Pet-Friendly Winter Activities

With the extreme temps we sometimes get in the Midwest during winter, paired with lots of ice and snow, sometimes it can be hard to get outside. But through the years, winter has become one of my FAVORITE seasons to explore––there’s no bugs, the trails aren’t as packed, and when the sun is shining and there’s fresh powder on the ground, there’s really nothing like it! 

Not to mention, you can really get a completely different experience visiting some of your favorite spots (or when you’re purposefully looking for a winter vacation!) when they’re covered in snow and ice! Need a little bit of encouragement to get out there in the winter? We’re here to help you out with a few of our favorite cold weather activities that are pet-friendly, too! 

Prepping before you go 

It’s important to make sure you prepare for the elements BEFORE you head out for a winter activity, so here are a few tips we use to make sure our dogs keep safe and comfortable while out on a winter adventure! 

Paw protection for dogs AND cats is a must, so make sure you’re keeping any long hair trimmed between their paws and use a good paw balm to help protect their feet from the elements. If you’ll be in an area with extra frigid temps or lots of salt for melting ice around, consider boots to help keep your dog comfortable! 

If your dog gets cold or you will be out in conditions with a lot of wind or snow, it’s a good idea to make sure you have some type of outer shell protection as well. If you own a double-coated breed, just make sure you’re careful about if and when you use a jacket on them! We typically use ours when we know the temps are below 10 degrees or if we will be out in the cold for extended periods of time. 

Finally, just make sure you keep a close eye on your pets as the cold can really creep up on you! If you notice them shivering at all, it’s probably time to head inside for the day! 

Five dogs in sweaters sit in the snow ready to pack into the warm cars after a long winter hike
Bailey, Cooper, Barley, Cassie & Moe ready to pack into the warm cars after a long winter hike

Look for winter based attractions like frozen waterfalls or ice caves 

One of my favorite parts about winter is finding attractions that are unique to winter or inaccessible in the summer. We headed up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in January and had a chance to hike out to some frozen waterfalls and ice caves that are otherwise inaccessible in the summertime and wow! It was such a cool experience to get up close and personal with the frozen caves and really experience the waterfalls in a different way. 

The good news is there are frozen waterfalls all over the country in the winter; so if your temperature drops to the negatives for consecutive days, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find some frozen waterfalls or ice caves. And if you don’t live in an area where you can find them, we definitely recommend booking a trip to see some. Just remember to pick up some Yaktrax before you go! 

Try snowshoeing or skijoring 

Hiking in the snow can be hard, so utilizing snowshoes or even better, hooking your dog up to your cross country skis can be a GREAT way to enjoy the winter trails together! 

Snowshoeing is a great way to access trails that aren’t groomed if there has been significant snowfall in an area. Just remember, if you’re going to be taking your dog to an area with deep snow while snowshoeing, it’s much harder for them to travel long distances, so keep things short until you’re able to build up more endurance! 

For skijoring, make sure your dog is physically able to travel a long distance, is comfortable around your skis, and that you have the right equipment before you go. You’ll need a specific harness made for pulling, a bungee/belt to attach yourself to your dog, and finally, some type of quick release system to make sure you’re able to unhook your dog if the need arises. This is something you’d DEFINITELY want to practice before you get out on a busy trail, but it can be loads of fun for you AND your dog once you get the hang of it! 

The dogs enjoying our pet-friendly cabin and Barley checking out the fresh powder on the trails 
The dogs enjoying our pet-friendly cabin and Barley checking out the fresh powder on the trails 

Find a pet-friendly cabin or ski resort to enjoy the view 

If you want a winter experience but aren’t sure about being outside for TOO long, finding a pet-friendly winter cabin or booking a few nights at a ski resort is another great way to enjoy the winter! We love being able to watch the snow fall with a wood burning fireplace burning in the background, and the dogs are always happy to just get out of the house.

Typically there are also some great trails around most cabins and resorts, so it’s easy to get out for a few short hikes before enjoying the winter from the inside of your cozy cabin! 

If it’s too cold to get outdoors, use puzzle feeders or play engaging games indoors 

No matter how much we love to get outside, sometimes it’s just too darn cold to get outside, and that’s okay! During those winter days, brain games and puzzle feeders help to keep us busy (and sane!) as the dogs aren’t able to burn off some of their extra energy outdoors. 

One of my favorite games to play (and the dogs’ absolute favorite, too!) is to hide treats all around the house and then let them sniff them out. They’re rewarded immediately when they find the treats, and it really gets their brains working as they use their senses to find the treats we’ve hidden. 

Freezing wet dog food in a kong or interactive feeder is also a good way to keep your dog entertained for a bit longer than a regular meal time during the winter months! 

Don’t let the colder temperatures intimidate you–get out there and enjoy all of the beauty winter has to offer! Let’s face it, it really makes those summer months all that much sweeter, too!