It can be easy to think of fun things to do with your emotional support animal (ESA) when the weather is nice. In spring and summer, you’re probably always up for a long hike or a day at the beach. But it can be a little trickier to come up with ideas for how to keep your dog busy during the winter months. Don’t worry – there are actually tons of fun wintertime activities to do with your ESA that will help get you both out of the house.
Even when you’re tempted to just stay inside bundled up against the cold, keep in mind that there are a lot of benefits to heading outdoors for some fresh air. Getting exercise can be great for your physical and mental health and can combat mood disturbances that go along with illnesses like seasonal-affective disorder (SAD). Leaving the house can help you feel less isolated as well, which can improve your overall mood and lessen depression and anxiety.
You might feel like you want to stay hunkered down indoors when the weather is bad, but it can be so beneficial to have some social interactions (for both you and your ESA). Doing activities outside with your ESA can be a helpful way to socialize and to get your body moving at the same time.
Read on for a list of the best outdoor winter activities for your ESA.
1. Take a walk
The simplest way to get outdoors is by taking a walk outside with your dog. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, the fresh air will do both you and your dog a great deal of good. Don’t forget to make sure your dog is equipped for playing outside with a snow jacket or booties if you’ll be walking in freezing temperatures or in snow.
2. Go to a dog park
One of the best dog-friendly winter activities you can do is to take your ESA to the dog park. This can help you ensure your dog is getting enough social time with other dogs, even when the weather is chilly. Most parks are still open even when the temperature drops. Plus, you can practice your own social skills by chatting with fellow dog owners. This can help you feel less isolated or lonely when you head back home. If you don’t have a dog park near where you live, heading to a regular park to walk around can also serve you just as well.
3. Set up a scavenger hunt
If you want to think a little outside the box, consider setting up a scavenger hunt – it’s one of the most fun outdoor winter activities for dogs. Hide toys or treats around your backyard for your dog to sniff out and find. This can help them burn a lot of energy and can be done even if your yard is covered in snow.
4. Take them sledding
Your dog will want to jump in on the fun if you take them sledding with you. Hold them in your lap while you fly down a hill or give them their own sled if they’re a bigger dog. Make sure the hills aren’t too steep so your dog doesn’t get scared, and then let them enjoy the ride!
5. Have fun skijoring
This unique activity is gaining in popularity around the world. Skijoring is based on a Norwegian trend; the word means “ski driving.” It’s basically like cross-country skiing but you’re being pulled by your dog using a special harness and belt. It’s actually a competitive sport in some parts of the world.
Skijoring is a wonderful activity for bigger dogs (especially breeds that are the most comfortable with snow like Huskies or St. Bernards), and can be easier if you have more than one dog. To get started, Google skijoring to find out what equipment you need for you and your dog. Then, when the snow falls, you’ll be all set to try this fun outdoor sport.
6. Do some training
Mental activities can help dogs burn a lot of energy, often just as much as physical activities. Work with your dog on simple commands (come, stay, heel, etc.) and then reward them with plenty of treats. They’ll love being outside and getting to work on commands that make you pleased with them. The best part is you’ll have a more well-trained dog at the end of the activity, especially if you practice with some regularity.
7. Set up an obstacle course
Most dogs love to run around and jump. Why not set up an obstacle course in your backyard? Give them cones to run around and things to jump over and they’ll be super happy. You can make your course as simple or as difficult as you like, tailoring it to what your dog will most enjoy.
There are plenty of things to do with your dog in the winter that can help get the both of you outdoors. Venturing outside for even a short amount of time can really be worth it for both you and your ESA. Just spending time with your dog is something that can help make you a healthier and happier person, so head outdoors whenever possible to allow your dog freedom to roam and play. They’ll thank you for the extra attention and the chance to explore outside. Don’t go stir-crazy this year – get out of the house with your ESA for some wintertime fun!