Editor’s note: Have you seen the Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our April-May issue. Subscribe to Dogster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.
It’s tempting to stay indoors and snuggle up near the fireplace when the weather is cold and snowy, but your dog will be missing the exercise and fun he usually has when the weather is balmier. So why not try these six cold weather games to keep your dog active and having fun? Remember to play safely in the snow, taking care to remove all snow or ice from your dog’s footpads and to keep him away from sidewalk salt that can burn his feet.
1. Hide and treat
Take your dog’s favorite treat or pieces of smelly cheese, and hide them beneath the snow so he has to search and dig for them. But don’t forget where you buried them! (Make yourself a map, so you don’t leave any treats behind to spoil when the snow thaws.)
2. Snowball toss
If your dog loves to chase balls and other toys, he might love this variation of fetch. Loosely pack a pile of snowballs, making sure there aren’t any pebbles in the mix. Place your dog’s favorite treat or a piece of cheese inside the middle of each snowball for even more motivation to run after them. Remember, this isn’t a snowball fight, so don’t pelt your dog with them!
3. Snow-gility course
If you have a large, fenced backyard, create a makeshift agility course for your dog, and use treats to teach him how to navigate it. Build snow humps for jumps, short tunnels (if you have enough accumulation) and small snowmen lined in a row as weave poles. You can even stick Hula-Hoops into the snow for your dog to jump through. Even if your dog doesn’t understand what he’s supposed to do, you’ll have a great time building the course, and your dog will love that you’re spending time with him.
4. Snow maze
Do you have a lot of snow accumulation in your yard? Shovel a maze into the snow, and place treats along the way. Include dead ends to make it more interesting.
5. Sliding fun
If you’re a fan of YouTube, do a search for “dogs sliding in snow,” and you’ll find dozens of hilarious dogs having a blast sliding down snowy hills. If you have an incline where you can safely play with your dog off leash, show him how to slide — many dogs will catch on very fast. If you have a toboggan or sled, you can enjoy the ride with your dog as well.
If you have a larger, athletic dog, and you like to cross country ski, try the Norwegian sport of skijoring. The dog wears a sled dog harness connected by a length of rope attached to a harness worn by a person. A dog who loves to run can assist you by pulling you through the snow. This sport is done over short and long distances and is great exercise for both dog and human.