Like us, pets need plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep them occupied throughout the day. The benefits of exercise for dogs are well documented, although dogs can learn and reinforce bad behaviors if owners are not vigilant or careful.
This can become something of a challenge during the winter months as both you and your dog may be reluctant to venture outside for more than a few minutes at a time. Finding fun winter activities to do together is easy as there are so many amazing options to choose from. Here’s how you can keep your dog happy this winter. The great news is many of these activities are family-friendly. Plus, they are good for your health.
1. Dog sledding
If you live in an area that gets heavy snowfall in winter, invest in a small sled to allow your dog to pull you through the snow. This activity will give you plenty of exercise and it’s a fun way to teach your dog listening skills. It’s a wonderful activity for your kids as well. Like any other activity, dog sledding can be very dangerous so stay extra careful and keep your dog safe.
Skijoring is a popular winter sport that is practiced all over the world. One or more dogs are required to pull a skier along the snow using sled dog harnesses. The skier will also use poles to propel themselves forward. It’s most often practiced with large dog breeds, but even smaller dogs can join in the fun as you provide your own momentum.
Snowshoeing was once an essential means of travel in areas with heavy snowfall, but now it has evolved into a winter activity for determined hikers. Snowshoes are large flat surfaces that attach to the bottom of regular shoes to allow the wearer to walk over heavy snow. Many national parks arrange guided snowshoe tours and are happy to admit pets on a leash. If your dog can’t stand chilly weather, skip this activity and pick #6 or #9 from the list.
4. Snowball fights
While your pets will obviously not enjoy being pelted with snowballs, tossing handfuls of snow gently towards them may encourage them to play outside in cold weather. You could also try burying their favorite toy under the snow for them to find. Playing hide and seek with your dog is a fantastic idea, by the way.
5. Hide and Seek
Dog trainers often encourage owners to play hide and seek with their dogs as it is a simple way to teach the dog to return when called. This game is perfect for long hikes in the forest, but be sure to keep your dog within eyesight to ensure he doesn’t get lost while searching for you.
6. Play dates
If your dog or cat is simply not interested in going outside, arranging for a companion to join him for a while may help to pique his interest. If it’s simply too cold outside, you could even invite a friend over who also has pets and allow your animals to play together to burn off excess energy.
7. Agility training
Snow provides all the material you need to make an obstacle course for your dog to use for agility training. Build some hurdles using mounds of snow for your dog to jump over. You can even make a slalom course to test out your dog’s reflexes. Be sure to bring plenty of treats to get your dog interested in the game.You can jump with your canine friend to get your daily dose of exercise.
Winter isn’t just harsh on humans; it can also leave your pet in need of some extra pampering. Continue bathing your pet at least once every two to three months, and be sure to thoroughly brush its coat to prevent matting. If your pet’s feet tend to get sore and chapped in the cold weather, applying a soothing balm should help.
9. Mental training
Pet stores sell many different types of puzzle games for both dogs and cats that require them to use their brain to dislodge small treats hidden inside. Kongs, treat balls and other interactive games will keep your pets busy for hours, and you will love watching them as they figure out the game.
Teaching your dog to track scents is a sneaky way to exercise his mind and body at the same time. Command your dog to sit and start dropping small treats along a track that leads to his favorite toy. Gradually, increase the length of the track and drop fewer treats as he begins to understand the game.
If you will be taking your pets outside in freezing temperatures, then be sure to wrap them up warm to avoid sickness and hypothermia. Large dog breeds such as Labradors, huskies and German shepherds are generally fine with the cold, but smaller breeds may require a fluffy sweater or waterproof coat in order to be comfortable. What are your dog’s favorite winter activities?