Beyond Snowballs: Winter Games For You and Your Dog


Sparkles, a cockapoo, slides on his butt. To make sure your dog has the maximum amount of fun this winter, just watch her, and see what she likes to do. Most labs are perfectly happy just rolling in snow.

Sports and Such

You can't take your dog to most ski resorts, but there are quite a few people winter sports that your pooch will love. Cross-country skiing and snow shoeing are two such activities, provided you do them in an area where dogs are permitted off leash. It's very awkward for you, and unsafe for your dog, to ski while leashed to your dog. Snow shoeing on leash is a little bit easier, but much more fun for both of you if you're both unencumbered.

Keep in mind that if your dog's a novice to the sports, you'll need to spend some time familiarizing him with the equipment. A human being on cross country skis looks like a very strange creature to most dogs – and those two sticks he keeps on swinging about, they're just asking to be chewed.

Indoor Pursuits

There will be days when neither of you want to venture outside – especially if your pooch is shorthaired and short-legged. Before you curl up by the fireplace or in front of the television, consider playing an indoor game with your dog. While you can't throw snowballs or build snow forts or labyrinths in your living room, you can construct an obstacle course, you can play hide and seek (this time, it's safe for the dog to be the hider), and you can play many of your dog's other favorite games, including fetch, catch and tug of war. If you have hardwood floors, you can even slide.

Two things to keep in mind as you romp around the house. First, be considerate of your neighbors, especially if you live on top of someone. Second, remember that whatever behavior you permit as part of a game has now been allowed in the house. In other words, if you don't want Nellie to slide on the parquet or crawl under chairs whenever she feels like, you probably shouldn't teach her to do so during a game.

Safety First

Indoors or outdoors, when you play, remember to keep yourself and your canine companion safe. While you don't have to worry about heat stroke in the winter months, dehydration can be a problem even in the coldest conditions. If you're out for a long period of time, make sure you make time for a drink break (I prefer not to let my dog eat snow, and carry tepid water in a thermos). And remember that having fur doesn't mean you don't feel cold. Dress up your pooch in really cold weather, and don't be out too long when the weather is particularly harsh.

Take care of your dog's feet, too. During walks, check paws for icicles and balls or hard snow. They make walking very difficult. If you live in a city where roads and sidewalks are salted, you may want to consider getting some dog booties or rubbing your dog's paws with petroleum jelly before going out, and washing the salt off when you get home. Salt can dry and crack paw pads.

With a little imagination and effort on your part, winter can be as much fun as summer for your dog and you. Who knows – it might even become Fido's favorite season.


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