What to do when it’s cold outside and snow on the ground? Instead of both you and your dog going stir-crazy through the winter months, stay busy and entertained with a few indoor and outdoor activity ideas that you can do together through the season to cure the boredom.
Skijoring – If you and your dog are athletic and enjoy winter sports, skijoring may be your thing! It’s a combination of cross country skiing and dog-sledding, and even a dog as small as 35 pounds can enjoy this sport with you if she’s in good health.
Hiking – Find a trail and just go! Don’t let cold weather or snow stop you from hitting the trails – bundle up and just go!
Snow shoeing – Got some snow shoes? Take your dog out for a trek through the snow – since she’ll be bounding through the snow, this one probably isn’t a good activity choice for the very small, elderly, or a pooch with any heart or respiratory conditions.
Snowball toss – Play “fetch” with snowballs (not ice!) instead of a tennis ball. Not sure you’ll get it back once she gets it, though.
Sledding – Slide down a nearby hill with your dog on your sled! See if you can train her to bring the sled back up the hill, and then do it again!
Dog park – Take your dog to a “dog park”. The park in my town has two fenced in areas, equipped with ramps, for dogs to play in – if you haven’t already, check out the parks in your neighborhood to find pet-friendly areas.
Take a drive, or go on a road trip – If your dog likes to “load up” in the car, take her for a ride without a destination in mind – a change of scenery does us all good every once in a while! You can also drive to your local pet shops (many of them allow you to bring your dog inside), and let her pick out a new toy.
Winter Safety for Outside Activities
Warmth. If you’re playing outside for any length of time, you may want to invest in a sweater or coat, especially if your dog doesn’t have an undercoat to help retain body heat. If you’re not sure if your dog needs a coat or a sweater, see this article to help you decide.
Hydration. Drinking water is just as important in cold weather as it is in hot weather. And water helps to regulate body temperature – be sure to carry some for your dog to drink if you’re going to be outside and away from a water source! And snacks too!
Collapsible dishes that will fit in your backpack, or can hook to a belt loop are excellent for giving your dog food and water on the go.
Tis the season for hunting! If you’re going to be in the woods, or out after dark, wearing an orange vest will help to ensure safety from hunters. Reflective strips for after-dark outside are a good idea also! Check out this orange dog vest with reflective trim.
Paw protection outside is important for keeping ice and snow from accumulating between foot pads, which could lead to injury. See this article for suggestions on keeping your dog’s feet protected during the winter.
Accidents and injuries happen, so having a canine first-aid kit on hand, whether you’re inside or if you’re over the river and through the woods, is a must during adventures at any time of the year.
Agility training class – Create your own agility training environment in your home, or find an indoor class with a dog trainer near you to provide both mental and physical stimulation.
Focus training – Train your dog (or refresh her with some practice!) to focus on you, no matter what distractions may be around. Or do some hand targeting training and/or practice – a foundation skill for many tricks.
Learn a new trick – For example, see if you can teach your dog the names of her toys, and tell her to go get one by name.
Teach your dog to put her toys away – My dog has a blast pulling each of her toys out of her bin one by one as soon as I put them away. Teach your dog to pick up after herself and put her toys away!
Doga – Yoga with your dog! If it’s good for you, it must be good for her, too!
Pup scouts – Join a pup scouts troop – if there’s not one in your area, you can start one, or join an online troop. Do activities, earn badges, and even let your dog skype with other dogs!
Play date – Invite a friend’s dog over to play, or accept an invitation to bring yours over. Take turns at each other’s house to allow your dogs to play together – an important part of socializing.
Practice basic commands – sit, stay, down – Practice going over the basics, and reward for a job well-done!
Dog massage – From relaxation to pain relief and joint health, learn massage therapy for your dog.
Treat dispensing toys – Just like reading a good book, your dog’s boredom will be gone for a little while with a stuffed KONG or another toy that dispenses treats while she plays with it! For a healthy sweet potato KONG stuffing recipe, see this article on sweet potatoes for dogs.
Some ideas to make your own toys that dispense treats – core an apple and freeze with peanut butter inside (or a sweet potato stuffing!), or drill/cut holes in a tennis ball that are just a bit larger than the treats you want to put in it, then stuff them inside – the treats will fall out as she plays with the ball!
Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and stimulation is vital to her physical and mental health – and dogs that are bored will find something destructive to do. Don’t let the winter cold stop you from enjoying some playtime inside and out this holiday season!