By Mary Burch, AKC Canine Good Citizen director
Brrr, it’s cold outside! But that doesn’t mean all of the great training momentum you and your pup have built up over the past months has to come to a screeching halt.
Even though it’s winter, your dog still needs the physical and mental stimulation that come from learning new skills. Here are some ideas for keeping up with training and exercise when there is snow and ice outside.
1. Teach a skill indoors.
Choose a Canine Good Citizen skill your dog doesn’t have (or needs to polish) and set up a daily training time indoors. You can work on sit (learn how to teach that here), down (learn that one here), come (here are tips on "come"), and stay in a small space. If you are ready to move beyond CGC, start to teach your dog to heel. You can move furniture such as small tables or chairs so that you have obstacles that can be used to refine your pup’s heeling skills.
2. Tease their brains
Hide treats or toys and have your dog find them. Or, if your dog has a reliable stay, you can play a fun game of hide and seek. Put the dog in a stay, and then go and hide somewhere in the house or apartment. Have a family member tell the dog, “Go find her.” I taught my dog to play hide and seek by hiding nearby in the beginning (10 feet away behind a sofa as a family member kept Wyn from peeking). Wyn quickly got good enough at this game that I could go upstairs, walk in and out of rooms, and eventually hide behind the shower curtain in the bathtub before Wyn was sent to “go find Mary.” It was never clear which of us was having more fun with this game. Another way to engage your dog is with the WOOFipedia Playtime Pack, which includes a combination of fun toys and delicious treats to get you and your dog going.
3. Provide indoor exercise
Small dogs can be easily exercised indoors by having them chase a ball (you can teach retrieving) in a hallway. Canine freestyle (doggy dancing) moves are a good way to exercise larger dogs indoors. And, there is a certain amount of exercise your dog can get when you do CGC exercises as speed drills—sit, down, come, run with me (in a small area), stop, down, Let’s go…” You get the idea.
People go to gyms when the weather is nasty. Consider enrolling your dog in an indoor training class during the winter or try one of this strange-but-fun activities. Nothing will chase those winter blues away faster than earning your dog’s Canine Good Citizen or AKC Community Canine title.
4. Get outdoor exercise.
Even when it’s winter, there are breaks in the weather. Put on your coat and go outside with your dog for a brisk exercise walk. In city settings where sidewalks are clear, you can practice the AKC Community Canine skills. For outdoor exercise and training, some breeds may need a winter coat and if sidewalks are salted, you may want to use boots with your dog, but when it comes to training, don’t let winter stand in your way.
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