5 Ways to Enjoy a Snow Day with Your Dog
There’s something romantic about a snow day. Your office closes and you get to spend the day curled up under your warmest blanket with some cocoa, Netflix and not a care in the world.
Unfortunately, dogs don’t share the same opinion. For them, being stuck inside most of the day is called life, and what’s worse is that a particularly bad blizzard might mean they don’t even get out for their usual walks—the best part of their day. A snow day can equal true confinement for a dog, and it’s not fun at all.
Just because it snows, however, doesn’t mean your dog has to suffer. There are plenty of ways to engage your dog both physically and mentally during a snowstorm. Here, get five tips to make sure your snowbound days together are delightful and stress-free.
Stock Up on Supplies
Before the blizzard hits, you’ll certainly stock up on bread, bottled water and maybe some peanut butter or chocolate, but nothing is more important to help your dog get through bad weather than considering her check list, too.
Sylvia Koczerzuk, certified dog behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer, says having plenty of dog food is an obvious one, but owners need to get ready for the possibility that they may lose power, and as such, they should plan accordingly.
“Consider a heat source,” she says. “In the case of a power outage, picking up a doggy sweater or coat is a good idea.”
Talk to Your Vet
There are also medical concerns that you should prepare for in the lead up to a big snow storm. If the roads are impassable, your vet’s office might not be open, so you need to know the closest emergency veterinary facility and its hours. You should also speak with your veterinarian about products you can keep at home to deal with an upset stomach, minor abrasions, and other non-emergencies, Koczerzuk says. Additionally, speaking with a veterinarian about potential holistic remedies may be worth considering.
Finally, have your dog tested for allergies. This isn’t necessarily doable in the days leading up to a snow storm, but it’s good information to have, especially during the winter when windows shut and fresh air is at a premium, says Nicole A. Heinrich, DVM, DACVD, veterinarian at McKeever Dermatology Clinics.
“Dogs can be allergic to dust, dust mites, human dander, cat dander, feathers, cotton, wool, and mold, just to name a few,” she says. Once you know what your dog is allergic to, you can discuss treatments with your vet.
Encourage Exercise and Stimulation
While you might be tempted to take the day off from exercise, your dog is a lot less interested in sitting around for hours and hours.
“Depending on the layout of your home and the texture of your flooring, there are a variety of good options for exercising your pup indoors,” says Danielle Basciano, certified dog behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer. “You can play fetch, hide-and-seek, or a game of tug. You can also play a game of puppy ping-pong, which is a recall game where you call your dog back and forth between two or more people.”
Not all activities need be physical, however. “Lack of enrichment or boredom can result in destructive behavior or anxiety,” Basciano says. She recommends food puzzles and nose work games, which ask the dog to solve a problem in order to receive a reward.
Prevent Potty Problems
Going to the bathroom may be a dicey prospect for some dogs on a snow day. If they’re very used to doing their business in the yard, you might run into some trouble on a day like this.
Potty pads are an option, particularly for smaller dogs and younger dogs, but most will want to go outside anyway.
If you oblige, shovel an area right outside your door for your dog to relieve herself, but always escort her outside on a leash, Koczerzuk says.
“Deep snow can bury dogs to the point they become asphyxiated,” she says. “They can also get lost, at which point frostbite becomes a concern.”
The snow might be a deterrent to your dog wanting to go outside at all, no matter how badly she might need to pee. If that’s the case, Koczerzuk recommends proceeding like you’re house training a new dog.
“Take them out often, and when they do go to the bathroom, reward them for it so they learn it’s a good thing to go potty in the snow,” she says.
Stick to a Routine
The biggest and likeliest problem your dog will experience on a snow day is anxiety, as snow days are often a total disruption to their normal routine. Sticking to your dog’s routine as best as you can is critical to ensuring they don’t develop bad, anxiety-related habits.
“If it is safe to do so, take your dog for a quick walk whenever you normally do,” Koczerzuk says, “but if your furry friend is dragging you back home, they are telling you they prefer not to.”
While you’re at home, Koczerzuk subscribes to one simple rule. “When I see my dog content, I know that I am providing them with their needs,” she says. “If I see my dog getting antsy, I will go through a checklist – bathroom, food and then enough activity.”
Noting the fulfillment of these three needs should be enough to keep your dog happy, calm and safe until the snow melts.