Years ago when I was training my Labrador retriever mix, Rio, to be a therapy dog, the instructor said something that struck me as odd. “Doing therapy dog rounds at the hospital is a great thing to do in the winter when you can’t take your dogs for walks outside,” she told the class, smiling at her delicate Papillons.
Some of my classmates chuckled knowingly, but I was confused. Rio is an 85-pound dog who lives for powder days more than I do. He loves to race around in the white stuff when I have snowshoes strapped onto my feet. We hike for miles every single day, come rain, sleet or snow. Not heading outside during winter seemed like a foreign concept.
But this fall, my husband Bryan and I adopted a little senior poodle rescued as a stray. Peach only weighs 9 pounds and apparently poodles essentially have hair instead of fur, so she starts shivering if there’s even a cool breeze. We’ve invested in little fleece jackets, but it’s obvious she’s not going to be hiking in 14 inches of powder (or even three). We’re going to have to get creative this winter if we want to keep her occupied.
In honor of Peach, here are 24 activities to do with your dog when you’re snowed in:
- Bake “pupcakes.” Zuke’s has several homemade dog treat recipes that you can try.
- Snuggle on the couch and watch Snow Dogs — or heat things up with Lady and the Tramp.
- Scatter Zuke’s Tiny Naturals in different rooms and let your dog search for them after you say, “Find it!”
- Play ice hockey. My in-laws recently adopted an active young pup, Conrad, who loves to chase ice around their kitchen. (*NOTE: Only do this if you have space and willingness to wipe up any puddles afterward. Also, be sure to have a camera handy — you’ll want to film the adorable antics.)
- Throw a party for neighbors with dogs. Be sure to send them home with party favors in doggy bags!
- Facetime with Grandma (Peach and Bryan’s mom Lori are big fans of this one).
- Play dress up and put on a fashion show for the dog who doesn’t wear clothes.
- Make an obstacle course and lure your dog through it with treats.
- Bathe, comb or brush your dog. Some dogs love being groomed, it turns out!
- Take photos of your dog licking peanut butter from the roof of his mouth or tip of his nose and share them on Instagram. (Your dog has his own “social petworking” site, right?)
- Play hide and seek — tell the dog to stay while you and your family members hide in different rooms and take turns calling the dog. Then give your dog a treat when she finds you!
- Give your dog a massage or epic belly rub session.
- If you have a puppy, let them practice walking on different surfaces, like tinfoil, wrapping paper and cardboard.
- Play “catch” with treats.
- This will sound weird, but pick the name of a fruit like “mango” or vegetable like “broccoli,” and sit next to your dog. Say the word in a normal voice, then gradually repeat it in an increasingly high, happy pitch. It’s remarkable to watch your dog react with excited wags and kisses.
- Read your dog a canine-centric book like Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie or Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy. They’ll love hearing your voice, and you’ll love the stories.
- Tie a favorite toy or treat in a towel so your dog can “unwrap” it for a prize.
- Try on dog booties and practice walking in them (again, treats are a great motivator) for future ventures into the snow.
- Listen together to music made specifically for dogs on albums like Through a Dog’s Ear.
- Make a clay pawprint or nose print for a holiday ornament or jewelry charm, or dip a paw in non-toxic paint to create frameable art.
- Fill a puzzle feeder or interactive toy with treats as a fun enrichment game.
- Howl. If you start howling, your dog will most likely start howling. The windows are shut tight against the snow, so it shouldn’t freak out your neighbors too much.
- Teach your dog a new trick. One veteran friend taught his Labrador retriever to “salute,” which is always a crowd pleaser.
- Foster a dog from your local shelter. Your dog will be entertained and if things go well, maybe even have a buddy for the next Snow Day!
Photo courtesy of Nancy Gonzalez. Check out @nancythebeat on Instagram for more heart-warming images and adventures with her pups.