Now that we’re in the season of chilly temperatures, inches of snow, and icy conditions, it’s important to keep your dog, and yourself, engaged with exciting activities. Whether you decide to bundle up and adventure out or stay in and play, we have plenty of indoor and outdoor winter activities for dogs to share with you!
Outdoor Winter Activities for Dogs
There’s no better cure for cabin fever than getting some fresh air and exercise with your dog! You’ll both enjoy spending time together out of the house, whether or not there’s snow on the ground.
PUT THEIR SNOUT TO THE TEST
Practicing nose work with your dog provides physical and mental stimulation as it challenges your pup to use their sniffer to locate a certain scent. In winter this is especially difficult, yet rewarding, because the wind and snow can impact a scent’s flow, and cold dry air makes smells harder to detect. If using treats as a reward in scent training, we recommend our Crav’n Bac’n Bites as they’re soft, chewy, and only contain 3 calories per treat, so you and your dog can practice nose work all day long!
Most dogs enjoy playing fetch, and there’s no need to put it on hold for winter! If there’s snow on the ground, choose something light like a disc or Nerf dog football so it won’t get lost in a snowbank. There are even discs with LEDs that make things easier in low light conditions. Since your pup will be working harder to run through snow, consider throwing it less far than you otherwise would. And avoid playing fetch around icy areas so your dog doesn’t slip.
GIVE SKIJORING A GO
If your dog enjoys running and you love to ski, then skijoring (which means ‘ski driving’ in Norwegian) could be your new favorite winter activity to do with your dog. All you need is yourself, your dog, and a pair of skis to enjoy this thrill. Once your dog is in the harness, you’ll want to place your dog on a long line in front of you that is connected to their harness so that they can pull you on the skis. It might take some time to get used to, but pulling you is actually something that will come naturally to many dogs. Skijoring can be enjoyed with dogs of all sizes, but keep the pace comfortable for your pup. Also: don’t do skijoring with puppies or young dogs, only with fully-grown, healthy adult dogs.
Play With Your Dog in the Snow
If your dog enjoys being outside in winter, try playing with them in the snow and see what they respond to. You can shovel or stomp out a “racetrack” around your yard where they can chase you (or just run). If your dog loves to dig, encourage them to dig in the snow by showing them a treat and then lightly covering it with snow (you can place the treat a little deeper each time once they have the idea). Some dogs even enjoy sledding down a hill like little kids – but never force your dog to ride a sled if they seem fearful.
Dogs can even make clearing your driveway less of a chore – many dogs love to chase snow thrown from a snowblower or shovel!
Explore New Paths
You may not be able to walk as far or as long as you normally would in winter, so make the most out of your walks by heading somewhere new! Try a park, winter hiking trails, or even just a different neighborhood to give your dog some fresh smells and more stimulation. If trying out a new park or trail, do a quick search to make sure it’s dog friendly before you make the drive.
Go Shopping Together
If it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors (or if cold weather activities just aren’t your thing), consider taking your dog along with you on some errands. You might be surprised by how many dog-friendly stores, restaurants and breweries welcome well-behaved pups! Your dog will love getting out of the house and spending more time with you.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO [OUTSIDE]
- Make sure your dog’s breed and fitness level are appropriate for outdoor activities during the winter. If you aren’t sure, consult with your vet.
- Dress your dog for the weather just like you would yourself. Try a warm jacket and/or some booties for their paws.
- Since you and your dog will be burning off a lot of energy, pack some snacks and hydration for the both of you to refuel. Our Just Jerky Bites are the perfect, protein-packed treat that will keep your dog engaged and energized.
- If you plan on being outside for a long time with your dog, then it doesn’t hurt to bring along some first aid supplies in case of an emergency—towels and a warm blanket in case they get too cold and wet, plus gauze and Vetrap™ in case of cuts from ice.
Keeping these items in mind as you venture out will help to keep the winter activities with your dog fun and exciting! Find even more tips in our article about walking your dog in cold weather.
KEEP THINGS INDOORS
If heading out into the cold weather doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, consider trying some indoor winter activities with your dog.
BAKE WITH YOUR BUDDY
Winter and baking go hand in hand, so why not give it a try with your dog? With some preparation and the right ingredients, you and your pup can bake tasty treats that are safe for them to eat. For some culinary inspiration, check out these easy, homemade dog treat and biscuit recipes to try. Keep your dog safely away from hot stovetops and ovens – that’s where the yummy smells are coming from, and curious sniffing can lead to injury if you’re not watching out.
Play Indoor Games
Depending on the space you have available at home, there are lots of games you can play with your dog to keep them stimulated and burn off energy:
- Tug of war
- Obstacle or agility courses
- Hide and seek
- Indoor fetch
- Fetch and seek
Hide and seek can be played with treats, with one person (if your dog understands ‘stay’ and ‘come’) or two people. Fetch and seek adds even more excitement for you both: you toss a ball, then run to a hiding spot while your dog retrieves it!
BRING OUT YOUR PUP’S CREATIVE SIDE
Get creative with some pup-safe, washable paints! Before you begin, lay down a tarp to protect your floors. Next, place a posterboard, canvas, or piece of paper on the tarp and dip your dog’s paws in the dog-safe paint. Press their painted paws onto the surface, or let them walk across it. You can also use a damp sponge to apply paint to your dog’s paws if it’s getting too messy. Plan on giving your dog time to get comfortable with the new materials in the beginning, and be ready for paw washing (or a full bath) after. .
Dive into Dog Enrichment
Dog enrichment is very important, especially in winter months when isolation boredom can really take hold. Dog enrichment activities like snuffle mats, food puzzles and indoor scent work provide mental stimulation and let dogs engage in instinctive behaviors.
You can also deliberately rotate which toys are available to your dog, so toys seem new and exciting when you bring them out again!
NOTHING BEATS A GOOD MOVIE
If all else fails or you’re really feeling like having a lazy day, then cozy up with your pup and watch your favorite movie. From the Air Bud series to Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Marley & Me, there are a variety of canine classics that you and your dog can enjoy.
Make a Play Date
If your dog has friends not too far away, arrange an indoor visit so they can play together. This can also double as pet sitting if you or your human friend have somewhere to be! Winter indoor playdates are a great way to provide socialization for your dog, which is important for your dog’s well-being.
Teach Your Dog New Tricks
Cold weather can be a great opportunity to teach your dog new skills and boost their confidence. You can even teach your dog to put away their toys, which will come in handy year round. Focus on teaching one new trick at a time, and always use positive reinforcement. There are also plenty online dog training courses to try!
Feeding Your Dog in the Winter
If your dog enjoys a lot of outdoor activity in winter months, they may need more calories. On the other hand, if your dog tends to be much less active in winter, they may benefit from eating a little less. If you feel unsure about managing your dog’s weight and whether they’re eating the right amount, you can always check with your vet.
There are also cold weather foods for dogs that can help “cold” dogs stay warm and energized – including chicken broth and beef broth.
For dogs with dry skin or arthritis that gets worse in cold, dry weather, consider feeding them more omega 3’s and 6’s in their diet. These essential fatty acids are natural anti-inflammatories and can help them feel better. Our Wild-Caught Whitefish, Ancient Grains & Salmon recipe has wild-caught fish as the #1 ingredient and is rich in omega-3 and 6. Stella’s Solutions Immune Support recipe is also rich in omega-3 and other beneficial nutrients.
Explore more dog food recipes with complete and balanced nutrition, or reach out to our team with any questions!
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