The holiday season is officially upon us. This is a time that is usually associated with work parties, busy family get-togethers, and Christmas feasts (if Christmas is what you celebrate). With our pack, we’re always looking for a fun way to incorporate the pets by planning last-minute pet-friendly holidays when our schedule permits. What does that look like? Today we’ll share some ideas to help you get out and enjoy the outdoors with your furry friend(s) this season.
Do Pets Get Sad in the Winter?
You may have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression associated with the changing seasons and the amount of sunlight we are exposed to each day. This topic often comes up when discussing our mental health, but what about our pets?
Studies have shown that approximately 40% of pet owners notice a difference in their pets’ behaviour during winter.
Like people who struggle with the lack of sunlight, they, too, are less active, less playful, and appear to experience a drop in their overall mood. Some even describe their pets as seeming ‘sad’ or ‘depressed.’
One way to help your pet overcome SAD and experience a more joyful winter is by spending time outdoors when the sun is out. This will help to counteract the impact that the loss of sun exposure has on their mental well-being.
If you need an excuse to get outdoors this winter, this is it!
How Do You Keep an Active Dog Busy in the Winter?
Some dog breeds are particularly challenging to keep entertained physically and mentally during the winter months. For example, our little man Lucifer is a super active and upbeat boy, but he is more susceptible to the cold than our older dogs.
How do we overcome this? In addition to planning our pet-friendly Christmas breaks with outdoor adventures, we focus on providing daily physical exercise and mental enrichment.
Don’t stop exercising your dog just because the temperatures drop. Instead, consider gearing up with a coat and/or booties for less comfortable pets in the cold winter. For dogs, we swear by Lucifer’s Shedrow K9 Chinook dog coat.
There are many ways to burn that excess energy through mental enrichment when not walking, hiking, or playing outdoors.
Some options for indoor mental enrichment include:
- Training sessions
- Food puzzle toys
- Snuffle mats
- Scent work around the house
- Hide & seek games with you or with toys
- Interactive toys and lick mats
Mealtime in our house is never just setting a bowl down and allowing him to chow down. Instead, we change up each meal and keep it interesting with different food puzzles, treat toys, and snuffle mats. One meal each day is a ‘training meal’ where he receives his kibble during training work.
Is it Mentally Stimulating for a Pet to Look Out the Window?
While spending time looking out the window certainly isn’t the same as going out and exploring the world around them. But, allowing your pet to look out the window can be a fun and mentally stimulating activity.
In our house, we refer to it as free ‘Dog TV’ or ‘Cat TV.’
This is a great way to offer much-needed mental stimulation and excitement for dogs or cats that spend long hours indoors.
We currently have a shelf set up across a window in our living room for our cats, with a bird feeder just outside. This provides them with an ongoing entertainment source even if we are busy or aren’t home.
What Can I Do with My Dog or Cat During the Winter?
In addition to the above suggestions for keeping a dog (or cat) occupied during the winter months, you can also take many adventures together.
Outdoor travel during the winter months will take a little more planning and preparation, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying these experiences with your best friend by your side.
Book a Pet-Friendly Cabin
A pet-friendly cabin may be the perfect opportunity for those who want to enjoy the beauty of winter while still staying warm and cozy by the fire.
You can get out and explore the area, hike the local trails, or have fun playing in the crisp, white snow. It’s the best way to embrace your inner child at a time of year when so many of us are overwhelmed with stress and anxiety.
If you’re searching for pet-friendly cabins in Ontario, here are a few places to start your search:
Make sure to set your filters only to include pet-friendly locations when searching. This will ensure that you are only shown the places that will also welcome your best friend.
Take Your Pet Winter Camping
Are you feeling a little more adventurous? Winter camping is a great way to make the most of the season. There are several ways you can go winter camping, depending on your comfort level and just how adventurous you want.
Many parks, including the Ontario Provincial Parks, offer Yurt rentals year-round. These permanent tents are an excellent choice for first-time winter campers.
There are a limited number of Yurts that are designated as dog-friendly in the Ontario Parks at this time, and none that allow cat visitors. We’re hoping those options will come in time as the people in charge realize how many of us enjoy travelling with our pets!
Staycation with a Winter Bonfire
Can’t take the time to head out anywhere? Don’t discount the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of winter in your own backyard.
If you have a fire pit in your backyard, you can enjoy it all year. Not only will you enjoy the warmth of the fire, but your dog will also love to bathe in the warmth.
Hit the Local Trails
Our favourite way to get out and enjoy some last-minute holidays with dogs and cats is to stick close to home. Rather than going too far, we choose to explore our local trails.
With so many great trails and parks across our province, we guarantee that there is somewhere to explore close at hand. The biggest challenge is simply discovering what’s out there.
We recommend checking out the AllTrails app. This is a great way to discover new trails in your area.
We also use the AllTrails app while travelling, providing us with fun new trails while on the road. This is a great way to discover new places while allowing our pets to stretch their legs.
Is your dog or cat sensitive to cold weather? Many pet parents will worry that it’s too cold to plan last-minute pet-friendly holidays but visiting a local trail is a great way to enjoy the winter wonderland in your backyard while limiting the time you expect your ‘pack’ to stay outdoors.
Head out on a Weekend Getaway Somewhere New
Is your holiday calendar PACKED? Enjoying the holiday season with your pet doesn’t mean you must carve out an entire week away. Instead, consider booking cat or dog-friendly weekend breaks.
Consider staying somewhere with different activities or locations to explore.
If you’re unsure about cabins or other outdoor accommodations in the area, book a pet-friendly hotel or Airbnb as your ‘home base’ for the weekend. You can then map out all the trails, parks, and other outdoor attractions you want to check out nearby.
This is also a great way to make your pet-friendly holiday plans comfortable for everyone, even if you’re newer to winter outdoor adventures. After all, jumping into winter tent camping can be intimidating!
Explore a New Outdoor Activity Together
There are many less common winter activities that you can enjoy with your pet, such as skijoring, snowshoeing, or mushing. Of course, choosing the right activity starts with taking your pet into consideration.
While we love travelling with our cats, especially our outdoor-loving cat Pippen, she’s obviously not going to be pulling a dogsled anytime soon!
Consider what activities your pet enjoys and how you can incorporate those interests into your last-minute pet-friendly holidays. For example, if your cat enjoys being comfortable in their cat backpack on a winter hike, they may also enjoy snowshoeing with you.
What are your favourite ways to get outdoors with your pets in the winter? Do you have any last-minute pet-friendly holidays in the works? Let us know in the comments!