If you’re a dog or cat, winter is not the most fun time of year. The air is cold, the winds are high, and hanging inside the house all day gets old pretty fast.
That’s why pet moms and dads should plan some ways to keep their furry friends active and engaged throughout the winter months. Here are some tips from pet pros and vets so your pets can stay happy and healthy all winter long.
1. Safety First in Winter
We may not think twice about pet safety when the weather is nice, but during winter it’s not a bad idea to reconsider some basic protocols when navigating the outdoors.
“The sun goes down early in the winter and visibility is generally worse due to conditions like snow and rain,” says Tim Mitchum, President of WINPRO. “Keep a shorter leash if need be, use some reflective gear when going off-leash, and maybe save the grand adventures for springtime.”
2. Step Up the Grooming Routine
An active outdoor experience can result in an indoor mess when the day is through. Keep your pets happy by investing in more grooming time at home or at the pet salon.
“Walks are great, but keeping your pet active is also about giving them love and paying attention to them,” says Lauren Kleinman, Co-Founder of The Quality Edit. “A scrub-down in the sink or the bath is fun for everyone, and brings you closer to your pet in a positive way. Plus, you’ll have a clean and refreshed pet when you’re done.”
3. Maintain a Calm Environment
On the flipside of an active lifestyle is also relaxation and calm. Be sure to find balance throughout the week and make sure your pet maintains mental well-being in addition to physical.
“It’s important that we pay attention to their changing needs as the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can take its toll on them as well as on us,” says Dr. Antje Joslin of the 99th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Animal Clinic. “This is especially true for dogs and cats that suffer from anxiety. The added company at home, changes in schedules and sometimes louder surroundings can be problematic and stressful.”
4. Daily Errands
Going to the store may not be the most thrilling experience, but your dog is looking for any excuse to get out of the house during winter. Take them along for the ride.
“Most pets are just happy to be out and about, especially when they’re missing the summer weather and activity level that comes with it,” says Adam Reed, CEO of Crown and Paw. “A trip to the store or just a ride in the car is a big deal! Stop by the pet store and give them some room to roam indoors as well.”
5. Pet Playdates
You’ve probably got pet owner friends in the same position as you during the winter. Why not call them up and arrange a get-together for your pets to socialize and expend some energy?
“I’m a huge proponent of a pet playdate because animals are meant to be around one another, just like human beings,” says Michael Waxman, CEO of Sundays for Dogs. “Just an hour of hanging out indoors with another dog or two can be exactly what they need in the middle of winter. A doggie obstacle course is also a blast when it’s cold out, and you can get the whole family involved. Use couch cushions, pieces of furniture, and empty cardboard boxes to make a course that your dog will love to navigate. It’s also a great way to train young dogs during winter.”
6. Go On Mini-Adventures
Nothing compares to a wide-open field or a playground for a dog in warm weather, but you’ll need to get a bit creative with your interior setup to keep your pets active in winter.
“Summer presents the ideal conditions to get your pet out in the warm air and exercise, but when winter hits, things get a little more complicated,” says Marc Atiyeh, CEO of Pawp. “But, don’t worry, there are numerous options if you just get a little creative. If you have a dog, look for indoor flea markets or other large stores that allow pets. You can get some shopping in, while your furry pal gets a change of scenery and some exercise. Additionally, do you have steps in your house? Play a game with your pets, which involves them chasing you up and down the stairs a few times every day. This can be great cardio for both of you!”
7. Every Pet is Different
Our tips are universal, but you know your pet better than anyone!
Take things day by day and always keep an eye on the health and happiness of your pet during winter. Sometimes, this means staying indoors more often than not.
“Ideally, we definitely recommend that cats be kept indoors, because they’re at greater risk for infectious diseases, for trauma, and for being preyed upon by other animals outside,” says Dr. Bruce Kornreich of the Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Prepare for Winter with Your Pets
It may not be the most active time of year, but the winter season offers a great opportunity for you to connect and bond with your pets more closely.
Enjoy time with family, friends, and make sure to give your pets some extra attention until spring rolls around again.