Winter Activities to Share With Your Dog
by Joan Harris | Nov 01, 2010
When the weather outside gets cold and the snow begins to fall, getting outdoors with your dog can be a lot of fun. Even though many Chicago residents avoid outdoor activities in the winter, most of our canine companions find the snow and cold weather down right exhilarating. When you start to feel that the shortened hours and colder temperatures are bringing on the winter blues, bundle up and follow your dog’s lead to the great outdoors. Here is a list of things that will make getting off the couch worthwhile.
Take a walk (or run)
Chicago’s lakefront is gorgeous in the winter. The ice forms beautiful patterns on the lake and the crowds are gone. Sometimes it is so beautiful and still, you feel like you’ve traveled out of the city. Walking along the lake in the winter is one of my favorite memories of time shared with my dog.
Go to a dog park
Although they are less crowded, they are still open. Dress warm, bring a cup of hot chocolate, and enjoy watching your dog running with his friends in the snow.
Play in the snow
My dog goes crazy catching snowballs! He could do this for hours at a time. Throw them in the air and watch your dog jump up and smash them.
Winter dog sports
For those of you who are looking for real winter adventure, skijoring may be the ticket. Literally meaning “ski-driving” in Norwegian, skijoring is a sport combining cross-country skiing and dog mushing. Skijoring requires cross-country ski gear, a skijoring belt, a harness for your dog and a towline-line to connect you to your dog. Any dog that loves to run (and weighs more than 30 pounds with enough height to negotiate running in the snow) can participate. This exhilarating sport allows you to exercise with your dog while enjoying the beauty of the winter landscape. For more information go to skijornow.com.
Remember to prepare your dog properly for outdoor activities. Snow between your dog’s foot pads can cause frostbite and lameness, and ice can cut his feet. Salt on the sidewalks and streets can burn and crack his pads and cause him to pull up his feet and limp. Trim the excess hair from the footpads and toes or buy booties for the best foot protection. If your dog has a very short coat and doesn’t do well in the cold temperatures, a variety of coats and sweaters are available on the market.
Now, if you’re still not sold on being outside during the winter months, here are a few suggestions to burn off some energy and eliminate boredom while staying indoors.
Sign up for an obedience class.
As a trainer, I find that obedience classes are very popular during the winter months. Besides teaching manners and preparing your dog for being outdoors in the summer, obedience training provides mental stimulation.
Agility class is not only great exercise, it’s a fun way to make use of your obedience commands and develop off-leash skills. Agility is an obstacle course for dogs, with jumps, tunnels, climbing frames, teeter-totters and weave poles.
Playing with other dogs all day keeps our canine companions social all winter long. Most daycare places in the city have large indoor spaces where dogs can play safely, under supervision, while their owners are at work all day. After a long work day, it’s nice to come home knowing your dog had a full, active day, too. Many places also offer pick-up and drop-off service at a very reasonable rate.
Indoor games can also provide both fun and bonding time for you and your pet. Try playing hide and seek games with your dog’s favorite toy or treat. Start by putting your dog out of sight while you hide the object. Prompt him by saying “find it” in an excited tone and coach him to begin searching. Start with easy finds and quick rewards. After he gains some confidence, use tougher hiding places. You will probably start to see him use his nose to start sniffing out the object. If you have someone to assist you, try hiding yourself and see how long it takes for your dog to find you. If you have enough space, retrieve games can also be fun. Roll your dog’s favorite ball across the room and teach him that by bringing it back you’ll roll a second ball.
Teach your dog a new trick
Let’s face it, tricks are an enjoyable and fun part of training. It has always been a gratifying experience for humans to communicate with dogs and what better way than by teaching them a new trick. My favorite book is How To Teach A New Dog Old Tricks by Dr. Ian Dunbar. In this book, Dr. Dunbar covers some of our favorite tricks including, rollover, bang, beg, back-up, give us a hug and bow. Teaching these simple tricks can offer you hours of entertainment and laughs.
Whatever winter activity you choose, remember that our dogs get bored if they are kept indoors all winter without proper stimulation. Whether you choose an active outdoor sport like skijoring, a casual stroll along the lakefront, or a stimulating indoor activity, winter can be a wonderful time of year for both you and your dog.