Friday, January 15, 2016

Why Winter Walking's Wonderful

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a southern girl living in Northeast Ohio. It's not hard for me to convince myself to stay indoors on cold, snowy days, especially when you have the devil on your shoulder cat on your lap telling you it's smarter to stay inside and snuggle and read.


But Barley is my little Abominable Snowpup, so I feel guilty when I deprive her of snow time and I know we need to get out and walk at least a little bit every day if we want to have any chance of meeting our yearly mileage goals. Plus, once we get out there, winter walking isn't all that bad. Here are our top 6 reasons for loving it.

Fewer Distractions
This is a big plus for anybody living with a reactive dog. Barley's come a long way since our first walk, but when the weather's nice, everybody's out and that means we're both on high alert all the time. I have to be aware of bikes and kids and squirrels before Barley is. I have to have my sprayshield at the ready should we encounter other dogs. Winter walks are a little more relaxed. We rarely see anyone else walking. There are hardly ever any tracks besides ours in the snow. Dogs and other distractions show up better in the snow covered world, so even when they're there, it's easier to spot them before Barley does. We still have distractions, but we can enjoy the world around us a little more when we have it mostly to ourselves.

Socialization
Even though there are fewer distractions, there are still a lot of great opportunities to introduce your dog to new things and keep them from feeling isolated. Very few things come through our yard in the winter. There might be the occasional cat track, but Barley gets bored with sniffing those pretty quickly. When we go out into the winter world, she can sniff mounds of freshly plowed snow and new trees and, every now and then, an animal track that's more interesting than a cat. Sometimes, you get a chance to expose your dog to things they'd never see the rest of the year. Yesterday, Barley and I saw kids sledding down a big hill. For a herding dog with a high prey drive, fast moving objects with high pitched squeals are very exciting. We had a chance to do some reaction to distraction practice with something new.

Look at how alert those ears are!

Barley got to watch for a second and then we refocused.

If Barley spent all winter only encountering the sights, sounds, and smells of our yard, she'd go a little bit crazy and agility class would be even more of a challenge. Dogs need mental stimulation, so walking in the winter is a great way to ensure they get that.

Beauty
On the surface, the winter world might seem grey and dreary, but if you look more closely, the winter world is a beautiful place to walk. One of my favorite holiday songs is Bing Crosby's "A Marshmallow World." I often sing this while Barley and I walk through the snow because the way the snow sparkles in the sun or the way the clouds float across the sky is magical. You never know what you'll see. The other day, Barley and I were walking by the lake and there wasn't much snow on the ground yet, but the waves coming up and crashing over rocks and small trees created these gorgeous ice sculptures. Every time I think the lake can't get more beautiful, it does.


New Places
Since there are fewer people out and about, more places are available for dog adventures. People aren't swimming in Lake Erie this time of year, so I don't have to worry about people on the beach if Barley and I want to stroll on the beach.


Playgrounds are wide open for photoshoots and different exercises--and since the world is extra beautiful, it's a great opportunity to try out different poses for photos.




Laughter
It's hard not to find things to laugh about when you're walking in the winter. Barley loves to romp through the snow and bury her face in the snow. It's hard not to laugh when she comes up with a face full of snow.



I don't make Barley wear boots often because she really hates them, but when it's in the teens, I insist she wear them. She might not find them laughable, but I can't help but laugh when I see her prancing down the sidewalk or wading into the snow as she tries to lose them in the deep snow. The boots bring smiles to our neighbors, too, as we often have people roll down their windows to comment on her boots.


We both slip and slide around, so I chuckle when I think of how we must look like baby Bambi trying to walk on ice in the Disney movie. I look like a walking marshmallow in all of the layers I pile on and waddle through the house looking fore more layers I can add on. 

Barley does not think it's a laughing matter that I've found this mask. She does not want to be seen with me.

Good Exercise
Probably the most wonderful reason to walk your dog in the winter is the workout you both get. Every year, I forget how difficult it is to walk through the snow. Then the snow comes and we go for a walk and the next day I wake up feeling like I've done an intense leg day at the gym. Our friends over at SlimDoggy regularly talk about adding intensity to your workouts and walking in snow is a cheap and easy way to do that. A short walk through deep snow can get my heart pumping just as much as going on a long hike with lots of changes in elevation. My apartment is old and cold, so when I get dressed in the mornings, I usually pull on leggings before I even get my contacts in, so I rarely look at my legs in the winter, but when spring rolls around and I put on a dress or shorts for the first time that year, I'm always amazed by how powerful my legs look after months of winter walking. Even though Barley doesn't care about how her legs look in a dress, she gets just as much benefit out of walking through the snow. She has to use her muscles differently to bound through the snow than she does to just stroll casually beside me. A lot of times, her movements in the snow remind me of a dolphin jumping through the waves, so I know she's building muscles and burning calories, too. Even when she is just walking, she's still dealing with the extra resistance from the snow. If there's not snow, we still get a good work out from walking in the cold because I try to pick up the pace as much as possible to stay warm--we often shave time off our average time for a mile when we're walking in the cold without snow.



Since it's often too cold to stay out for as long as we do the rest of the year, winter walking can be a great way to get a good work out in less time. Although Barley's been walking an average of 3 miles a day for the last 9 months, the other day a 1.75-mile walk through the snow wore her out for the rest of the afternoon.

Please just let me snuggle with this sweatshirt now.

It can be hard to find motivation to layer up and head out for a walk on a chilly day, but I've found that if I look a little harder there are many reasons to get out and enjoy winter with your dog. If everybody's layered up properly, it can be a fun experience for everyone involved.

What are your favorite things about walking in winter?

Be sure to share with anyone struggling to find the fun in winter!

Happy FitDog Friday everyone! We hope you're staying warm wherever you are!


28 comments:

  1. Snow is good time to go out ,but we get so much rain where we are and having a pet bunny who loves to go out for adventures but hates getting wet it makes it impossible to get out with him,how ever we a head a beautiful sunny day yesterday it was cold but Speedy had his sweater on and we wrapped up and headed to the beach to get away from the muddy places at home,xx Rachel

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    1. Barley is a pup who loves adventure but hates getting wet, so I totally get that. We never get out when it's raining, either. I never would have thought of taking a bunny to the beach--I love learning more about bunnies from you!

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  2. Winter walking is wonderful! Walking when it is snowing out is so very peaceful too. Aside from the fun of the snow, we love that most people are not out, so we have the world just for us! Enjoy!

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    1. It is peaceful! Until the plows come out :) But even then, that's another good, noisy distraction to work with. Hope you're getting some snow to enjoy, too!

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  3. Great benefits of winter workouts - love your comment about waling in snow - you are so right that it is tougher - just like running in sand adds an extra measure of intensity!

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    1. It usually don't seem that tough the first time we go out and then I wake up the next morning and my muscles remind me just how tough it actually was :)

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  4. Winter is a nice season for exercise. It isn't too hot, and you can put some more clothes on for going out and about.

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    1. Fal is still my favorite season, but I think Barley would definitely pick winter.

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  5. Love your pictures! We haven't had enough snow to walk in for a few years now, but I love it. And it's totally true about fewer distractions for reactive dogs. The only trouble is sometimes the few people who are out can set the doggies off by wearing big hoods, or scary red masks!! ;)

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    1. Haha! Luckily, Barley pays no attention to the few people who are out and bundled up like crazy people, unless, of course, she's expected to be seen in public with them ;)

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  6. I used to love walking and running in the snow when I lived in Michigan many years ago. It was lovely when the snow was fresh and clean! Now in Atlanta, we like the cold weather as a respite from the summer heat! Rocco loves to run around in the cold!

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    1. I love walking in a fresh snow, too. I'm glad you're getting a break from the heat--when we were in Alabama over the holidays, we had a week when it was still in the high 70s! We were both happy to get back to our snow and more seasonable temperatures :)

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  7. My favorite reason is probably the lack of distractions. Often we're the only ones out!

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    1. Us, too! We very rarely see any signs of life when we're out--even in our neighborhood!

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  8. Great posts - and my favorite is exploration! It's so much fun to just explore new things without the huge groups that warm weather can bring!

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    1. Exploring in the winter is extra fun! You never know what you'll find under a pile of fallen leaves or under the snow :)

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  9. I love, love, love walking and playing in the snow! I could do play in the snow all day! :)

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    1. Barley would like to play in the snow all day, too! I still have enough southerner in me that I need to take breaks for hot chocolate every now and then :)

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  10. We don't get a lot of snow here in NC, but when we do, I enjoy walking through it with the pups! I have very fond childhood memories of lots of fun in the snow, and I would actually love to try out snow joring or cross country skiing with the pups.

    I loved all your snow pictures of Miss Barley - especially the ones on the playground. How fun & chapeau to both of you for continuing your exercise routine throughout winter.

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    1. I'm not sure if I would survive snow joring with Barley--she can really bound through the snow! But I'm thinking I might ask Santa for some snow shoes next Christmas because that would open up even more possibilities for winter exploration :)

      It wouldn't take much convincing to get me to abandon my exercise routine in the winter--I am a huge fan of hibernation. Barley would never stand for that, though, so she's a good personal trainer!

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  11. You are so right about all of this! There is nothing like walking through the woods right after a fresh snow when all of the trees are still covered with it. I haven't done that yet this year since we haven't gotten much snow yet, but I hope I get to soon. It's tougher to get motivated to get out there when it's so cold...and I'm sometimes sighing as I tell the dogs to be patient as I put on all of my layers...but once I am out there I never regret it!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. Walks in fresh snow are the very best. I never get tired of seeing the trees covered in snow (although I could do without the gusts of wind that seem to come along as soon as I get close enough for the snow to blow off the branches into my face!). Barley has trouble with patience when I layer up, too--especially in her boots! She'll pace like a caged tiger trying to kick them off while I try to put on the last few layers before we head out.

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  12. As always I love the pictures! I'm hoping we don't get as cold of a winter this year :)

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    1. I think you're in for one at least this weekend.

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  13. All excellent reasons. The only thing I hate about winter walking is the ice. I do not do well on ice and that can keep me home in winter.

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    1. I don't do well with ice, either. Luckily, if there's enough snow and I can motivate myself to trudge through it, we don't have to worry about slipping and sliding because nobody here shovels sidewalks, so even if there's a little layer of ice on top, you just sink down instead of sliding. The only ice I have to worry about is in our parking lot and on the streets if we decide we don't want to get the really intense workout that comes with walking in deep snow.

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  14. I love all your great ideas to be motivated and your pictures are just gorgeous. We live in Southwest Ohio and I sure wish we got as much snow down here as you get there. The snow makes winter walks more fun!

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    1. Thank you! It is crazy how different the weather can be in different parts of the state. There are times I like having lots of snow, but when we don't get any break and it piles up on the sidewalks and sides of the road, it can make walks more challenging than fun :)

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