Is it ever too cold to walk the dog?

If it’s so cold you are tempted to skip your dog’s daily walk, then one thing you can do is practice some obedience training indoors with your dog instead.

This change to the routine might actually leave your dog more tired than usual.

I used to live in Fargo, N.D., where it was brutally cold almost every winter. There were often a lot of excited, bored and anxious dogs there in the winter because they did not get out for enough exercise.

It had to be pretty cold for me to use the weather as an excuse not to walk my dog. When I originally wrote this post, the windchill was -35. Sure, I could’ve gotten bundled up and been OK for a short time, but that was just too cold for my mutt Ace and a lot of dogs to be out for more than 10 minutes.

Instead, we went for a quick 10-minute jaunt and then worked on some training indoors. Ace loves to train, and it’s something that should be worked into our daily routine anyway.

If possible, on extra cold days you could split your usual longer walk into two or three shorter walks so your dog still gets some exercise. Another good way to exercise your dog in the winter is to join a dog obedience club or an agility club where all the training will take place indoors.

What do you do to exercise your dog when it’s this cold?

My dog Ace when it was -35 degrees!

24 thoughts on “Is it ever too cold to walk the dog?”

  1. Every winter I try to think of new ways to “tire out the terrier” It is hard for me since there is very little daylight when I get home from work, so even if it isn’t too cold, we don’t have much time inside.
    One of the things I do every year is work on start line stays. I leave Stewie in a stay somewhere in the house and I go elsewhere, even out of sight, and release him with a verbal and he has to find me. I also work on sending out to a target down the hall, if your dog is target trained, this is easy. I taught Stewie to back up the stairs this year, it is supposed to be very good at helping dogs with their hind end awareness, and is a good strengthening exercise. I train new tricks every winter too, just for fun and to exercise his mind also.
    I got the new Clean Run DVD, “Get on the Ball 2 for Christmas, and we are doing some ball work every night, which is supposed to be very good for core/muscle strengthening and is supposed to tire the dogs out too!

    Great post and always on the lookout for more good ideas……..
    Nancy and Stewie JRT

  2. Lindsay Stordahl

    GREAT ideas Nancy. Thank you. Stewie is such a lucky boy! I just started teaching Ace to back up, but we haven’t tried this on the stairs! Ha.

  3. We’re facing the same dilemma – it’s been far too cold to walk Emmett and Lucas, and the roads and sidewalks are now coated in salt, which burns their little feet. I’ve been working on trick training and set up an indoor agility course, but the most fun activity has been playing “find it.” I started hiding smelly treats in easy-to-find locations and directed them to find it. Now that they have the cue down pat, I take their favorite toys and hide them around the house. As we play, I keep upping the ante by hiding the toys in harder to find spots, so that by the end they’re tired physically (from dashing all over the house)and mentally (from using all their senses).

    Stay warm!!

  4. Lindsay Stordahl

    I play that game as well. The only problem for me is my dog gets so excited over finding things because his retrieving instincts kick in. He is tired after we play, but during the game he goes nuts – drool flying everywhere!

  5. What has really saved my bacon in rain and snow is our metal pole barn, 32 X 40 feet. It’s the Thunderdome for my two little terriers. There is a lot of firewood and boxed stuff stacked around, so lots of opportunities to sniff and check for mice. The floor is gravel and so it’s fine for a pee or a poop. I keep a bag of bags over there for scooping. What would I do without the barn??? I’m so grateful for it. Going over there is just enough adventure for the dogs to break up a monsoonal-grade rainy day.

  6. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ha, that barn is perfect for Pepper and Weederman. I can just imagine them running around looking for rodents!

    My cats are pretty pissed at me when I involve them in our “find it” or hide and seek games. I’ll tell Ace to go find Scout and he looks for him and then covers him in drool.

  7. We are fortunate to have a fairly large, unfinished basement where we can play fetch and catch, as well as work on basic obedience stuff with our GSD, Suki. We had been looking for a new house for the past ten months, mostly to get a larger backyard, and the one we just bought has not only just under 1 acre, but the basement is even larger than we now have for lots of foul weather fun 🙂

  8. Lindsay Stordahl

    We had an unfinished basement in my house growing up, and it was great for tiring out us kids and the dog at the time. We would run around like crazy down there.

  9. I’ve been waiting for this post for more than a week! Hehehe. I figured it had to get cold even for you and Ace. It’s not nearly as cold, and we were still struggling in the past 2 weeks some days.

    If you live in an area that is more dog friendly, I would think that maybe you can bring your dog to an indoor mall to walk around or even a “big box” store that allows it.

    Due to random other circumstances, we just had an opportunity to purchase a decent treadmill (the lowest priced one within the higher end of the home treadmills in terms of specs/type). It’s due to arrive tomorrow, and it could not come soon enough to help us get Lady sufficient exercise in cold weather. We’ve seen Ceasar do it, and more important, we’ve talked to a local trainer experienced in helping dogs get set up with treadmills.

    With current weather conditions, we’re hoping that she takes to it quickly, but the plan is to introduce the treadmill slowly and hope for the best. Since we have a rain-averse dog (seriously, she acts like the water getting on her head is the biggest deal in the world and MUST be rubbed off at once), I think the treadmill will come in handy in other seasons as well. And I suspect that with food, praise, and someone always being nearby, we will have, at least, a willing dog. Ideally, it will become something she really enjoys.

    Walking on a treadmill is no substitute for a real walk outside. I’m cautiously optimistic that it can help in extreme weather or when a dog doesn’t want to go outside (e.g, for us, Lady in the rain),

  10. Thankfully I don’t have this problem. It is uncomfortable when it is 45F outside with high winds that come off of the Pacific though. Gus seems to take his time relieving himself when that happens.

  11. Depending on HOW cold…..snowshoeing! Otherwise, we play hide and seek inside (good for recall), Search and Rescue for cheese crumbles, play with squeaky toys around the living room, and your suggestion…work on obedience training indoors! It is cold outside, and I have a cold, so we are definitely chilling inside today.

  12. Lindsay Stordahl

    Treadmills work great for a lot of dogs if they are introduced properly. We don’t have one, but I would love to get one for Ace and myself.

    Apryl, Ace took the longest time peeing today! I couldn’t believe it!

    We play a lot of hide and seek around here. And chase me around the couch 🙂

  13. Great ideas. Many dogs will walk and run up to 20 miles a day by my experience. Self powered dog exercise tread wheels made by GoPet and dog exercise treadmills from PetRun also do a great job of burning off that excess energy and giving that feeling of wholeness and health to the dog.

    Best Wishes

  14. Dog do not get tire as easy as we do, I use RuffWear Dog Pick with weight( make sure same weight on both side water bottle work nice ) on my dog to training and conditions indoor or out door with lest time, Most fit Dog can carry up to 30% of the body weight,

  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ace also wears a backpack, and it is great exercise for him, especially if I only have time for a 20-minute walk. Gives him a job to do and tires him out mentally and physically.

  16. The treadmill is a great idea. We have a golden lab cross that has more energy than we know what to do with. It only took once to train her. Start with just coaxing her onto the treadmill and giving her treats. Start walking her and giving her treats as she stays put. Mackey was running on there unassisted after the 2nd try. All you have to do now is ask her if she wants to run and she high tails it to the treadmill and waits for you to turn it on for her. If only I could figure out to train her to turn it on. 🙂

    As pointed out, this is great for the bitter cold and muddy/rainy days but never a full time substitute. Mackey truly enjoys jumping on it at least once a day though and if you have a treadmill I would suggest sharing it with your dogs. (for me it was just a clothes hanger anyway!)

  17. Lindsay Stordahl

    Haha! Had to laugh about your last comment! That’s so great that you trained Mackey to use the treadmill. She obviously loves it!

  18. Lindsay, what do you do about your dog walking/running clients when it’s too cold to get out. Do you drop in and give the dogs some indoor playtime?

  19. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yeah, it depends on each individual owner and dog. Sometimes I just stop by for some indoor playing or even just lounging around so the dog gets some attention if her owner is at work.

  20. Hey! When It’s cold around my house I just use a pair of Yaktrax shoes that work great for walking in the snow, and just walk him like I normally would. Ofcourse with a huge jacket. 🙂

  21. Ros - PestieWestie


    Love all the comments & ideas!

    I have two small terriers (1 x 13yr old Westie & 1 x 10 month old Border cross)who get cabin fever really quickly when the weather gets bad. As well as giving them lots to do inside the house – hide & seek, chase toys, training/new commands etc – we also try to take them out with us on errands etc even if it’s just a short trip in the car to get groceries. They seem to appreciate the “outside the house time” even if it’s not real exercise. They have also been known to sit in the workshop at the bottom of our garden while my hubby fixes stuff or works on his car.

    I also get dog-friendly people to visit -with their dogs if possible – it seems to cheer them up a little.

    I appreciate this won’t be good for everyone, small dogs are certainly slightly easier on the house/furniture than my old lab used to be I have to say, antique tables and small children have been knocked right over in her haste to get to whatever it was that got her attention…:)

    Hope the weather eases up over there for you all xxx

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, that is a great idea to take the dog along on outings, at least when it’s safe for them to be in the car. Sometimes it’s too cold for that too! But Ace does come along with me a lot in the winter. He appreciates it.

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