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Turn “No Fun” into Snow Fun
By: Trish Phillips
Admittedly, winter is not my favorite season. I moved here from Arizona, where winter meant the daytime temperature dropped into the 70’s and you had to wear a coat at night because it might drop into the 40’s. But, I grew up in Ohio, where it was not uncommon to get 6-8 inches of “lake effect” snow on a regular basis and tobogganing and sledding were regular winter activities. I thought that my short-haired dog shared my desire to hibernate... until he learned about doggie coats and sweaters. He has several, and when the weather gets cold, he actually goes to his basket and pulls one out when I ask if he needs to go outside.
When he is wearing a sweater (which typically is a small boys’ tee or sweatshirt), he is unaffected by the cold and snow. He even seems energized by it. So, here are a few of the games that we play outside in the snow. (It’s coming. I just know it. So I’m getting mentally prepared in advance.)
Opie will not play fetch in the summer. He stands and looks at me as if to say, “YOU go get it. I’ve got better things to do with my time, like sniff every inch of this dog run.” But, in the winter, he is interested in playing ball. He doesn’t like tennis balls, so I have purchased several brightly colored soft squeaker balls that we use; the ones that come in the hokey pre-packed stockings in the stores now. I think he likes that he can squish them to grab them even when they are cold.
Hide and Seek
We play hide and seek when there is a lot of snow piled up in snow banks – from plowing, for example. (Just for the record, I do not let Opie out of my sight when I “hide;” if I did, the game would quickly change to “catch me if you can.”) He seems to love “finding” me and will run to the other side of the snow bank and duck as if he is hiding after he does. This is also a training opportunity: I ask him to wait while I hide... and when I yell “Here!” he comes to find me. If we are not in the off-leash dog run, I use a 100 ft. check cord with him.
Another variation of hide and seek that we play is to hide several of his brightly colored balls in the snow (some out in the open, some behind a snow bank or slightly buried) and ask him to “find” them.
Canicross is the sport of moving cross country (on foot) with your dog; it is similar to skijoring without the skis. Canicross can be done year-round. Click here to read more or HERE to watch a video of canicross in action.
If you’re interested in trying this fun sport and live in the twin cities area – please contact us, we get a group together regularly.
Skijoring is an excellent dog-powered winter sport. Similar to canicross but on skis! It is a cooperative sport between skier and canine. While the dog must pull and follow voice command instructions from the skier 6-10 feet behind them the skier provides power with skis and poles. The person is just as active as the dog. And because the skier has less physical control than they do when hiking the relationship between dog and owner is that much deeper. You have to trust them to listen and not wrap you around a tree when they spot a deer! This is a tandem sport and because the person is actively propelling themselves across the snow any breed that likes to run in cool weather can participate… however you may have to get a harness custom made for a smaller dog.
When all else fails – or when my Arizona blood kicks in – indoor or outdoor doggie day care is always a great alternative to “snow fun.” There are many alternatives for doggie daycare in the metro area.
Here are some more ideas for winter fun with your dog.
Watch this fun video - Conan's idea of snow fun!