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Enrichment for Dogs: 9 Activities For the Busy Winter Holiday Season

The holiday season is a busy time filled with joy and celebration. But it’s also the darkest time of year and often the coldest. Between all these things, our dogs can often get left out.

So how about some easy ideas around holiday enrichment for dogs that you can do during the Winter season? I got you covered! The ideas in this blog post include indoor and outdoor enrichment games and a few holiday themed ideas that you can do together.

One of the biggest perks of enrichment is strengthening the bond you share with your dog! While I love long lasting chews and frozen treats toys to keep my pups busy for a little while… there’s so much more to enrichment than that!

I hope this blog post gets you thinking about how to support your dog’s mental and physical well-being this holiday season. Let’s make the season enjoyable for both pets and their people!

Holiday-Themed Dog Enrichment Activities

OK, let’s dive into these ideas so you can get started adding fun holiday enrichment to your routine with your dog! I broke the ideas down into a few categories. We have:

  • Home-based activities: great for indoors when you just have a little time
  • Outdoor activities: when you want to bundle up and get outside with your dog
  • Holiday Traditions: fun ways to incorporate canine enrichment into your holidays

Canine enrichment is more than just play. It’s an important part of your dog’s well-being.

These activities stimulate their minds, prevent boredom, and can alleviate behavioral issues linked to inactivity. But above all, enrichment strengthens the bond between you and your furry companion, making every interaction meaningful and rewarding.

DIY Snuffle Mat for Dogs

Home-Based Winter Holiday Enrichment for Dogs

Indoor activities are perfect for those chilly winter days when heading outside isn’t as appealing. They can be simple yet incredibly effective in keeping your dog mentally and physically stimulated.

  • Food Puzzles with a Festive Twist: Create puzzles using dog-safe holiday treats. You can hide these treats in puzzle toys or arrange a festive-themed treasure hunt around the house​​ with holiday treats and toys.
  • DIY Toys: Craft homemade toys with a holiday theme, like a tug toy made from old holiday fuzzy socks or a festive snuffle mat for foraging fun​​. We still use this holiday snuffle mat I made a couple years ago! Snuffle mats encourage your dog to use their powerful sense of smell to forage for food, slowing down their eating and adding mental stimulation​​.
  • DIY Enrichment Toys: Create homemade toys like a ‘treat burrito’ using an old t-shirt or towel, or set up a simple indoor obstacle course using household holiday items for a fun and engaging indoor activity​​. A roll of wrapping paper becomes a great agility jump to leap over! Used wrapping paper can be scrunched up and used for a forage box. 

“Indoor enrichment activities are vital for a dog’s mental health, especially during the colder months. They help maintain a sense of curiosity and playfulness, which is crucial for a well-balanced canine.” – Dr. Angela Hughes, Veterinary Geneticist, also known as the DNA DVM.

Outdoor Winter Dog Enrichment Activities

The outdoor world provides a sensory playground for dogs. These activities are not just about physical exercise; they’re about exploring new stimuli – sights, sounds, and smells that captivate your dog’s senses.

  • Festive Walks: Take your dog for walks in areas with holiday decorations. This visual enrichment is more than just a feast for their eyes; it offers mental stimulation as they process new and unusual sights, making every walk an adventure.
  • Snow Games: If you’re in a snowy area, engaging in snow games like fetch or creating a snow maze offers your dog a unique physical challenge and mental stimulation. Navigating a maze, in particular, encourages problem-solving and can be a delightful way for your dog to engage with their environment.
  • Watch the Festive World Go By: Simply sitting with your dog and watching the world go by can be a relaxing and enriching activity, especially in a new environment​​. Try posting up on a bench in a park or shopping neighborhood or in a calm corner of a dog friendly cafe or brewery.

Holiday Dog Enrichment Tip: Play calming classic music

It’s important to add passive enrichment into your dog’s life. They need time to decompress, too. Calm activities like watch the world go by will teach your dog that they don’t need to so active and running around all the time.

Passive enrichment activities are as important as active play. They teach your dog to appreciate calmness and relaxation, fostering a well-rounded temperament.

Add Enrichment to Your Holiday Traditions!

Thinking of your dog when you plan holiday traditions not only makes the season more enjoyable for them but also forges deeper connections between you and your pet.

If you’d like to make your dog their own bone shaped Christmas stocking, I have not one, but 2 tutorials for you! Check out the original sewn version (I teach you how to make your own pattern) or the no-sew version that’s my new favorite!

  • Special Treats: Create a dog-friendly holiday stocking filled with healthy treats and enriching toys. I was talking to Kelly Ison of Einstein Pets and she said her family has a wonderful tradition of letting their dog Abby open her stocking before Christmas morning breakfast. It’s traditions like that that make Christmas morning exciting for your pet and give you wonderful memories to look back on.
  • Scavenger Hunt for your dog’s stocking: You can also hide your dog’s Christmas stocking and encourage them to search for it. Maybe you leave a trail or tiny treats or you put something that smells really good in your dog’s stocking. Scavenger hunts are a great way to bond and get your dog tapping into their powerful sense of smell!
  • Relaxing Music: Another great passive enrichment activity is playing peaceful holiday music for your dog. Check out classical or jazz versions of your favorite Christmas songs and let your dog chill out with some tunes while you finish your gift shopping or head to a party for a few hours.

Holiday Dog Enrichment Tip: Play calming classic music

“Integrating dogs into holiday traditions isn’t just delightful; it’s a way to ensure they feel included and loved. This sense of belonging has a positive impact on their overall well-being.” – Susan Blake, Certified Animal Behaviorist

Create a Winter Dog Enrichment Routine

Incorporating these enrichment activities into your dog’s winter routine can make the holiday season a delightful and stimulating time for them. These activities not only cater to their physical and mental needs but also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

  • Integrate Enrichment into Daily Routines: Just 15 minutes of interactive games or training sessions can make a world of difference. You can integrate these short but sweet enrichment activities into your daily routine, like while dinner is cooking, providing your dog with mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Embrace Passive Enrichment: Puzzles, snuffle mats, sniffy walks and tricks are all great enrichment. But the definition of enrichment is adding something different to your dog’s day. So if it’s all high energy exciting stuff you’re missing out on a whole category! Give your pup the space and time to passively sit back and watch the world go by or listen to some calming music while they’re home alone.

I hope these ideas inspire you to make this holiday season a memorable and enriching experience for your dog!

Remember, every moment spent enriching your dog’s life strengthens the bond you share. For more ideas and tips, be sure to download our Holiday Enrichment for Dogs Guide, and let’s make this season the best one yet for our furry friends!

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Tori Mistick is a leader in the pet industry, blending her roles as an educator, podcaster, and founder of the award-winning dog blog, Wear Wag Repeat. With her extensive background in digital marketing, she’s fostered a thriving community of pet lovers. Tori’s insights on her blog and social media often draw from her expertise as a canine enrichment specialist. As a podcast host, she spotlights women petpreneurs, emphasizing her commitment to empowering women in the pet world. Beyond the pet industry, Tori is an Adjunct Professor of Communications at Point Park University. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she shares her life with two very active senior chocolate labs, Burt and Lucy.

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