Outdoor Winter Activities for Dogs

A German Shepherd laying in the snow while holding a ball in their mouth.

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It’s no secret that winters in areas that get snow can be long and dreary. The days are shorter, the weather is colder, and it seems like all you want to do is stay inside under a warm blanket.

But what about your furry friend? They’re probably just as bored as you are, stuck inside all day while the snow piles up outside.

There are plenty of fun activities you can do with your dog during the winter months! From playing in the backyard to taking hikes in the woods, there’s something for everyone and every dog.

Just make sure to dress them appropriately for the weather and keep an eye on them to make sure they’re staying safe and healthy.

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Fun winter activities for dogs

German Shepherd looking over a fence standing on snow that is over halfway up the fence.

There are plenty of activities to do with your dog outside during the winter to ensure they get plenty of exercise. 

Some of these fun outdoor activities can be done in your own backyard. Others need to be done elsewhere and may not be available in all areas.

Check out the activities below and pick a few to get your dog some physical activity during the colder months of the year.

Fetch

A German Shepherd playing fetch in the snow with a disc toy.

Many dogs enjoy the fun game of fetch. It can be played any time of the year, winter just has the added bonus of snow on the ground.

Just running after the ball (or your dog’s favorite fetch toy) is more challenging in the snow, giving your dog more of a workout than in the summer.

The snow, if it’s deep enough, also gives the added challenge of making your dog search and dig for the ball if they don’t catch it in the air.

Due to all of the added challenges of playing fetch in the snow, your dog may tire more quickly.

Snow Toss

A German Shepherd standing on hind feet while trying to catch a snowball a child threw at them.

Snow toss is like a combination of a snowball fight and fetch.

To play snow toss, you just need to make a snowball and throw it for your dog. If they catch it, they get to eat the snow, which many dogs love to do.

If they miss it, they will dig in the snow looking for it. After they dig for a little bit, show them the next snowball and they will think you had the ball the whole time.

Luna absolutely loves this game. She prefers it when I throw the snowball at her, just like when having a snowball fight.

Having the ball thrown at her makes it easier for her to catch, which is her favorite part. She loves eating snow, which makes this game one of her favorites.

Treasure Hunt

A golden retriever digging in the snow.

Collect some toys that are safe to get wet and frozen. Then hide them in your yard, or just toss them in the snow.

Once the toys are hidden, have your dog find them. Just make sure to remember what you hid so you know if your dog found them all. 

If they don’t find all the toys, they will have fun finding them as the snow melts in the spring.

Snow Hurdles

Snow hurdles are a great activity for dogs that love to jump over things. The only thing you need is a decent amount of snow in your yard. The wet, heavy snow is the best to use because it sticks together better, but any type will work.

All you have to do is build some hurdles, or jumps, out of snow for your dog to jump. If you have kids, this is a great activity for them to help with.

Once the hurdles are built, you need to teach your dog to jump them. This is easy for dogs that love to jump but can take a little work for some dogs.

Jumping snow hurdles is a great way to get your dog to burn some of their energy during the winter.

Snowshoeing

A woman snowshoeing with her dog following her in the mountains.

Snowshoeing is a great way to explore the woods in the winter. It’s also a great workout for both you and your dog.

To go snowshoeing, you will need a pair of snowshoes and some poles if you want them. You may also want some booties for your dog if the snow is too deep or if the trail is icy.

Once you have all of your gear, you can head out on the trail. Just make sure to start off slow and let your dog get used to walking in the snow before going too far.

There are many different trails that are great for snowshoeing. Some even have special areas just for dogs.

Hiking

A person hiking in the snow with a dog.

Hiking can be done any time of the year, even in the winter. It’s a great way to explore nature and is a great workout for both you and your dog.

All you need to do is find a hiking trail near you and dress in proper gear for the weather.

Just remember, if there is snow or ice on the trail, and even if there isn’t, your dog may tire more quickly than a hike in nicer weather.

Skijoring

A closeup of a dog pulling a person on skis.

If you’re an adventurous type of person you may want to try skijoring. It looks like it could be fun but is not something I, personally, would try.

Skijoring is where your dog pulls you while you are on skis. It is basically a combination of cross-country skiing and dog sledding.

To go skijoring, you will need a pair of skis, poles, and a harness for your dog. You may also want to get some booties for your dog to protect their paws.

Once you have all your gear, you just need to find a trail and get started. If you have never done this before, you may want to find someone that has to make sure you are doing it correctly and to prevent injury.

Skijoring is an activity that is best left for the bigger dogs. So if you have a little dog, try some of the other activities in this post.

Snow maze

If you want an activity that is more challenging for your dog, you can try a snow maze. This is similar to a corn maze but made out of snow.

To make a snow maze, you will need a flat area in your yard and enough snow. You will also need a shovel or snow blower.

Then, start with a simple design and dig out the snow maze. As the winter goes on, and your dog becomes better at the maze, you can start making it more complex.

Once the maze is completed, have one person take your dog to the beginning and have another person at the end of the maze. Once the person at the end is in place, the person at the start should let the dog go and tell them to find the other person.

The person at the end should call the dog and encourage them to come find them. Once the dog finds the end person, reward the dog with praise and a treat.

A snow maze is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog while providing physical exercise too.

Winter camping

Two dogs sitting in an open tent set up in the woods with snow on the ground.

If you and your dog enjoy camping, you may want to try winter camping. Winter camping can be a great way to bond with your dog and enjoy the outdoors.

When winter camping with your dog, there are a few things you will need to take into consideration.

First, you will need to make sure your dog is properly insulated. If they are a breed that was bred for cold temperatures all you need are some booties to protect their paws. For dogs not bred for the cold, get them a jacket as well as booties.

Second, make sure you pack sleeping gear for your dog. They will need a bed, sleeping bag, and blanket just like you.

You will also need to make sure you have enough food and water for both you and your dog. And lastly, you will need to find a campsite that is dog friendly.

Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game. The goal is to find a hidden container, called “geocaches” or “caches.” These are hidden in specific spots that are marked by GPS coordinates.

Geocaching with your dog can be a great way to explore new areas and bond with your furry friend.

Winter photoshoot

If you and your dog enjoy taking pictures, why not do a winter photoshoot? This can be a great way to capture some memories and get some beautiful pictures of your dog in the snow.

To do a winter photoshoot, all you need is your camera and some props. You may want to use things like Christmas lights, trees, or even just the snow itself.

Then, find a spot where there is good lighting and get started. Take some pictures of your dog by themselves and then try to get some pictures of you and your dog together.

Don’t forget to have fun and be creative!

Go for a car ride

Another activity you can do with your dog is to go for a car ride. This is a great way to get out of the house and explore new areas.

When going for a car ride with your dog, make sure you have a few things. First, you will need a harness or seatbelt for your dog. This will keep them safe in case of an accident.

Practice nose work

Nosework is a great activity for dogs of all ages and is a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog.

To do nose work, you will need to hide treats around your yard. Start with easy-to-find places and then make it more difficult as your dog gets better at the game.

Your dog will use their nose to find the treats, and you can encourage them with verbal cues and praise.

Brisk winter walk

A small dog sitting on the sidewalk next to snow that is taller than the dog.

A brisk winter walk is a great way to get some exercise for both you and your dog. Just make sure you are prepared for the cold weather.

Dress in layers and make sure your dog is properly insulated. You may also want to invest in booties to protect their paws from the cold.

Then, head out on your walk and enjoy the scenery while your dog enjoys all the new scents from the fresh snow. Be sure to stick to sidewalks and paths that have been cleared of snow and ice.

Play in the snow

A child and a German Shepherd running in a snow covered yard.

One more easy thing to do with your dog in the winter is to just play in the snow. This is great especially if you have kids.

One of Luna’s favorite things to do outside in the winter is to run around the yard, bounding through the snowdrifts, while my youngest is outside playing too.

Nothing else is needed than just going outside and playing with your dog.

Isn’t it too cold out for my dog?

A German Shepherd laying in the snow.

Most dogs can handle temperatures that are much colder than what humans find comfortable, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get cold.

How cold is too cold depends a lot on your specific dog, both their breed and their temperament.

For a dog like Luna, she can handle much colder temps than I can. She is built for the cold. Her favorite time to be outside is when it’s in the 20s, which is colder than I enjoy being in for very long.

Morgan, on the other hand, hates it once it gets below freezing. She can still tolerate it longer than I can, but she gets cold faster than Luna.

Use your best judgment on how long to keep your dog outside in the cold. Small dogs will get cold faster than big dogs. A dog with a light fur coat will get cold faster than a cold-weather breed with a double-thick fur coat.

And always keep an eye on your dog while they are outside or go outside with them.

If you are still unsure of how long it’s safe for your dog outside, or if they have special health concerns, check with your vet. 

Keep Your Dog Warm

For the little dogs or ones with a light fur coat, there are ways to keep them warm.

There are many types of dog clothes that you can buy to keep them warm, like dog sweaters and dog coats. There are dog booties for their feet. These are great for any dog, but especially the little dogs. 

If you decide to get booties for your dog, it will take some time to get them used to them. Some dogs will struggle more with wearing them than other dogs. Morgan absolutely refuses to wear them.

I can get all four on but as soon as she starts to walk, she is kicking them off. I finally gave up on her wearing them and just limit her walks to bathroom trips.

Thankfully she is quick when it’s cold out.

When the weather is too bad outside

Finally, there will be times when the weather is just too bad to be outside. This could be when it’s dangerously cold out, like during wind chill warnings, or when the winter storms hit. Speaking from experience, you don’t want to be out in a blizzard if you don’t have to be.

No matter the reason, if you don’t want to go outside, there are indoor activities you can do with your dog too.

Check out my other post, 35 Indoor Activities for Dogs, to find some activities to do with your dog when you don’t want to go outside.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few ideas of the fun things you can do with your dog in the winter. Just remember to take precautions to keep them safe and warm.

With a little planning, you and your dog can enjoy the winter months!

Related posts

Tips for protecting your dog’s paws in the winter

35 Indoor Activities for Dogs

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe at Thanksgiving

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Pin image for fun winter activities for dogs with 6 dogs playing in different ways outside in the snow.

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