Getting outdoors in the winter is not easy. It’s dark. It’s cold. And if you live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s raining. However, there are plenty of great reasons to get outside and foster a love of outdoor winter activities with your dog. Last winter, I embraced the gray days and discovered a newfound joy for winter hiking in Seattle. I’m certain you can learn to enjoy the winter too, so here’s a little push to get you motivated.
Dogs Love the Snow
Just as kids and adults (who don’t have to drive in or shovel the snow) find the snow magical, dogs do as well. Because the snow is different, kind of like a new toy, it creates a giant play area for your pup. The snow offers a new experience for dogs, causing them to explore, investigate, and dig deep to find buried smells.
In Patricia McConnell’s The Other End of the Leash, she dedicates an entire chapter to play. “Dogs and people aren’t normal mammals,” she says. “Most mammals play a lot when they’re young and then gradually become more and more sedate.” Dog and humans, on the other hand, are “obsessed with play.”
Think about it. Even as adults, we humans play games, play sports, play with our pets, our kids, etc. Dogs are the same way. So when something new and exciting comes along, like snow, we can help but foster our nature to go out and play. The snow allows for new games like snowball fights, snow angels, and building snow forts.
You’ll Both Get a Killer Workout
Winter activities are no joke. Whether we’re snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or just playing in a field, both Laila and I are completely spent after our outdoor winter play. Winter weather, whether the cold, snow, or wind acts as a resistance, forcing both human and dog to work harder to reach your destination.
Despite the cold temperatures, I almost always find myself profusely sweating as I tackle what I call the “snow treadmill.” You know. When you’re breaking snow and trying to go uphill, but you just keep sliding down with each step.
Winter Play is More Tiring
All that extra work in the snow means that both you and your dog will feel happily exhausted after your outdoor fun. Get your hygge on after you come back inside and snuggle together under a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate (the human, of course) and a bone (that’s for the dog). As we all know, a tired dog is a good dog. And that makes for happy pet parents.
Keep the Cold and Flu Away
Contrary to what our moms told us growing up, leaving the house without a jacket doesn’t cause us to catch colds. Colds and flu are viruses and they reason they’re most active in the winter is because…wait for it…we spend more cooped up inside where everyone’s germs are throwing a little party.
Getting outside in the cold introduces fresh air into our systems, thus minimizing our chances of inhaling all those cold and flu germs. Additionally, exercise boosts our immune systems and helps us fight off an of those nasty viruses trying to enter our bodies.
Getting Outside Makes You Happy not SAD
I grew up in Seattle and spent many of my adults years in Portland, Oregon. The days are short. Very short. Not quite Alaska or Norway short, but the the sun rises around 8am and sets around 4pm. That means if you work in an office, you’re not spending any outdoor time in the daylight. It’s hard to spend that much time in the darkness.
Growing up there I’m sure made me more accustomed to the short, dark days, however, my secret to staying happy during the winter months is getting outside. I may feel a bit less energetic during the winter months, but I’ve never experienced SAD or seasonal affective disorder. It’s because I make the effort to go outdoors regularly. Usually, I sign up for a spring half marathon to get me more committed to getting outdoors.
Since the cold weather tends to keep the majority of people indoors and off the trails, winter is the best season to enjoy hikes without the crowds. We take the opportunity to practice off-leash hiking skills because running off is more difficult for your pup in deep snow, plus they’re more likely to stay on the broken trail.
For those of us with reactive dogs, it allow us to enjoy nature with less stress, as we don’t have to expect an off-leash dog bounding down the trail every five minutes. It also means having the view point all to yourself so that you can get that ideal Instagram shot without having to wait your turn.
Change of Scenery
Your favorite summer hike looks completely different when the trees and mountains and lake are all covered in snow. Snow is magical and creates these beautiful, peaceful scenes in natural landscapes. Waterfalls turn to ice, lakes freeze over, and trees look like billowy clouds that twinkle in the sunlight. Plus, there is nothing that takes my breath away more than seeing the Cascade mountains covered in fresh snow on a sunny winter day after weeks of rain. I’ll take the endless rain just for that sight alone.