But before you grab the leash and play the hero-in-slippers on a cold, cold night, here’s a few ideas for channelling your pet’s feral energy into some extended outdoor playtime, not to mention earning you a few extra moments to relax and think some sunny thoughts.

  1. Secure the area. Security is job one for prepping your pet’s winter playground—not only for your loved one’s sake, but because you shouldn’t have to put your life on hold while the little rascal cases the neighborhood. Yard access and boundaries are the two biggies when it comes to extended, unsupervised time outside for your pet. The number and variety of pet doors and electronic pet fences have exploded in recent years, but truly integrated options that put a premium on customizability are still surprisingly rare. But with a little research and some due diligence, your back yard pet sanctuary can be a reality—even in winter!

  2. Draw up a battle plan. Yard metamorphosis doesn’t happen on their own. It takes planning. Maybe not strategic-military, Kevin McCallister-level planning, but having a general theme in mind always helps. a few items laying around the house, you can easily build:

    Hide-and-seek. A fresh set of DIY chew toys hidden strategically throughout the yard can make an invigorating game for your pet that awakens their senses and promises a cathartic release of aggressive chewing at the end. No red meat required.
    Tug-of-war. Got an old blanket? Cut it into strips, work in a few double overhand stopper knots, tie the strips from the branch of a low, sturdy tree, and let the games begin.
    - Obstacle course. Sheds can be full of little gems that will awaken your pet’s desire to run, jump, bark and ten-hut. A small slide from your kid’s old playset, used tarps and tents, left over logs from a fallen tree - set up thoughtfully around the yard, these things can become exciting new obstacles that will have your recruit soldiering into Spring.

  3. Plan for all conditions. If you’re still expecting significant drifts this year, try christening the next snowfall with a rousing game of fetch. Or, if you’re stuck shoveling anyway, take a few minutes to dig out a dog-friendly maze, complete with a treat at the end.

  4. Don’t forget the element of surprise. Especially with some of the more visually dramatic changes mentioned above, a big reveal can have quite the restorative effect on your companion where you can literally watch the winter blues melt away.
A yard makeover is a labor of love, to be sure. But after he’s cleared a few obstacles and survived a bout of tree tug-o-war, your pup’s heart will be racing, and just like that, you’ll have your old friend back. Just in time for Spring.


Tags: Dogs, Outdoor, Pets, Winter

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