For many people and dogs, the winter can be a challenging time of the year. The days get shorter, the weather is cooler, and it becomes very easy to hibernate. Slowly but surely our routines change and we find ourselves being less active, getting outside less, and having more relaxing nights in with a book or movie. We’re here to tell you that it shouldn’t be this way. You and your dog need to keep up your regular activities – regardless of the weather. Rain, snow, wind, and gloomy weather is not a reason to stay inside. Especially for anyone who has a senior dog or a dog with joint or mobility issues, exercise and daily stimulation is extremely important. Make this winter season different and forge a new path with some new ways to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll feel better. Your dog will feel better. Everyone will be smiling, and remember there is always hot chocolate and a natural dog chew waiting for you inside. Take a Hike It can be challenging to get out for a long walk when the wind is blowing and the snowbanks are rather intimidating. The good news, is that it’s often warmer and easier to walk in the woods during the winter. Enjoy exploring a new hiking area or greenspace in your city while being protected from the wind, road salt, and hard snowbanks. Look for a local hiking area or greenspace that is dog friendly and be aware of rules around dogs in the winter. Keep your dog on his leash and enjoy searching out new smells while romping through the snow. To make it easier for yourself, you might want to wear some snowshoes (and remember dog booties for your beloved dog). Skijoring After checking with your vet, you might soon find yourself with some extra help when out cross-country skiing. Once your vet gives the thumbs up – we say give skijoring a try. Your dog will get a kick out of leading the way when running ahead of you. Attach your dog to long lead that is then attached to a harness that you’re wearing – strap on your skis and get ready for some fun. It is a good idea to take some skijoring lessons and training before going out alone. Ask at your local pet store or post on Facebook asking for advice. Skijoring is becoming more and more popular with many communities embracing this winter sport. Learn more about skijoring on the Skijoring USA website. Do you participate in skijoring with your dog? Tell us about it on our Leaps & Bounds Facebook community page. Remember the Dog Park The dog park doesn’t close in the winter. Take your dog out for his regular dog park visit and let him have fun hanging out with his doggy friends. This socialization is key to preventing depression and boredom in your dog. Routine is important to dogs and when you stop a regular activity such as your daily dog park visit, your dog can become upset and act out. Make sure you’re bundled up and your dog is ready for the elements with booties and a protective coat. Chances are very high that your dog will leap out of the car and be super excited to play and bond with his doggy friends. As an extra bonus, you get a chance to catch-up and relax with your dog park friends. Hint: bring a thermos of hot chocolate and some tasty treats to enjoy while your dog is burning off his extra energy. Embrace the Snow All dogs need regular exercise. This exercise is vital in keeping their joints strong and mobile, helps keep them fit, and gives your dog much needed mental stimulation. Some people mistakenly believe that senior dogs shouldn’t go out in the winter or need to slow down when it’s cold. While it is true that the cold can be harder on stiff joints and arthritis, with proper care and accessories, your senior dog will be excited to get outside. Invest in high-quality booties, a warm coat, and a nice warm dog bed – all of these will make it easier for your dog to enjoy the outdoors and warm up once inside. We want to hear from you. How do you make the most of the winter months with your dog? Tell us about your winter plans on our Leaps & Bounds Facebook community page.