We’re on the tail end of winter, however, across the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, we’re still feeling the occasional eight degree day, and there are seemingly invisible patches of ice scattered all around.
To endure this sort of weather, we spend as little time outside as possible, instead choosing to snuggle up in our warm homes, clutching a mug of something hot. But should we assume that our dogs want this too?
Many people simply take their dogs to the sidewalk outside of their home or apartment a few times a day, let them do their business, and then rush back in. Properly exercising our dogs is something that is of utmost importance to their well-being. So, is it okay to let this drop for three or four months of the year? To coop them up inside, assuming they don’t want to be out there?
With proper precautions (foot protection and clothing for applicable breeds/body types), it is perfectly safe to take dogs for longer walks each day. Here are three reasons why powering through the cold with your pooch is so important:
1. To Keep Them in Tip-Top Shape!
We all want our dogs to be in the best physical shape possible. But we aren’t doing too well at taking the steps to make this happen – 2014 figures from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimate that 52.6 percent of U.S. dogs are overweight or obese. These conditions can lead to diseases such as osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Not only are these illnesses often painful and dangerous to our beloved pets; they can lead to enormous vet bills and heartache on our part.
Depending on our dogs’ size and heritage, they need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day in order to keep them healthy, supple and agile (if the temperature is below freezing, a few very short, brisk walks are adequate – click here for tips on how to exercise your dog indoors). Adequate exercise also aids digestion, helping to prevent those unfortunate occasions when Fido begins making alarming choking sounds, shortly followed by a pile of vomit on our new rug. Best of all, a good bout of strenuous exercise can result in a calm dog that sleeps soundly (sigh!). All of these facts apply throughout the year, so it’s important to remember that our dogs don’t miraculously become resistant to health disorders as soon as snow falls.
2. To Keep Their Minds Busy
A bored dog is a naughty dog. Under-stimulated, over-energetic dogs often display inconvenient, dangerous or destructive behaviors such as chewing, digging, jumping, barking, play-biting and attention-seeking. Exercise and mental stimulation are often the first (and sometimes only!) step we need to take to combat these behaviors.
In the summertime, our lives are often much more exciting and fulfilling. We make trips to the beach, we hike, enjoying being outside and being physically active with our canine companions. We visit our local dog parks, where dogs have the freedom to meet strangers and friends, to take in the sights and the smells. Life in the summer, for many dogs, is enthralling. But in the winter, what activities do we partake in that we include our dogs in? Relatively few. Granted, our opportunities for hiking and dog park visits are perhaps
Granted, our opportunities for hiking and dog park visits are perhaps comparably scant. So, why not make up for it? For example, supplement our walks with weekly trips to our local flyball or agility club for some indoor exercise and socialization!
3. For Your Own Well-Being
Okay, we love our dogs. Sometimes more than we love other people! But it’s also important to take care of ourselves, especially during the winter months (the dark ages, as we call them). It’s easy to pack on a few pounds, become sluggish and – let’s face it – a bit miserable. Exercising in cold weather actually gives us an extra boost of endorphins (compared to warmer months), giving us a feeling of positivity. It also helps to reduce stress, frustration and anxiety, gives focus and motivation and aids restful sleep. In addition, exercise has a whole host of health benefits (most of which are identical to those shown in dogs!) such as lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, strengthening the heart, increasing energy and burning fat.
Winter can be hard, and we owe it to our pets – and ourselves – to take the time to do what keeps us all happy and healthy.
Lead image source: Estrup/Flickr