Baby it's cold outside!
February is the time of year that’s brisk and beautiful but hard to leave the cozy comfort of the couch to go for a blustery winter walk with your dog. You think about it, look at your dog… he looks back at you with that expectant hopeful light in his eyes which convinces you to bundle up, grab a leash and head out. No sooner are the two of you trucking down the driveway to the street than a frigid gust of wind blasts you in the face and makes you rethink this life’s decision to go walking on a February afternoon. You look down at your dog, his eyes are wincing to avoid the sharp wind and flakes of snow driving at his face, ears flapping straight back, hair puffed up and back slightly arched. Much longer and he’ll start holding up a paw for some relief from the icey pavement. Blaah, as your enthusiasm quickly seeps away and your well intentioned plans for a walk take a sharp turn and become a quick potty break and then back in the house to snuggle up and get warm.
We’ve all had a similar experience; winter time walking and training can sometime literally be ‘a pain’. But there are ways you can still engage your pooch but pass on the frostbite and wind chill. One of the things we like to do in our house is obedience drills for meals. So, we’ll set up a simple room with some obstacles to navigate around and practice heeling around the rooms and throwing in some sit/stays and down/stays. For a greater challenge, try doing it off leash! Or throw in some fancy maneuvers like a spin or a backup. Once your dog heels well on your left side, try teaching him to heel on your right side. Another fun way to exercise your dog’s brain is to practice heeling up and down the stairs and from room to room pausing to wait at all thresholds. Many dogs feel the rush of excitement to charge up or down the stairs at top speeds, but try having them do it at your pace and in the heel position… I guarantee that for a lot of dogs this will take a lot of practice. You see, it’s not necessarily the distance your dog travels during his walk that determines his exercise… it’s how hard his brain needs to work to do the tasks you are asking of him. Over and over I find that I can tire a dog out mentally well before I can tire him physically. So try finding ways to directly engage your dog in a training exercise on those minus something days rather than allowing him to find his own ways to drain his energy… which often means chewing, barking, jumping, racing in the house, etc. Happy training my friends!