Oh, the joys of winter! While many of us would love to curl up beside the fire during the cold, your furry friend is as active as ever. What to do when it’s snowy and Spot is becoming psychotic? Here are some fun indoor and outdoor winter activities to try with your dog.
The Great Outdoors
If you like to stay active during the winter months (like we do, but hey, we have snow dogs!) here are some fun, invigorating activites to try with your pooch.
Snowshoeing – If you’ve never tried snow shoeing I highly recommend it. Akin to walking but on top of snow, this is a great way to burn calories and stay active during the cold for you and your furry friend. If you enjoy serene walks with your dog, you will most certainly enjoy snowshoeing. Inexpensive to purchase equipment, and you can go anywhere there is snow! Have your dog run loose, or try hooking them up in harness for some “help”. To do this you will need an x-back harness, skijorring line (or stretchy leash) and a skijorring belt or lead that wraps around your waist.
Skijoring – This is my favorite winter activity! Skijoring is a little more involved that snow shoeing but is so much fun. It involves you on cross country skis, and your dog in harness, pulling. Any dog can do this however some will pull more than others. The aim in skijoring is not for the dog to haul you around but for the two of you to work as a team. It does require some training (directional commands gee/haw, stop etc.) but is well worth the time. I am so into it I even race two of my dogs during the winter. You may not take it that far, but it’s certainly worth a shot if you have a sense of adventure. You will need cross country skis and boots (I recommend skate or combo boots for higher stability), a skijoring belt and line and x-back harness. Unlike snowshoeing, you will need to go on some sort of trail. Depending on the type of skis you have it may or may not need to be groomed.
Backyard Snow-gility – This one is a bit far fetched, but I do know a few people who have done this when snow is on the ground. If you’re into agility training, or just want to have some fun, you could try building a small course of jumps in the snow in your backyard! This way your pooch gets some extra excercise going out even to the bathroom.
The Great Indoors
Ah ok so some of you may not be as into winter adventures as I am, but your dog still needs some activity! Here are some fun ways to mentally and physically tucker out Tucker without ever leaving the house!
Train Tricks – I absolutely love training tricks. This is such a fun way to bond with your dog, sharpen your training skills, and work your dog’s mind. Good mental excercise can be as tiring and satisfying and a good romp for your doggy. If you need help on how to teach tricks, there’s lots of info available on the web, or I recommend the book 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance. Kyra even offers you the option to earn your dog Certified Trick Dog titles and certificated by working through tricks in the book! Learn more on Kyra’s website. Really I love training tricks because they are fun and the possibilites are endless. What a fun way to show off to your friends too!
Hide and Seek – Hide and seek is a fun way to keep your dog’s body and mind active. You can play with family members, or treats hidden around the house.
Fetch – You can play fetch inside the house in a safe area. For bonus points, stand at the top of the stairs, throw the toy down the stairs and have the dog retrieve. Wears them out much faster!
Obedience Training – Some good old fashioned obedience training can beat the winter blues. Have fun practicing basic commands, or work on behaviour problems (jumping on the counter for example). Working your dog’s brain will also tire them out.
Tug-o-War – Tug of war is always a fun tiring game. I recommend integrating it with obedience. For example, sit – tug – drop it – sit/down – tug etc.
Puzzle Toys – Puzzle toys, such as Egg Babies and Hide-A-Squirrel, are a great way for your dog to use up extra brain power during play. Also gives you a break! These are interactive toys that make your dog think. Egg Babies and Hide a Squirel have smaller squeaky toys inside a larger toy that your dog has to dig out. These toys tend to last a long time too, as the removal of the smaller toys satisfies the dog’s urge to “disembowel” stuffed toys. These are some of our dog’s favorites and have lasted a very, very long time in our house which is saying a lot.