Whether you and your dog need some exercise, or just a way to chase away boredom, these winter activities will do the trick.

Once the holidays are over and winter settles in for the long haul, it can be easy for you and your dog to get bored or blue. As a dog mom, I try to give my dog Dexter a fun day, no matter what the weather. Here are some fun winter activities to help you and your dog kick the winter blues – some of them will also help you both stay fit into the bargain! Just remember to keep safety in mind, don’t push your dog too hard, and if you’re outside, ensure he’s winter-ready with a warm waterproof coat, and dog boots if needed.

1. Have an indoor snowball fight

What dog doesn’t like to rip up paper? Grab a stack of white tissue paper and wad it up into “snowballs”. Grab one and toss it to one side of your dog as you encourage him to fetch or grab it. After he shows some interest in the first “snowball”, grab a second and toss it to the other side of your dog. Repeat as long as you want. When you’ve both had enough calmly pick up the pieces of paper and throw them away (don’t let him eat it).

2. Go on a dog-friendly shopping trip

Pick up the phone, call some of your favorite local stores, and ask if your dog can accompany you on a shopping outing. Not all will say yes, of course, but you might be surprised by how many do, as long as your dog is friendly and well-behaved.

3. Enroll in a dog training class

A dog can always benefit from a positive training class, and it’s something you can work on during the winter as well as the summer. In fact, training is an on-going skill that should be practiced regularly. By enrolling in a group class, you and your dog will be able to get out and do something together that’s not only fun, but also beneficial to your dog’s behavior.

4. Do some trick training

When you’re engaging your dog and teaching him new tricks and behaviors in a positive way, you are stimulating the pleasure center of his brain. Your dog is learning cool things, but he is also learning that you are fun and rewarding to be around.

5. Bake healthy dog treats

What dog doesn’t enjoy a healthy homemade treat? Baking something from scratch can be very satisfying for you too. By selecting quality ingredients your dog enjoys, you can create a custom, healthy treat just for him.* For winter treats, consider using energetically-warming ingredients such as chicken, cinnamon, sweet potato or quinoa.

6. Build a fire and read to your dog

On those really stormy days, nothing beats a warm fire and a good book. Grab a cozy blanket or your dog’s mat, then select a comfortable spot for the two of you. Choose a lighthearted book that you will enjoy reading aloud. Snuggle up and start reading. Your dog won’t understand the story, but he’ll find the sound of your voice comforting.

Winter doesn’t have to mean feeling blue or bored. By trying these winter activities and spending quality time with your dog on a daily basis, you’re not only increasing your bond and building your relationship. You’re also having fun and giving the both of you some mental and physical stimulation to help you through the colder months.

*Editor’s note: You can find lots of healthy and tasty treats in The Animal Wellness Cookbook for Dogs.

If it snows

Not everyone lives where it snows during the winter, but if you do, here are some ways you and your dog can have fun with it.

  • Make treat snowballs. Grab a large mixing bowl and place it outside to catch fresh snow when it’s falling. Once the bowl is full, take some healthy dog snacks and your fresh snow into a cool area, such as your garage, and make small snowballs with a treat in the center of each. Place the treat-filled snowballs back in the bowl and into your freezer. When your dog looks like he needs a fun activity, take one of the snowballs out of the freezer and give it to him. He’ll enjoy sniffing, pawing or playing with the snowball to get at the treat inside.
  • Build a snowdog. Go outside with your dog and make a snowdog. If you have kids, this is a great family activity. Your dog will enjoy playing outside with you, and you’ll both get some fresh air and exercise. Just keep an eye on your dog and if he starts looking cold or tired, call it quits for the time being and go inside to warm up.
  • Create a snow course. Shovel and pack snow into different shapes and mazes. Shovel a dog path, while packing excess snow into various obstacles for your dog to climb, jump over or go around. Make some of the obstacles higher than your dog, so you can ask him to sit/stay while you run away, hide behind an obstacle, and call him to find you.
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