Looking after our dogs over the Winter Months

As we are heading towards the end of October and are starting to see more autumnal days we may find that we are having less chances to do activities with our dogs, fewer places can be hiked for as long as we might like due to the darker mornings and evenings, and as we approach more winter weather often our dogs are happy to snuggle in their beds a little more during the day instead of mooching around the house and garden.

I do love an autumn day dog walk with the colours of the leaves on the trees and the ground (watch out for those hidden dog presents under the leaves – how many leaves have you picked up in a poo bag thinking it was your dog’s poop!!) and a crisp sunny winter’s day is just an amazing way to spend time with our dogs. However over the colder, darker months as a general rule we have less dog activities and sports to attend, some dog training reduces due to the weather or the lighting, and our walks can become boggy and difficult to manage so it stands to reason that many dogs have a reduction in their daily and weekly exercise. Then we get to mid Spring-time and more opportunities to do activities with our dogs but they might not be ready for long hikes or several days of competition straight away – not because they have put on weight but just that the muscle has rested a little over winter and needs a bit of preparation to help support the body for increased activity again.

There is a way that we can keep our dog’s fitness levels steady over the colder months which can be done inside or outside, can take a few minutes or be a longer session, and dogs find a lot of fun to work on! Canine Conditioning and Fitness Training! Following Canine Obesity Awareness Week earlier this month I have heard from a few people who have managed to help their dogs loose weight recently but are worried about them putting it back on over winter, or who want to maintain their dog’s current weight and are not sure what to do in terms of physical exercise. This has led me to write this update as sharing information will help more dogs then keeping it to myself!!

Canine Conditioning and Fitness Training is something I am passionate about and do use with my own dogs, and with my last two dogs too. It can really deepen the bond between owner and dog as you are providing guidance, praise, fun and it’s quality time together. I started Cassie with her conditioning and strengthening when she was about 14 years old as this is when I started looking into this area of training more as part of my continued training for my Kennel Club Accreditation and was so pleased that in just a few weeks her posture had improved, her back legs weren’t under her body so much and she was able to jump back in the back door again!! She loved doing her exercises so much and I loved doing them with her! She was still going on walks with Taylor and Merlin right up until past her 16th birthday – then with the help of her dog buggy she would potter and spend a lot of time sniffing!! But wow, just spending a little time each day with Cassie gave her so much independence back, helped her stand better and have less discomfort as she aged.

But conditioning work isn’t just for older dogs. Of course, if I’m doing something with one of my dogs I’ll be doing it with the others too! So Taylor and Merlin got to join in as well. They too loved the exercises, especially anything involving the fitness equipment, like the balance disks, rocker board and yoga peanuts! For the boys I was working on maintaining their overall body strength so we had a wide combination of exercises each time we had a session. When Taylor was diagnosed with Cancer shortly after his 13th birthday options were slim. Hemangiosarcoma is known as a bleeding cancer and has very low success rates with chemotherapy and it spreads very fast throughout the body. However because he was a perfect weight and of very good overall health he had a better chance then if he has been overweight. We did try two rounds of chemo but he had more bad days through side effects then good days so decided not to put him through it and we took an holistic route. However one major side effect with chemo can be muscle wastage and this can cause dogs to have reduced mobility very quickly which reduces quality of life and can contribute to how dog’s respond to illness if they don’t have the will to fight. However Taylor had fantastic muscle and body strength so didn’t loose much and I was able to gently bring him back to full strength within a couple of weeks so he could continue his beach runs, woodland investigations and doing things he loved – he even did his last Heelwork to Music competition 1 month after having a huge tumour removed and was too fast for the slow paced music I’d chosen for him! He had the choice to take part or just go into the ring and have a cuddle but he worked, was happy and came 3rd (out of over 15 dogs!!).

I continue working on Conditioning with Merlin and Ripley. Merlin has recently started some acupuncture just as a precaution and maintenance as he is nearly 10 years old and there will naturally be wear and tear on a 10 year old’s dog’s body! The therapist checked him over, commented on how strong his rear legs are and showing no sign of the locating patella has was diagnosed with in both knees age 1, that he had a little tightness in his front end (dog’s out 60% weight on the front, 40% on the rear typically) but where she expected tension to be there was none – his whole back was strong and showing no discomfort or pain! Unusual for a dog of his age! That’s doing conditioning a few times a week all his life! Ripley also takes part – she used to lay on a balance disc to play with her toys as a puppy and has a beautiful natural stance now and even Echo the Duck used to stand herself on a paw pod as a ducking and has amazing balance and strength when walking on narrow surfaces whereas I see our other ducks wobbling a little!

So why am I telling you about my own dogs (and duck!)? We have a lot of Canine Fitness Training coming up over the coming months and wanted to ensure anyone who may be interested in helping their dogs with their physical education as well as their mental education doesn’t miss out!

Today we have our Monthly Canine Fitness Class running 2pm-3.30pm and we have these once a month so people can attend with their dogs to learn how to get started or progress what they started previously. We will be working each month on warming up, main exercises and cooling down and adjusting exercises for each dog’s needs and abilities. Using both fitness equipment as well as household items that can be used instead safely and effectively so that exercises can be continued at home. We will look at how to obtain your dog’s baseline; current measurements, basic stance and gait, weight etc and how to use this to assess progression as well as identifying any changes or issues in the future.

We have a lot of online and in-person fitness and strengthening sessions throughout November as part of Senior Dogs month and Senior Pet’s Adoption month and these would be suitable for dogs of all ages including younger dogs with mobility issues or Arthritis (dogs of any ages can be diagnosed with arthritis!). You can even sign up to our Senior Dog Month updates! Some of these sessions will be delivered as free live sessions and mini online classes to access in your own time.

Senior Dog’s Month Info is right here for you:


We have a few online Canine Fitness courses as well including our popular Trim in Ten Masterclass which provides a number of complete workouts to maintain body condition over the winter months in just 10 minutes and minimal equipment so you don’t spend more time setting up then training! Keeping the body moving is a major factor in dog health and fitness, without even needing to add strengthening work to the mix as the movements themselves help prevent Arthritis taking over for much longer, helps with confidence and body awareness too.

If you would like any information about our Canine Fitness and Conditioning work do let us know! We also have 1-2-1 sessions which can be in person or online, although we do need to see a dog in person before commencing to check them over. I have a couple of dogs I work with regularly via zoom and see every few weeks just to check over.

Enjoy your weekends and your dogs!

Joe and Team