Written by: Sondra Wolfer
You don’t need a special reason to get outside to play with your dog. Still, a thick blanket of snow on the ground is a uniquely joyful excuse to cavort outdoors with your best friend. The sight of a jubilant dog bounding or plowing through fresh powder will instantly put a smile on all but the Grinchiest faces. Read on for tips on snow safety and fun games you can play with your dog in the freshly fallen snow.
Before You Head Out
Assess your dog and the snow’s depth. Is your dog going to disappear beneath the snow the second he crosses the threshold? Your little buddy should wait in the warmth until you shovel a clearing. Short-legged dogs, such as Dachshunds and Corgis, as well as lean, short-haired breeds, such as Greyhounds and French Bulldogs, should be protected from the cold and snow with a dog jacket. Puppies and older dogs with compromised immune systems also require extra protection, and their time outdoors should be kept short. If your healthy dog is a breed with a winter-ready coat, such as a Siberian Husky or German Shepherd, you’re set for some rein(dog) games.
Make a bunch of snowballs (don’t pack them too hard) and lob them across your yard or a field for your dog to chase or catch. If your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy having a snowball in his mouth, you can play a game of fetch with a stick or tennis ball in the snow. Either way, it’s going to be invigorating fun for both of you.
Hide and Seek
Have your dog “sit” and “stay” while you hide a few sticks, dog toys or dog treats around the yard and then have him find them. If you have someone with you, ask them to hold your dog out of sight while you hide the items to increase the challenge.
If the snow is deep enough, shovel a giant maze around your yard and driveway. Go for a huge spiral or an intricate labyrinth with dead ends and wrong turns. You can even place a treat at the center of the maze.
Snow Obstacle Course
Pet agility courses are great for dog training and mental stimulation. Build raised snow pathways, size-appropriate snow walls, and snow mounds for your dog to climb. If you don’t feel like building a course in your yard, the world turns into a snow obstacle course after a heavy snow, with huge natural drifts and snow-plow mountains to explore.
Build a Snowdog
Okay, this one’s mostly for you. Why shouldn’t your snowman have a best friend just like you? But while you work diligently building Frosty the Canine, make sure you toss your dog snowballs to run after so he can fully enjoy the winter fun with you.
After a fresh snow is a magical time to be in the backcountry. With the right gear for you and your dog, you can safely hit the easy trails. Unless you and your dog are seasoned snow hikers or snowshoers, keep to well-worn, busy trails and keep your hike short. Whenever you hike with your dog, let people know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
- Check your dog’s paws regularly. Snow can ball up and compact into ice between his paw pads, causing discomfort and possibly even injury. Salt used to melt snow can also cause irritation. Bring a small towel and wipe his feet occasionally.
- Playing in the snow is vigorous exercise. Bring a container of fresh water to keep your dog hydrated. If your dog likes to eat snow, remember he’s not really getting much water out of it and the habit should be kept to a bare minimum because it can cause stomach upset. Also, don’t allow snow chomping near roads or driveways, as anti-freeze and salt are dangerous for your dog to eat.
- Despite their furry coats, dogs can get frostbite. If temperatures are frigid, or your dog has short hair or short legs, keep excursions in the snow brief.
- Finally, when you get back to the homestead, wipe your dog’s paws completely clean of ice and salt with warm water, wipe him clear of snow, and dry him off with an absorbent towel.
After your dog’s post-snow once over, warm up the hot cocoa and enjoy one of the best moments of any snow day with your best pal — a well-earned, warm snuggle on the couch.
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