How to Exercise Your Dog And Stay Active in the Winter


Dog running through the snow

I lived in Fargo, N.D., for 10 years, so I get it.

When it’s cold – I mean really cold! – you aren’t as motivated to walk your dog! Heck, your dog might not even want to be outside.

Still, it’s difficult to live with a rambunctious pup who’s not getting the exercise he needs when the temperature doesn’t get above zero all month. Anyone dealing with that right now? 🙂

Here are some ideas to help exercise your dog when the weather is … well, brutal.

I’ll break this up into:

  • outdoor exercise
  • indoor places you can visit and
  • indoor exercises at home

Exercising your dog outdoors in the winter

1. Run with your dog for just 15 minutes.

I know, it sounds awful. Running in that kind of cold?

But I ran with dogs as my job in Fargo for years and as long as it was above -10 F or so we could always run for at least 15 minutes, often a full half-hour.

Of course, you have to consider your individual dog. A Chihuahua probably can’t handle it. But just about all other breeds can, even shorthaired breeds like pitbulls, Boston terriers, boxers and vizslas. dogIDs also carries coats for dogs, if needed.

Just run around the block a couple of times. You can always dart back inside if it gets too cold.

See our posts: Winter paw care and Keeping your dog warm.

2. Use a long lead and let your dog run somewhere safe.

This is a good option if you have access to an open field or park. If you have your dog on a 30-foot lead or longer, you can let her run around like crazy while you stand there all bundled up. Even 15 or 20 minutes really helps get some of that energy out!

3. The dog park.

Another option is to visit the dog park for a quick 15 minutes. Just give your dog a chance to run, run, run! It helps.

4. Use a dog backpack for shorter walks.

If you can only head out for 10- or 15-minute walks, try using a dog backpack with a small amount of weight. It will help burn some energy and give your dog a job. You could head out for three or four 10-minute walks. Better than nothing.

Indoor places you can visit

1. Pet-friendly stores

Try visiting dog-friendly stores like Petco, PetSmart or The Home Depot. A 20-minute walk around the store will give your dog plenty to sniff and focus on and at least get him moving out of the house.

2. Sign up for a dog training class

Going to a weekly indoor obedience class or agility class is a nice option in the winter, and these types of activities often leave a dog even more tired than a walk would.

Indoor exercise at home

Sometimes there’s just no way you’re heading out. I get it. For those extra cold days, here are some ideas for entertaining your dog in the house.

1. Play “find it” games

Ask your dog to sit and stay. Then, hide treats or a highly valued toy (tennis ball??) under some empty boxes or randomly throughout the house. Release your dog and ask her to “Find it!”

Another option is YOU hide and then call your dog to come find you.

2. Invest in a used treadmill

If you already have a treadmill, have you considered training your dog to walk on it? Another option is to find a used treadmill on Craigslist. River the dogIDs spokesdog actually uses a treadmill! See it on Instagram here. They key is to introduce your dog to the treadmill slowly. Start by having him stand on it while it’s OFF.

Other indoor tips:

  • Work on trick training or obedience training for 10 minutes here and there
  • Buy some interactive toys like treat dispensing toys or puzzle toys
  • Play tug of war!

The key with all of this is to mix it up and use several ideas. If it hasn’t been above zero all month, you can still try to get out for a 20-minute run, a couple of short walks and maybe visit a dog-friendly store.

All the small things add up and make life with hyperactive dogs at least manageable in colder climates!

I’d love to hear from you.

How do YOU tire out your hyperactive pup in the winter?

Want more winter tips? Check out these blogs.

Ways To Keep You and Your Dog Cozy This Winter

How To Care For Your Dog’s Paws In Winter Weather

About Lindsay Stordahl

Lindsay Stordahl is a blogger for She has a black Lab mix named Ace and two naughty cats named Beamer and Scout. Lindsay owns a pet sitting business called Run That Mutt and also maintains the blog ... Add Lindsay to your Google+ circles at . You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @ThatMutt.

  1. Thanks for all the suggestions Lindsay. I’m fortunate I don’t live in a country with extreme climates but I like you idea on having a long lead. My little guy loves chasing birds and quick to take off so with the shorter leash he tends to choke himself at times.

    The idea of training your dog on a treadmill also has some merit for those lazy peeps, like me occasionally 😉

  2. I have 8 pooches. I’ve always wanted to have a sled dog team. Put the 2 wonderful parts together and you’ve got an answer. But this 62yo granny had another idea—DOG SCOOTERING–YES EVEN IN WINTER! All it takes is a good 3-wheeled RS Rig, the right 4 dogs at a time, the right gear, warm gloves and boots for NANA, really good tires, a well groomed circular road and lots of treats when you’re done for the day.

  3. Thanks for the post DogIDs, much appreciated. Have shared this with my former and future clients.
    Dean Vetter,
    Cedar Ridge Labs
    Fargo, ND

  4. I know this is an old post, but I still had to express my gratitude for this post. Every winter is a toss up as to whether it will be mild or bitterly cold. This is one of those cold years…. and we’re new parents to a VERY active pup who was rescued from Qatar of all places. He LOVES the snow but obviously is needing to get acclimated. He’s also extremely intelligent and is constantly looking for play. These recommendations help me SO much. Thanks again.


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