Yellow Labrador Dog Looking Out Window in the Winter | Taste of the Wild

Let’s face it: It’s not good for you or your pet to hibernate indoors all winter. Yes, your pet is more than happy to snuggle into the down comforter with you, but at some point, you both need to get moving. Here are some simple living ideas to help keep your pet active and healthy that won’t wear a hole in your pocket.

Pamper your pet with a spa day. Indulge your pet with an at-home mani-pedi and save yourself the expense of a professional nail trim. There are plenty of online tutorials on proper trimming technique that also demonstrate how to put your pet at ease.  While you’re at it, why not brush or bathe your pet? Just make sure to use a pet shampoo that’s designed for the unique pH of your dog or cat’s skin.

Go outside. If you and your pet dress right, there’s no reason why you can’t frolic in the chilly air. (Yes, even some cats can be trained to walk on a leash and might be up for a saunter around the neighborhood.) Like cross-country skiing? Consider training your dog to go skijoring with you. It’s a great way to spend the day with your dog, working off pent-up energy, without spending a fortune.

Volunteer with your pet. If your pet has a calm demeanor and loves meeting new people, you might be perfect as a therapy animal team. With training and certification, you and your pet can visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and other facilities where people could really benefit from some animal love. Here’s how to get started.

Host a play date. Too cold for the dog park? Invite a few of your pooch’s favorite pals over for a few hours. If necessary, move the furniture out of the way so the pups can romp, chase and tumble to their hearts’ content.

Brush up on obedience training. Both dogs and cats love to interact with their family, learn new tricks and earn rewards. Some commands, such as “Stay” or “Leave it” can even save your dog’s life in some instances. Winter is a great time to keep your pet’s skills up to snuff.

Create a pet portrait. Have you ever tried a pencil drawing or watercolor painting of your pet? Even if you’re not artistic, you can use your smartphone to snap a great pet portrait. And who knows — if you post the photo on the internet, maybe your pet can become a star and earn you millions.

Make your own pet toys. Why spend a fortune on pet toys? Especially when your cat is easily entertained with a paper grocery bag or a cardboard box. You can make a fishing-pole cat toy by tying a feather or catnip ball to one end of a string and attaching the other end to a stick.

Many dogs like the crinkle of an empty water bottle (with the cap removed) sewn inside an old sock. Just remember to only provide toys under supervision and remove any pieces that could pose a choking hazard.

Channel the power of music. We all spend more time indoors in the winter, which can be stressful on our pets. Research has shown that certain types of music can have a calming influence on dogs and cats. Through a Dog’s Ear and a similar version for cats are just two examples that may help your pet.

Keep them entertained. Another way to help keep your pets moving indoors is to make them work for their food. You can purchase inexpensive food puzzles that reward the pet for their efforts by dispensing a kibble or two at a time. A game of chase with a laser pointer can be fun for both dogs and cats. And placing a bird feeder outside the window by your cat’s favorite hangout can provide hours of entertainment.

Snuggle indoors. Given that Mother Nature skimps on the hours of sunlight during this month, it’s OK to take time to cuddle with your pet, too. Perhaps these dark nights are just meant for curling up on the couch, a pet-themed movie and a cuddle with your best friend.

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The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.