warm up to some cold weather exercise

For all you dog lovers who live in sunny southern climates… We’re jealous, we admit it. For the rest of us, winter’s still got us stuck indoors. And not just us, our dogs, too. From November to March, dog-walking often becomes… more strategic and less pleasurable. Get outside, get the job done, come back home.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many dogs love getting some outdoor exercise, even when it’s cold. Some even prefer it! Plus, exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and body condition, which is a key to staying healthy and happy. So put on some long johns and a good pair of boots, and check out these 5 things to know about outdoor fun:

1. Big, little, or puppy? Some larger dog breeds (and combinations of breeds) — such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Huskies — can tolerate colder weather better than others. And by being outside in cold temps, they might even become more acclimated and learn to like the colder weather. Smaller dogs and puppies often don’t handle it as well, so dress them in a safe and protective coat, vest, or sweater (Bonus: they’ll look extra cute). Just don’t keep them out too long, and be on the lookout for signs of discomfort.

2. Feet first. Dogs lose a lot of heat through their paw pads, so dog “booties” are a smart move — if your dog can learn to wear them. They also protect against the gross and hazardous chemicals and salt that people spread on the ground to remove ice (and should never be eaten by pets, BTW), while keeping your pup’s feet from tracking in a bunch of wetness when you get home. If you don’t use booties, definitely clean those paws well after you’ve been out in the muck. And clean the boots, too, because they can get really yucky.

3. Watch for winter skin issues. If your dog’s coat gets matted, or if you notice lots of dryness or itching, call your Banfield veterinary team for help.

4. Four signs of discomfort. If you notice your dog is whining, shivering, anxious, or lethargic while you’re outside, it’s time to come inside. Don’t force the issue — often times, your pet will warm up quickly and be eager for you to try again.

5. Exercise inside? Even when you do go outside with your BFF during the chilly months, it’s probably going to be for shorter bursts of exercise, since you’re both going to be less comfortable. So if you have safe access to a dog daycare place that gives pets room to stretch and play indoors, go for it! Learning tricks inside is a great way to keep dogs’ minds working, which is a good way to help with hyperactivity, too.

Even with all the prep, it’s still true that pets are safer inside — especially in wet, freezing, or close to freezing weather. And if your dog is ill or older, they may be more sensitive to the cold weather, so be kind and cautious. As always, be safe, be healthy, and enjoy winter as much as you can.

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