JoAnna Lou
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Keeping Busy in the Winter
Snow days bring alternative ways to burn off canine energy

Thanks to the now infamous Polar Vortex, the North East has been getting hit with endless amounts of snow this winter. The weather means shoveling heavy snow, scraping ice, and for dog families, finding creative ways to exercise the pups. Many of my friends have been lamenting that their back yards are too icy to let the dogs play outside, so they've been opting for creative ways to keep busy inside the house--shaping new tricks, buying tasty chew bones, and playing with brain teaser toys. 

My Border Collie, Scuttle, and I have been taking advantage of the conditions by going snowshoeing in upstate New York, where the snow has not iced over. Trekking through white powder is a great workout and heading to the trails in the winter means less crowds. By the time we get home, I've got a passed out puppy on my hands (success!).

Some of my friends in New England and Canada skijor with their pups on cross country skis. I tried my own made up version, snowboardjoring, which ended with me on the ground and my Sheltie, Nemo, jumping on top of me. Although we didn't go anywhere, we both had lots of fun! For those less athletically inclined, I've also seen children sledding with their pups on board this winter.

If you embark on an outdoor excursion with your dog, remember to bring food, water, an extra jacket (for warmth), and booties (for a ripped paw pad), in addition to your own gear. It's important to be prepared to spend more time outside than you planned, in case you get lost or someone gets injured. This is essential in the winter.

What are you doing to keep your pups busy on snow days?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Carolyn | February 26 2014 |

My 13# dog has a hard time with this year's deep snow in northern Michigan. So we bundle up and hike the snowmobile trails across the lake. They've compacted the snow enough that she can get through it. She's a ball maniac, so in the house I "hide" the ball while asking her to Sit or Down or Go to Mat, then release her to Find It. Great for practicing self control and having fun.

Submitted by robin | March 1 2014 |

If it's too cold for me, it is too cold for my little one, but we still go out for brief spurts in our fenced in yard. She races around or will play with a toy, at least until I notice her feet getting cold...then we go in...yes, I know about the boots, but she is likely to take them as well as the coat off, as she has demonstrated. Once inside she exercises both of us by stealing a toss pillow left on the sofa that I try to retrieve which involves lots of chasing. Sometimes not being well-trained to drop and leave it works to one's advantage!

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