Here are my tips on keeping your dog active in the winter months from the latest issue of Fido Friendly Magazine. See the full issue here.

Q: I don’t want my dog to pack on the pounds during the cold winter months by becoming a couch-lounging canine. What are some safe outdoor activities we can do together as well as a few we can do indoors when the weather is nasty?

Sitting on the sofa with your pooch may be a great way to bond (and lower your blood pressure) but so is exercising with your dog, which provides an ideal opportunity to bond with your pet while both of you enjoy the benefits!

If you’re heading outdoors in cold temps, dress your canine com- panion in a coat and booties to keep them warm and protect paws from toxic ice-melting agents on slippery sidewalks (but don’t leave booties on for long periods).

If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.

Northern breeds like Huskies with heavy coats fare better in nasty weather than a skinny Italian greyhound. To learn how cold is too cold for your dog; refer to Tufts Animal Care and Condition (TACC) scale.

Taking into account weather conditions and the age, size, and fitness level of your dog, some of my favorite outdoor exercises include: agility, Frisbee, Skijoring (dog sled on skis), herding, jogging, Schutzhund (pro- tection sport), Treibball (herding sport), tug-of-war, and three-paced walk.

THREE-PACED WALK: You & your K9 walk 30 seconds; jog, sprint, and repeat.
Benefits: Aerobic conditioning, burns calories, increases cardiovascular function.
BROOKS TIP: It helps if your dog knows how to heel and walk properly.

TUG-OF-WAR: Using a knotted rope, pull one end while your dog bites the other.
Benefits: Strengthens jaw and upper body, expends energy, burns calories.
Brooks Tip: Train to “drop it” and not miss the toy and bite your fingers.

What about when the weather keeps you and your doggie indoors? Try “downward dog” with Doga or how about dancing, hide & seek, sniffing and searching games like nose work? Even advanced tricks like piano playing can burn calories. I get great results with doggie push-ups or interactive games that are mentally and physically beneficial.

DOGGIE PUSH UPS: Say “sit”, then say ‘down’. Repeat for 4-5 reps. Ask for a “stay” and let your dog take a break while you do yours or try doing them together!
Benefits: Improves flexibility while reinforcing a foundation of training.
Brooks Tip: Teach your dog sit and down first. Praise or treat when they get it right!

INTERACTIVE GAMES: Using a puzzle game or treat ball, put a tasty mor- sel inside and have your pup chase, push or bat it around with their nose.
Benefits: Mental stimulation, physical interaction, and fun for owner and pets!
Brooks Tip: This also engages their natural inclination to hunt for prey.

It’s up to you, not your dog, to make sure they walk, exercise, and play to keep their bodies fit–even in the winter months!

Steve Brooks, (CPDT-KA), founder of Steve Brooks K9U has been teaching dogs a solid foundation of real-life manners, specializing in behavior problems for more than 20 years.