In the UK this week temperatures have plummeted from the average for the time of year at around 7C to daytime of -3+ C and a wind chill of -10C+ with a significant snowfall for many and where there is less, pavements are bitterly cold.
Not much fun for us, schools are closed due to the injury risk (A&E really does not need the extra work) . Children are thoroughly wrapped up and a limited time given on their outdoor play at home. We would not take out our very young children and are urged to check on our old people. We have been urged to bring in our outdoor pets such as roaming cats and rabbits etc.
For the young and the majority of our dogs this is the first time in around 10 years most have experienced this weather.
So for our dogs especially, those lovely pets we snuggle at night in our centrally heated homes, this is quite a temperature shock. Their feet are not prepared for this level of biting icy cold – this is where they sweat where there are many nerves to help them make sense and stay away from danger, as our hands and feet are.
So when I see and hear of dogs who are just not prepared for this unwilling, not of choice, trudging through the snow, shivering or picking feet comically, with unhappy disengaged companions my heart goes to them, just “because it is walk time” often early morning or late afternoon.
My dog (above) chooses on these days what we will do. On the whole he rushes out pees and poos has a roll around and a little bounce (he is after all a snow dog by DNA, not used to the temperature but still has a love of the white stuff locked away) then he rushes in a gets warm, snoozing on his sofa until the next pee break or I get the toys out.
Yesterday we had an enforced walk out, we could not stay at home to keep a tradeperson and he safe. It was cold but not too cold and as you see not much ice or snow. He rolled and bounced for around 10-15 mins , then slowed down, we came home then, he rested the rest of the day until tea time when he asked for some games. It took him hours to recover, he has arthritis. He will not “go for a walk ” until he and I feel it is comfortable for him. He will go out and engage in the environment, he will have plenty of exercise and fun and tiring activity. All in the comfort of my home, where he is medically comfortable.
Like wise my health puppy will get to choose what she does and how long for, she likes the snow and we play with her for as long as she chooses or we feel is ok for her delicate paws. Then for her, some training time interspersed with games and fun and rest, learning to calm.
So what do we do instead? The list is endless and these are some ideas, this is not exhaustive , these are some of their favourites:
- chase with a toy , or fetch the rolling ball, waiting until released (3-2-1 … GOOOO) is our current skill to be learned.
- boundary games (again self control) being rewarded for choosing to stay on the bed or go on and wait to be released, all fun and games. A new skill is waiting for their turn to be released for a game by name.
- tricks, our favourites: spin, leg weaves, 2 paws or balance any 2 or 3- using different places and textures (both great for body condition).
- Noise box -get the recycling ready – boxes, card tubes, plastic bottles, paper, add some biscuits into any of them put into a large box or tray sprinkle in some more (or better still grated cheese or another fun food) and make a cuppa and let them exercise themselves! This is a great way to feed biscuit/kibble fed dogs their breakfast.
- Snuffle mats or treat search –snuffle mats are fleece covered mats (or use a loopy bathroom mat or towel) with a sprinkling of fun foods, breakfast or left over bits of human meat or grated veg. Treat search, hide it let them find it.
- Practice our basics sit, down, stand, leave, wait, walk by my side, leash on and off, release words for play. What words do they know FIRST TIME/ INSTANTLY? They all need reminders. Practice Stay from room to room until called. How long can they stay ? How far? can you make it longer, further? What vocabulary does your dog know?
- Behaviour chains put together tricks (above) and commands and wait times in basics. This is one of our favourites .
- OUR two favourites? The Orientation Game – Use a handful of their food allowance or some favourite but healthy food. sit on the floor or on a low chair settee. throw out one piece, they chase then as they look back throw another and repeat, they soon learn to look back to you for what happen next. This has transformed our Loose Lead Walking and Recall. Proximity chase a similar one but on the move… drop a bit and run as they catch you, drop and run, repeat … play this is in the snow too for a quick exercise !
It is worth noting that research and science is showing that 15 mins a day games as above is worth an hour of traditional “tiring out”. Also remember to intersperse different levels of play so they don’t get too hyper, adding in calm time and massage or stroking.
It needs engagement between the participants and deepens relationships, impacting on Loose lead walking and Recall – the issues trainers like us get as the primary request for help.
How do I have time to do this? In short sharp sessions, 10 bits of food at a time, no more than 5 mins mostly 3 mins. choosing from the list to play not everything! Mixing up fun and furious with calm and quiet and having time off, as well as massage and TTouch. This is the time it takes to boil the kettle for your hot chocolate, or boil up your soup!
Have fun, stay safe and put your companions needs up there first, rather than an increasingly outdated view of canine exercise. For more information or help or just to share your fun please visit @peacefulpawstherapy Facebook page or message me.