Winter is a tough time in Wisconsin: cold temperatures, snow, sleet, sometimes hail; it's dark more hours during the day than it is light. It's easy to turn into a hermit, which our SideKicks don't often take kindly to.
Though this Winter hasn't been too terrible weather-wise, the pandemic makes hermit-ing even more appealing. Since we're spending more time than ever with our SideKicks, let's put that time to good use to avoid going stir crazy during this pandemic Winter!
When the weather is good and you want to get outside, there are lots of options for some outdoor exercise and quality time in nature:
Neighborhood walks - it's an obvious choice, of course, but I moved to a new neighborhood not too long ago and am having fun taking time to explore new routes; you might be able to find some new gems in your neighborhood, too!
Play time in the yard - snow ball "fights," tug-o-war, and chase (chasing toys or chasing you) are all fun options; like playing at the beach, playing in a snowy yard adds a little extra resistance and a little extra bang for your exercise buck!
Dog parks - Milwaukee County has several dog parks of varying sizes to check out and explore! If your dog is social and comfortable in such a setting, get some off-leash time in! I know dog parks can be a little polarizing, but, with a few guidelines in mind, it can be a great place to get some exercise and training practice in!
Play dates - with dogs in the family or your pandemic pod / bubble or socially distanced get-togethers with doggos you know at the dog park, a friend's / neighbor's fenced-in yard, or you may be able to find a private dog park on Sniffspot.com nearby!
Hiking - there are lots of parks with decent paths and plenty of trails in both Southeastern WI and throughout the state! Get yourself a park pass and get out in nature!
Other options - those of you with dogs that don't do so well with other dogs or other people don't need to worry! You have lots of options, too! Schools, churches, and cemeteries all have specific hours of operation and are typically deserted outside of those hours; not to mention, they also usually have a good amount of space to see any other dogs or people coming, so you can keep your comfort bubble with your SideKick intact! On top of that
Remember, for any of the outdoor ideas listed above, that your dog should stay on leash in areas where leashes are required to be respectful of the other dog parents, looking to get their dogs some safe exercise and enrichment!
When the weather is not so great or you're not interested in piling on the layers to go for a walk or hike, etc., you have lots of options for indoor exercise! I wrote a post a couple years ago about indoor recess options, but have a collection of even more ideas to keep this Winter active - physically and mentally!
Play with your dog - like walks in your neighborhood, this may seem like an obvious choice for indoor exercise, but it's not enough to simply supply toys to your dog - encourage your dog to use them and play with your dog! Play tug and fetch and chase - experiment to find out what types of toys or styles of play your dog likes best!
Teach your SideKick tricks! I love working on tricks with my Ruby - so much so that she and I have earned her Novice Trick Dog title and we continued on to earn our Intermediate Trick Dog title (check out the video of the tricks we chose for that title!) through Do More With Your Dog!
Food toys - your SideKick needs to eat anyway, so why not take advantage of meal time to get some enrichment in? There are tons of food toy options out there and it can be intimidating when you first dip your toe in those waters, but, no worries - I wrote a post a while back that walks you through some of the options and my suggestions!
Enrichment - I am always preaching the importance of enrichment and there are lots of options out there! Some of my favorite ideas, though, have come from the enrichment challenge I did with my Ruby last Winter; the ideas are all neatly wrapped in a blog posts with lots of options for modifications and use a lot of supplies you probably already have around the house! I wrote a post about the first few days of the challenge, so you can get a bit of a taste by checking that out!
Whether you want to get out into the world more (and safely) this Winter or you prefer to hermit, there are lots of choices to stave off the stir crazy for both you and your SideKick!