.
    Lauren Miller recently posted…Happy Thanksgiving and BRAVO Giveaway!My Profile

  2. May I offer our scent hound services for those tennis balls? Mom got mad at Bailie the other day for digging, but it turns out she found one of her toys (smelled it) and was just digging it out of the pile of snow. We may hire ourselves out to the labs and other retrievers in the area for the winter! As for the mess, that is Mom’s problem, but we do often come in snow covered and have to wait for it to melt a bit before she can towel it off of us.
    Emma recently posted…Important Tips When Walking In A New LocationMy Profile

    • I think you have the makings of a new business there Emma!
      mkob recently posted…5 Tips for Exercising your Dog in the Winter My Profile

    • Scent hound services sound like the perfect solution to my tennis-ball predicament! If only my dogs were being that smart when the were digging…

  3. Great tips, I too have a bunch of tennis balls when the snow melts, I got some footballs as they don’t get lost as easy.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~Snow Covered and ColdMy Profile

    • Footballs are a brilliant solution, and they usually come in a variety of sizes to accommodate smaller/larger mouths!

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Wow! Now that is a LOT of snow or a really, really tiny pup! My Pawz boots wouldn’t help me in that! Bring on the “paw wax”. Musher’s Wax works to protect our paws indoors too as well as in dry climates or on hot pavements.

    Y’all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog
    Hawk aka BrownDog recently posted…Fit Dog Friday!My Profile

  5. Snow is NEVER a problem on the bayou. We shut the city down if there is chance of a light dusting of snow. We don’t do inches! LOL! I would like to get Bentley some shoes for the frozen ground though. Do you have any idea how to size them? None look big enough for a Basset Hound paw.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Paws to Give Thanks #ShareGratitudeMy Profile

    • I don’t because we don’t really need them here. I bought some years ago for Becca who was sensitive to stones and she had pretty large feet (from arthritis). If I was going to buy some, I’d probably get those stretch ones that are more fabric then plastic.
      mkob recently posted…5 Tips for Exercising your Dog in the Winter My Profile

    • Here, I would default to the experts (perhaps at a local Petco, Petsmart, something of the like) and utilize their knowledge on the subject. Additionally, they may be able to order larger sizes to accommodate bigger paws–it’s definitely worth asking about!

  6. Great tips! i think we have quickly became pros at exercising in the winter. It is my huskies favorite time of year!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…The Sibe Tribe’s holiday deals!My Profile

  7. Aw dog! I’m really hoping for snow this year! The dogs love it so. Thanks for the great list! We’re battling the leftovers right now.
    Flea recently posted…Leftovers DayMy Profile

  8. Great tips! I just got Rocco a coat like the blue one in the photo (it’s a Hurtta winter dog coat). It’s awesome and keeps his whole body, including hips, warm. Great choice for a performance dog who needs to keep from getting cold and stiff!
    Diane recently posted…How to Keep Your Dog Happy and Healthy During Holiday Chaos #FueltheHolidaysMy Profile

  9. Great post SlimDoggy. Good info from Jonathan Ensor
    DogTread recently posted…Workout of the Week – the 4 D’s with Zeus: Diabetes. DogTread. Donut. DoneMy Profile

    • Thank you kindly!

  10. Good tips Jonathon Ensor

    • Thank you!

  11. Wonderful winter tips! We don’t get snow here but we do get some chilly days. I bet mine would love snow. 🙂
    Rama’s Mama recently posted…FitDog Friday–Potatoes!My Profile

  12. Good tips! *wags*
    Gilligan recently posted…Gilly Still Doesn’t Like Ball!My Profile

  13. Great information and tips. It’s really great to read about the differences in dog feet – for the first time ever out current dog has sensitive pads in the winter.

    A few years ago when I first got Laika I noticed her feet would bleed a little bit in the winter. I searched online for some good information but it was severely lacking. After a trip to the vet he determined that they were just indeed sensitive and chapped; we’ve now got a pair of boots and some balm depending on what activities we’ll be doing.

    Winter is so much fun for my dog and we get the extra benefit of burning a lot of extra calories while walking through the snow. The only thing that could make Winter better for us is if we either a) got out of work earlier to enjoy it during daylight or b) had the entire winter off to play 🙂
    Jen Gabbard recently posted…Study Reveals How Dogs Understand Human SpeechMy Profile

    • Our guys have never seen snow so I don’t know how they would react. WE should maybe try a trip to the mountains this year to see.
      mkob recently posted…5 Tips for Exercising your Dog in the Winter My Profile

    • I’m glad you found a solution that worked for you and Laika! It sounds like the two of you enjoy winter weather about as much as our family!

  14. We are out daily no matter what. But we did adjust our routes for the early winter to stay away from an unreliably (yet) frozen lake.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Veterinary Highlights: Surgical Site Infections In Dogs With Bone CancerMy Profile

  15. My Norwegian friend says there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Luckily, there is no better clothing than a double fur coat. It’s never gotten cold enough in upstate NY to make Honey cold outside.

    And I keep the fur between her toes a little longer in the winter to protect her feet from the salt. Unfortunately that means I also have to clean ice balls out of her pads when we get home.
    Pamela recently posted…I Have A Bad Case Of Puppy BrainMy Profile

    • Back in Syracuse, my Lab never needed a coat or anything either…and she would SWIM in the winter. I couldn’t keep her out of the water.
      mkob recently posted…5 Tips for Exercising your Dog in the Winter My Profile

      • Great point–coats are definitely not a necessity for all dogs, especially with the bigger breeds that are geared toward being primarily outdoors (hunting/mountain rescue/sled dogs etc.). For our smaller and/or less furry friends, a jacket makes a noticeable improvement!

  16. Great tips. We had our first snow today and the dogs love it. All the dogs. They would love to run around for hours, but I give them 20 minutes before they have to come in and rest their paws. Rodrigo is my guide, when he starts sitting to lick his paws it’s time to come inside. It’ll take them a bit to get used to the cold, but we still limit their play time in the cold weather.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Duck Liver Turkey and Cheddar Dog Treats @KolsNotesMy Profile

  17. It takes a bit more preparation, but wintertime romps can be just as much fun as their warmer counterparts.

    • Well said!

  18. We seem to get broken nails and cut paws more often in the winter. We try to keep nails trimmed more often in the winter, but something about the snow seems to lead to more of them.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Odds And Ends From VacationMy Profile

    • I wonder if it’s because the nails become more brittle from the cold and dryness?
      mkob recently posted…Have You Ever Lost Your Dog?My Profile

    • This could be due to a number of causes, from dehydration to extra-rough terrain (Ice, grit, etc.). I would suggest talking to your vet about it the next time you visit just to make sure that something else (like a vitamin deficiency) isn’t to blame.

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