Speaking of Pets: Activity ideas to get you and your pup out of the house | VailDaily.com

Speaking of Pets: Activity ideas to get you and your pup out of the house

By Joan Merriam
Speaking of Pets
If you're headed outside with your dog, make sure to keep good track of it, because more dogs get lost in the winter than any other season.
Special to the Daily

Yes, we’re still stuck in the glacial grasp of winter, but there’s no excuse for Fido or Fifi – or you ­– to be stuck indoors watching YouTube videos of cats playing piano.

Outdoor Activities

Many Nordic centers set aside a portion of their trail system for cross-country skiers with dogs. Or try skijoring, which is basically cross-country skiing while being pulled by a dog. Every year, more dog lovers and Nordic ski enthusiasts discover this sport.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. You’ll see everyone from toddlers to 85-year-old grandmothers snowshoeing, along with dozens of dogs. Many state parks and BLM lands allow dogs, and it’s rare not to be able to find somewhere to snowshoe with your pup. Try the Miller Ranch open space for a casual wintertime walk.

Outdoor Precautions

Make sure your dog is healthy before attempting a cardio-intensive winter activity: If he’s normally sedentary or small, start off slowly with shorter jaunts. And remember that just like for humans, walking through deep snow is physically demanding for dogs. The last thing you want is to have to carry an exhausted 70-pound Labrador five miles back to your house.

The ASPCA says that more dogs get lost during winter than in any other season, so make sure he has current I.D. tags, is microchipped, and perhaps is wearing a GPS pet-tracking device. Especially if he’s white – perhaps get him a brightly colored coat so he stands out in the snowbanks. And be sure to inspect your pup’s paws afterward for those nasty, painful ice-balls.

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Indoor Fun

There are also plenty of indoor wintertime activities for you and your dog to try. How about playing a game of hide-and-seek or tug-of-war with your pooch, or teaching him a new trick?  Winter is a great time to take an obedience or dog-agility class, or simply join a group of friends for a play-date with your dogs.

And while it’s certainly not going to burn a lot of calories or energy, you can always go for a ride in the car, just to get you and your pooch out of the house to relieve cabin fever.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.

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