Wednesday, January 14, 2015

City Dog: On Attempting to Maintain Dog Training in the Winter

Since there can be so many unexpected things we encounter on our city walks (Three-legged rats! Gyros in snowbanks! Drunk people trying to put sombreros on our pups!) we like to treat all of our walks like training walks so our pups are ready for the unexpected.
Over the years the pups have become accustomed to the routine. Practicing waves. Knowing to sit at every corner. And always checking in with us for directions.
Though as we've been spending our winter climbing snowbanks and navigating icy sidewalks, training has become an after-thought.
At the same time, we always regret the lapse once we remember how hard spring walking can be.
Here are some ways we're trying to keep up our training:

Focus on the Main Focus
During the warmer weather, when we can actually walk on the sidewalks, we have quite the repertoire of tricks.
They wave.
They wait.
They lay down at the raise of a hand.
Miss M even walks around me in a circle.
We do these to keep the pups' communication and focus. Which is nearly impossible to do when navigating snowdrifts.
So we just work on check-in's. This is our most important training to keep the pups' attention on us, which we can even do among the snowdrifts. We wrote more about it, here. 

Making our Treats Accessible
With the distractions of the snowbanks and narrowing sidewalks, we often need treats to keep the pups' checking in. And there has always been a conflict between keeping hands warm and dispensing treats.
I like using treats that can be broken into smaller bits for treating. Ours are long jerky-type sticks where I can just hold one stick and break it into smaller pieces for treating.
I also like walking with flip-top gloves which can make it easier to hold things.

Gearing Up
The biggest thing is making our pups comfortable in the colder weather so they do have the chance to focus. If it's too cold, Mr. B will try to sprint away (that is until he reaches the end of the leash).
We've learned the art of layering, which we talk more about in this post.
We use dog boots when sidewalks are icy and covered with salt, but we also make sure to practice wearing walking with the boots inside so they will be comfortable once they get outside. We wrote more about it, here. 

Anyone else have tips on keeping up your training when the weather gets rough?

How to exercise your pups when you can't go outside.
And with shorter walks.
Forgetting winter.
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Inchieh said...

Squeezeable treat tubes are great for keeping gloves on while treating too.

Two French Bulldogs said...

You still have to sit! Doesn't your hiney freeze
Lily & Edward

Melanie said...

Any time you mention the gyro hidden in the snow, it cracks me up. Dogs are hilarious.

Rachel @ My Two Pitties said...

Work indoors! I recommend Home Depot, Target & our favorite...salvage stores:)

Unknown said...

Reading this post made me feel a lot better about our puppies not wanting to go out when it's cold. Of course, here in Texas, 45 degrees is freezing... I love your blog and have gotten a lot of useful information to use with our furry kids. We started a blog with them too at

mchaphiv said...

Do you guys have recommendations on human footwear during the winter? I wear my Merrell sneakers (they're so breathable, which is great in the summer, but not the winter) year-round, but have found that my hour long (sometimes longer) walks with the pups leave my toes frosty. I will definitely trust you since Chicago weather is way worse than DC weather any day of the week!

Two Pitties in the City said...

@mchaphiv: E and I both added Uggs fuzzy insoles (you can buy them online) to our boots. If you're walking a lot and you know you're feet are going to sweat we also wear Smartwool socks which keep you warm with the wool and also have the material that wicks away the sweat. I used to wear Merell boots that were kind of like Uggs, but now I'm wearing Sorrels. We also have Crampons that we use in icy weather. Good luck walking through winter, we also wrote this one with more information on stuff we wear on our walks:

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