Mental stimulation and physical activity should be part of your pup’s daily routine—rain, shine or snow! Dog fun is essential even during the coldest winter months so that your pup can get his fix of exercise, fresh air and quality bonding time with his owner. Dr. Sarah Wooten, the consulting vet for Big Barker dog beds, explains that “Keeping your dog active in the winter can keep away unhealthy weight gain, maintain flexibility, burn off excess energy, boost his mood and reduce anxiety related to inactivity.” Keep your furry friend happy and healthy this season with a variety of winter games for dogs to play that are guaranteed to spice up your dog’s snow day and keep his tail wagging with excitement.
Snow Games for Dogs to Play
Though the days may be shorter and the temperatures colder, winter is the most magical time of the year when many of us get to experience and enjoy the snow. For many pet parents living up North, winter time is the perfect season to bring pets outdoors and share with them the excitement of snow games and winter fun. Regardless of whether your dog is a winter rookie or snow expert, here is a list of a few fun games for dogs to play that are guaranteed to be fun for you and your pup this winter season.
- Skijoring and Sliding. If you and your dog are up for the challenge, Kayla Fratt, dog trainer and college ski coach, suggests trying skijoring as a fun game for dogs to play. “This sport is a combination of cross-country skiing and dog sledding where your dog is attached to you at the waist. My Border Collie isn’t a great puller, but he loves to run next to me while I ski!” The Ultra Paws One Harness is an adjustable, padded harness that’s made especially for safe pulling and skijoring.Some pups may even be up for riding the sled themselves. Just like us, dogs are intrigued by sliding actions and would be overjoyed to join you and your friends out on the slopes. With patience, you can teach your pup to balance on a moving sled, so that eventually he conquers bigger and faster slopes or maybe even attempts to snowboard!
- Snow Maze. It’s no secret that dogs love to explore, so letting them roam free and sniff around in the snow is the perfect way to change up their usual outdoor routine and let them experience the full joy of a snow day. A fun way to entertain your fur baby, this winter dog game is easy to set up and requires little to no equipment! Simply shovel or trample a path for your pup and make the exploring extra enticing by hiding treats throughout the maze.
- Obstacle Course. If you’re looking to upgrade your dog snow maze to something more challenging, consider an obstacle course as the perfect winter activity for your furry friend. A snow obstacle course is a stimulating game your dog can play, as it requires him to be more agile when he deals with snow pathways, arches, tunnels and barricades. As you challenge your pup, be sure to monitor him throughout the obstacle course to make sure he stays safe and doesn’t get stuck in the snow.
- Hide-and-Seek. What better place to play hide-and-seek than in the snow? Kayla Fratt says one of her personal favorites is using the snow as a sandbox for her pup: “I’ll hide warm, stinky treats (like meatballs or boiled chicken) under the snow. My dog then gets to root around for the treats. It’s great fun. You can do the same with anything your pup enjoys, like dog toys or bully sticks. Anyone and any dog can enjoy this easy game!”
- Snow Catch. Put a winter twist on this classic dog game and bring your pup outside for a fun game of snow catch. You can use a glow-in-the-dark Chuckit! with a matching glow-in-the-dark ball to make sure you never misplace your ball, thus ensuring hours of fun. Or, instead of tossing the usual tennis ball, try gently tossing a few snowballs to your furry fellow if he loves crunching on ice. Be cautious of how you pack your snowball—avoid salt, dirt or other debris, and make sure the snowball is not so dense that it could hurt your dog’s jaw or teeth.
Safety Tips for Outdoor Fun
The opportunities for winter fun and games your dog can play are plenty, but safety should always be the priority for any pet parent spending time outdoors with their pup. Before you head out on your outdoor adventures, make sure your pup is dressed for the occasion. Snow can be full of salt and dangerous chemicals. Salt can dry and crack dogs’ paw pads, so be sure to put on some dog booties or rub your pup’s paws with protection wax before stepping out into the winter wonderland.
Pay attention to any signs of discomfort your dog may be showing and adjust outdoor playtime depending on weather conditions. Dr. Wooten suggests to “play games inside if the weather outside is frightful.” If you plan on spending longer periods of time outside, then consider getting your dog a cozy puffer coat, reflective, fleece-lined coat or a dog sweater to help them stay warm.
Make sure the outdoor area your pup plays in is safe—stay away from frozen ponds or wire fences that could be hidden by snowfall and pose serious dangers to your dog. “The first sign of hypothermia in dogs is shivering, so if you see that, it’s time to take your dog inside somewhere warm,” warns Dr. Wooten. While heatstroke is unlikely to occur in the winter, dehydration can still be a problem, even in the coldest of conditions. Make sure to give plenty of water to your pup, especially if he’s running around more than usual.
When playtime is over, be sure to check your dog’s paws for any snow that might have crept inside the booties or past the wax. Rinse the paws to remove any salt or chemicals from the snow, then immediately dry them off to help them warm up.
Keeping these simple safety tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy quality time with your pup with these games dogs can play on the next snow day!