You look out the window and the roads are covered in snow, slush and salt. The house is toasty warm, you’re walking around in your slippers, and the last thing you want to do is get the leash and take your four-legged companion for a walk. But here are a few new ideas on how to make exercising your fun for you and fun for the dog.
When walking on the road through salt and snow is unappealing, grab a pair of snowshoes and take a hike off the road. We are fortunate in New Hampshire to live close to trails, woods and parks that are filled with trails for all ability levels. You can take a full-fledged hike or just a spin around the back yard or down the powerline trails. You can also dust off the cross-country skis and bring Fido out onto some groomed trails for a faster-paced jaunt through the woods.
The ASPCA’s Web site offers some great reasons to head into the woods with your dog: “The forest not only provides protection from wind, but the rich smells, sights and sounds can be infinitely interesting for dogs to investigate, distracting them from chilly temperatures.” The ASPCA also makes a few suggestions, like picking up paw booties to protect sensitive paws from snow and salt: “Canine booties can protect paws, while keeping them warm — and disposable latex boots are available for dogs who don’t like the feel of thicker boots.”
Ruffin’ it at the doggy gym
Another option is to head to one of the several dog facilities around the state. Many specialize in boarding, classes and professional training and offer everything from 24-hour vet service to swimming pools to radiant floor heating so pads and paws are toasty warm on the coldest of days. Some of these services are available only to dogs that are part of the boarding program, so be sure to ask.
• The Barking Dog (210 Rockingham Road, Derry, 434-2275, thebarkingdog.com) With locations in Derry, Exeter and Hooksett, The Barking Dog offers dogs nearly all the amenities of a people hotel. Exercise options include one-on-one playtime with a Barking Dog staff member, doggy daycare for dogs that have energy to spare are love being around other dogs, and a dogs-only pool. Fifteen-minute swim times can be arraigned at the Hooksett and Exeter locations. Training is also available here with qualified training staff who can help teach new skills, new behaviors, off-the-leash obedience training, and fun-filled classes that focus on teaching old (and new) dogs some new tricks.
• Gail Fisher’s All Dogs Gym & Inn (505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, 669-4644, www.alldogsgym.com) “All Dogs Gym is a full-service dog training, boarding, daycare, grooming and activity facility,” said Gail Fisher in an e-mail interview. “Our mission and all our services and programs focus on enriching and enhancing the wonderful relationship we share with our dogs. Exercise… and providing a healthy outlet for dogs to ‘be dogs’ plays a large role in this mission.” The All Dogs Gym & Inn offers dog owners and their canine companions a wide range of classes and opportunities including doggy daycare, which gives them the chance to socialize and play with other dogs. Other elements of their program include Dog Sports, which “offer an outstanding outlet for both mental and physical exercise — and [are] a terrific way for dogs and owners to enjoy activities together,” Fisher said. Let your dog try Dog Agility (a fast-growing sport that involves running through an obstacle course), Rally-Obedience (owners and pets move through a course with different tasks to complete), or Canine NoseWork (a new sport that teaches dogs to locate different scents).
• Sendashi Pet Resort (355 Straw Road, Manchester, 622-9684, www.sendaishi.com) Owned by Joyce and Bill Matott, Sendaishi Pet Resort has been around for 30 years. “While the dogs are staying with us they have options like playtime, which lasts for about 20 to 25 minutes, generally with other dogs,” Joyce Matott said. “We can do daycare for dogs that are boarding with us and we also have daycare Monday through Friday where you can drop your dog off before work so your dog is nice and tired when you pick them up.”
Sendaishi has its own regulation Dog Agility field on the property that operates in the spring and summer. Dog owners may rent the indoor training room for training or just for fun. “We do have agility equipment in there for owners and they can set stuff up so their dogs can burn off some steam,” Mattot said.
One of Mattot’s specialties is a canine rehab program for dogs that are older, overweight or recovering from surgery. The program can help senior dogs regain their spunk, keep them alert and active, and improve things like their range of motion through massage and an underwater treadmill: “If you get them up and going, particularly the senior dogs, it’s amazing what can happen. That’s one of my favorite things. You’d be amazed at what these dogs can do.”
Some final tail wags
A few tips from the experts on keeping your dog entertained and moving about in the winter.
• “Do something with your dog,” Fisher said. “Train a new trick while you’re watching TV; enroll in a training class; get involved in a dog sport; bring your dog to a doggie daycare; practice and perfect the behaviors your dog already knows.”
• “Make sure you take your dog outside for a real walk, not just for doing the necessities,” Mattot said. “If you’re a runner, take your dog with you. Mentally, teach them tricks like high five, roll over. It helps keep their mind going. Try and teach them different every once in a while.”