Winter Activities for Dogs

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This time of year there tends to be no shortage of snow. There’s actually so much snow in my yard that if Luna wanted to jump my 6-foot fence, she could. 

German Shepherd standing on snow looking over a 6 foot fence.

With so much snow outside, you may wonder what you can do with your dog. Are there activities that you can do to get outside with your dog?

There are many activities that can be done outside in the winter with your dog. The snow and cold just add a little challenge, and joy, to be being outside. 

Of course, if you have a little dog with not much fur, like a chihuahua, you may need to limit your outdoor time. But for many dogs, the cold and snow don’t bother them and some enjoy it more than summer weather.

Outdoor Winter Activities for Dogs

So, what can you do with your dog outside when it’s cold out? There are several ideas below that you can do with your dog in the snow.

Some can be done in your own yard while others have to be done elsewhere. Not all of these will be available in all areas. 

Fetch in the snow

Fetch in the snow is played exactly like fetch in the summer. Just toss a ball (or your dog’s favorite fetch toy) for your dog to fetch. 

If your dog doesn’t catch the ball, the snow provides an added game by making your dog dig for the ball. 

Running through the snow also works to tire your dog out faster than a normal game of fetch.

Snow Toss

Girl throwing a snowball to a German Shepherd.

Snow toss is very similar to fetch, but with snowballs. Many dogs love to eat snow, and this game combines that love with their love of fetch.

Make some snowballs and throw one for your dog. They will either catch it or miss and dig in the snow 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 loves playing this game when she can catch the snowballs. She absolutely loves to eat the snowball when she catches it.

Treasure Hunt

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

If your dog loves to run and jump, they will probably enjoy snow hurdles. This is also a good game to get your children involved with.

All you do is build hurdles, or jumps, out of snow for your dog to jump. Once these are built, teach your dog to jump them. 

This is a great way to burn some of that energy many larger breed dogs seem to have.

Snowshoeing or hiking

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t take your dog for a hike. 

If you enjoy hiking in the summer, try hiking in the winter. 

If there isn’t much snow you can go for a regular hike, otherwise, try snowshoeing for yourself while your dog walks along with you.

Just make sure to choose hikes that are short enough that your dog doesn’t get too cold during it.

Skijoring

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 would try.

Skijoring combines cross country skiing with dogsledding. You can read more about it here.

This is something that those with little dogs will have to skip, but if you have a large dog, it may be something to try. 

Walks

White poodle terrier sitting on the sidewalk next to a pile of snow.

One of the easiest activities to do with your dog in the winter is to just continue going for walks. You may have to shorten your walks, but you can still go on them. 

Walking is a great exercise for both dogs and their humans, so try to continue them regardless of the weather.

Obviously, if the weather is dangerously cold out, limit the length of it. 

We recently had highs below zero Fahrenheit, so our walks were limited to potty breaks. As soon as Luna went potty, it was time to turn around and go in. The same for Morgan.

Though with Morgan that limited the walk to just a couple of steps out the door (she hates the cold).

Play in the snow

Girl and German Shepherd running through the snow.

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 CJ is outside playing too.

Just go outside with your dog and let them run around the yard in the snow.

Isn’t it too cold out for my dog?

German Shepherd laying in the snow.

One thing to remember while spending time outside in the winter with your dog is that they may get cold too.

I’ve heard, but I can’t remember where, that if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog. But I don’t believe this in general.

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. A small dog will get cold faster than a big dog. A dog with a light fur coat will get cold faster than a dog 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 those with little dogs or ones with a light fur coat, there are ways you can keep them warm.

There are many types of dog clothes that you can buy for your dog to keep them warm. You can get booties to keep their feet protected from the salt on the sidewalk and the cold. These are great for any dog, but especially the littler dogs. 

Most dogs don’t like booties at first and will require training to get used to them. We finally gave up on the booties for Morgan since she kept kicking them off before she even made it out the door. 

But if you are wanting to go for a walk with a littler dog, or in an area that salts heavily (most sidewalk salt is bad for dogs), booties will help.

For those dogs with a thin coat of fur, or are just tiny, there are several varieties of dog coats and sweaters

Some dogs will easily wear these, while others will need training to keep them on.

Neither of my dogs have a thin coat of fur, so I haven’t tried sweaters or coats for them. But I know many dogs that wear these, and they do stay warmer than without them.

Final Thoughts

No matter where you live, as long as you take some precautions, and have a healthy dog, there’s no reason to stay indoors during winter.

Try some of these activities with your dog and see if you can find a way to enjoy what winter brings. 

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What’s your favorite way to enjoy some outdoor time with your dog during the winter?

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