Winter blues are real and not just for humans. Recent studies have shown that dogs can suffer from seasonal affective disorder or seasonal depression during winter. To help you and your pup survive the long, cold and dark winter months, here are 17 winter activities for you and your dog.
But First, Keep Your Dog Safe Outside
Before we dive into outdoor winter activities, it's important to keep your dog safe. Here are necessary considerations to take before heading out with your pup:
- Make sure your dog can handle the cold and snow. Some cold weather breeds were made for winter, others not so much.
- Keep your dog protected from winter elements with jackets, booties and other clothing.
- Don't stay out for long, even if your dog is wearing winter clothing. This is especially the case if the temperature is below freezing. Find out what temperatures are too cold for dogs, here.
- Cut your dogs nails and trim fur around the toes to avoid ice clumping and other damage.
- Bring treats or food to fuel your dog. They will use some energy to keep themselves warm, which means they'll lose energy more quickly than in other weather.
- Also bring water and bowls so your dog doesn't try to eat snow, which can contain chemicals, salt, dirt and more.
- Make sure your dog has up-to-date identification tags and microchipping in case of separation. For extra protection, consider using a GPS tracker.
- Use reflective gear and bright colors since it gets dark more quickly in winter and visibility can be low with snow, windy and rain.
Senior dogs may not be suited for cold weather activities if they have joint issues, arthritis or other health issues.
- Always clean your dog’s paws and any part of their body that came in contact with winter elements to remove any chemicals.
Winter doesn't mean you can't go for walks, it just means you'll need to take some extra precautions. These include properly bundling up your pup in coats and other winter clothes, protecting their paws, keeping walks short and knowing what temperature is too cold. Read our article on water walk safety to find out more!
If you have a larger, athletic dog who loves to run and you like skiing, then skijoring may be for you. Don't know what skijoring is? We didn't either. Skijoring is a mix of cross-country skiing and dog sledding. Basically you clip your skis to your dog's harness and glide along as your dog runs through the snow. Just make sure to have a quick release attachment in case you need to hastily detach from your dog. You can also add challenges for your dog with training commands, like turn and stop. Pro Tip: Pulling breeds (like Huskies, Newfoundlands and Samoyeds) will likely require forced breaks as they won't want to stop even when they're tired.
Cold weather likely isn't enough to stop your dog from playing fetch if they love it. Snow can even add an extra challenge to the game by forcing your dog to search for the ball
. Just make sure not to stay out for too long because of the risk of hypothermia and avoid icy areas to prevent your dog from slipping and injuring themselves. Pro Tip: Use a bright colored ball or one in colors dogs can see (such as yellow or blue) so it's easier for you both to find.
Have a snowball fight
Snowball fights are a classic winter activity for humans, but you can also include your dog in them. Make sure to keep snowballs soft (in other words, don't pack them too hard) and toss them for your dog to chase or try to jump
up and catch. Also, avoid letting your dog eat too much snow.
Practice Nose Work And Scent Tracking
Winter provides a great opportunity to practice nose work (when your dog uses their nose
to locate something). This is because winter conditions - such as snow, wind and rain - can all affect scent flow, making it more challenging. If there's snow on the ground, you can hide treats, balls and other toys. It provides both physical and mental stimulation for dogs because it requires running around as well as problem-solving skills.
One creative idea is to build a snow maze for your dog, which first became popular when owners shared videos to social media of the snow mazes they made for their pups. The maze will provide physical exercise as your dog navigates it, as well as mental stimulation as they problem solve to find their way out. To create your own, use a shovel to form narrow pathways that twist and turn. Pro Tip: Build your snow maze in a fenced area or use a long leash to avoid separating from your dog.
Bake Goodies For Your Dog
Baking and winter are a match made in heaven, so why not make some heavenly homemade treats
for your pup. You can spend some time making the goodies while your pup "helps" by your side. They'll be cutest sous chef there ever was!
Go to an Indoor Dog Park
Snuggle Up In Front Of The TV
Though it help get your dog's energy out, watching TV
with your dog can be the perfect winter activity for those days that are just too cold, wet or windy. Your dog will love the quality time spent together cuddling
on the couch. And if you want to get your dog some mental stimulation, try putting on something they'll be interested in like programs with dogs and other animals, sports or action.
Paint With Your Pup
Did you know that there are pet-safe paints and art sets that allow you and your pup to create some masterpieces? Well, maybe not masterpieces but they will let your dog's inner artist shine through. Just double check that you're using pet-safe paints and always wash their paws thoroughly when done.
Make Them Work For Their Food
Challenging your dog during their feedings is a great way to get them physical and mental stimulation. This is because it provides a mental challenge, requiring your dog to problem solve and that can tire out a dog quickly. You can play brain games
, hide food around the house, or use puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, slow feeders and snuffle mats.
Create An indoor Agility Course
One clever idea is to set up a DIY indoor agility course with household items (or you can buy a small one for inside). Chairs, brooms, hula hoops, blankets and sheets and more can all be used for a makeshift course. Not only will this provide physical exercise, but it will also challenge your dog mentally and strengthen the bond between you two through the training. Pro Tip: Use carpeted areas or rugs to avoid your dog slipping and sliding. Also, make sure all DIY obstacles are stable so they don't incur your pup.
Utilize Stairs, Long Hallways And Spacious Rooms
Take advantage if you have stairs, a long hallway or spacious room in your home. Try tossing toys
or balls up and down to get your dog to chase after them. If that doesn't work, you can use their kibble or treats. That being said, avoid stairs for puppies who are still growing and senior dogs who's joints aren't what they used to be. Pro Tip: Many dogs love bubbles, so look into buying some pet-safe bubbles that your dog can chase around in your home.
Take A Class
When winter weather is too much for outdoor activities, look into local classes to take with your dog. This could be training (such as obedience, agility, etc.), indoor swimming
, dog yoga and more.