Winter Dog Tricks that Keep Your Dog in Shape for Summer Adventures
If you’re not all that excited about winter adventures, it can be hard to feel like you and your ready for your big summer adventure goals. The good news is that there are plenty of tricks you can teach your dog in the winter that will prepare your dog for summer hikes.
Just like you can do some butt-kicking at home workouts, your dog doesn’t necessarily have to leave the house to get a great workout in! That said, if your dog will be wearing a doggie backpack at all this summer, start with weight training on walks as well. You can gradually add weight to water bottles in the backpack for extra strength training.
These tricks are relatively easy to teach and should be doable for most dogs. If your dog has a history of injuries, check with your vet first. We avoided adding any tricks that involve too much jumping or balance that could hurt a dog (hence no doggie handstands).
Here are five of my favorite dog tricks that help keep your dog strong:
- Leg Weaves. This flashy trick is surprisingly easy to teach. It also helps keep your dog’s back limber and is a great side-stretch. My dog and I actually start out most runs with a few leg weaves for his warm up.Start to teach by luring your dog through your legs with a cookie. Give him the treat after each leg wrap. After five correct repetitions, put the treat in your other hand and then lead your dog through your legs with an empty hand. Feed after each repetition. This step ensures your dog will listen without the cookie! Now start to make your hand movements smaller and add a verbal cue. You’ll get there in no time! Here’s a video from my Facebook feed demonstrating this trick.
- Paws Up. This trick is a good core workout that also helps stretch your dog’s back and hips. My vet recommended that Barley does this a few times before every trail run to help loosen him up. If your dog is balancing on something unstable, it’s also a great core workout! Start by luring your dog so his front paws are on a platform. Give him the cookie when he succeeds. This trick is generally very fast to teach as long as you vary what your dog puts his paws on quickly – try your knees, the couch, a fire hydrant, stumps, and more. You can also teach this trick via shaping, as demonstrated here.
- Doggie Push-Ups. For dogs, going from sitting to standing to lying down is a good core workout. For an extra-hard workout, do this trick on a mattress or couch cushion. The instability will really work your dog’s core. Barley and I occasionally work out together to the Bring Sally Up Push-Up Challenge.
- Crawl. Army crawling is really difficult for most dogs – because it’s such a good workout! Many people start by telling their dog to lie down, then slowly dragging a treat forward along the ground. If your dog takes even a small step forward, release the treat. Over time, increase the distance your dog has to crawl to get the treat. To avoid a dog who will only listen when you’ve got treats in your hand, quickly switch the luring your dog forward with an empty hand and feeding from your other hand.
- Bow. Downward-facing dog is a great stretch and shoulder workout for your pup, too! I just taught my dog Barley to bow this week. I started with a treat in my hand and then pushed it forward between Barley’s front legs. If he bent his front leg without lowering his rear, he got the treat. But if he laid down all the way, no treat. It took a lot of practice to start fading out my hand motion – we got really reliant on it. Whoops! What worked for us was I started giving the verbal cue about 1 second before I did the hand motion. If Barley bowed before I lured him, jackpot! He quickly started realizing that the word “bow” got him paid really well.
You might also want to try having your dog to jump or walk over low bars – cavalettis are a series of low bars that are excellent for teaching fitness. Be sure to check with your vet about these higher-impact activities.
Try to switch things up to keep your dog in shape. Doing repetitions while she earns her dinner is a great way to keep your dog fit.