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Fall and Winter Activities With Your Dog.

This time of the year in the northwest can really only be described as wet. Autumn and winter are often plagued with overcast skies, cold weather, rain, and in some places, snow. This kind of weather can make going outside annoying, especially when your dog needs to pee at 10pm! But there are plenty of fun things to do with your pets this time of year.

Activities

During this time of the year, finding things to keep you and your pet happy and occupied can be a challenge. With the shorter days and wet weather, it can be hard to motivate yourself to go on walks! But there are many fall and winter activities that can keep your pets engaged.

Halloween Costumes

Pet owners have been known to spend quite a bit on pet costumes; in fact, it’s projected that more than $490 million will be spent on dressing up our furry friends this year alone. There are plenty of more intricate costumes out there but even simple costumes can be a lot of fun! For their last Halloween, both Rooster and Milo were superheroes and wore these little capes with an R and M on them. It was an easy enough costume to make from hand (in addition to a few other Halloween related bandanas).

Halloween is on a Thursday this year but even a simple and cute costume can be a whole lot of fun.
Hiking, Walking, and Parks

While many trails are closed for the winter (largely for safety reasons), there are plenty of fun trails and parks open during this time of the year. The Washington Trail Association is a great site dedicated to hiking in Washington state and has many resources on different hiking trails. They even have lists of different trails to visit based on the season! Their winter hike suggestions include Cedar and Pine Lakes near Bellingham, Cold Creek Trail on Green Mountain on the Kitsap Peninsula, and Iceberg Point on Lopez Island.

But even just going for a walk can be fun with your pups, especially if they love the snow!

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is another wonderful activity to do in the winter and your dog can tag along on the adventure! While this activity can feel awkward at first, it can be a fun way to spend time in the snow. But doing research beforehand might be vital or even lifesaving. Some seemingly perfect trails might be deadly avalanche spots and knowing where you’re going can mean you don’t get lost and potentially spend too much time on the mountain. Once the sun sets, it can get really cold and potentially fatal if you don’t know what you’re doing. Some safety tips include:

  • Don’t hike alone in the winter and let a third party know where you’re hiking and an estimate on when you’ll be back.
  • Begin your hike early in the day, as the days are short and the sun sets quickly this time of year. Make sure you have a working headlamp on you just in case.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Drink and eat when you can. Snowshoeing can take a lot of energy and water!

Once you’ve done some research on where to go (and some snowshoeing basics), make sure to get the right equipment. For you, this means the right clothes (including layers!), the right boots and snowshoes, and a backpack with water, snacks, and other things. For your dog, little boots can keep their feet warm and dry. While your dog might not like them, the boots also protect your dog’s paws from the snow, as snow can get packed between their toes and could get painful! These boots can also protect your dog’s paws from rock salt and chemical burns from de-icers.

Agility Courses and Other Indoor Activities

Of course, spending a whole lot of time outside during the winter isn’t always an option. But for some dogs, short walks simply to go to the bathroom aren’t enough to keep them enriched. There are plenty of ways to keep your dog engaged and happy while staying inside. First off, if your dog is able and willing, agility classes and courses are great activities to do inside. These classes and courses are great ways to bond with your dog while also channeling their energy into something.

Other engaging activities include puzzle/brain teaser toys and scent work through hide and seek. These activities may not have your dog panting and utterly exhausted like an intense game like fetch but they can keep your dog mentally challenged and entertained.

Cuddles and Naps

Honestly, any list of things to do in the fall and winter would not be complete without mentioning cuddles and naps! If your pet likes to be near you, you probably know how nice it is to have their warmth near you on cold days. Plus, cute little snores are always a plus! Rooster loved to be near us and would regularly snore. Hearing those snores after a walk in the snow was always a great way to spend a winter afternoon.

Pet Care in the Winter

Like the summertime, there are certain things to keep in mind for pet care in the winter and fall. Small and senior dogs might do well with sweaters during the colder months and there are even rain jackets, boots, and pants made specifically for dogs! Having rain clothing for your dog can limit the amount of cleaning and drying you might have to do when you get back home.

In the colder months, keep in mind that like us, animals of all kinds (including cats and dogs) are also prone to hypothermia and other issues if left outside in the freezing cold for an extended period of time. Some dog breeds, like huskies, St. Bernards, and Great Pyreneeses, do really well in the snow and love the cold. But even with these dogs, it’s important to keep an eye on how they’re feeling.

Make sure to keep any anti-freeze and other chemicals out of reach for pets (and kids)!
Anti-freeze has a sweet taste to it but it is extremely toxic and even small amounts can be fatal.

During this time of the year, your pets will still need consistent access to freshwater, even if they love to eat snow! It’s totally possible for pets to get dehydrated in the winter and sadly, snow isn’t an adequate source of water. Plus, the snow might upset your pet’s stomach (as it did for Rooster the last year of his life), potentially causing them to vomit and dehydrate them more. And while most of the northwest is dealing with rain, snow, and overcast skies in the winter, dry skin and paws can be an issue for pets. There are plenty of ways to make sure that your pets keep a healthy coat, paws, and skin. Supplements can be added to meals and small amounts of coconut oil can be applied topically if necessary.

Additionally, your dog’s paws will need some extra care during this time of the year. As mentioned, snow can get packed between a dog’s toes, which is painful for them to experience. Their paws can also pick up rock salt and deicer, which they might try to clean off with their tongues. In addition to causing issues to their paws, these things can also make them sick if ingested! Boots can make all the difference if you go on long walks in the snow and rinsing their paws off when you get home can remove any salt or other chemicals. And if you can, consider getting a natural paw salve on their paws to help with any dry or cracked pads.

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