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6 fun holiday activities you can do with your dog to create lasting memories

The holiday season is a little more magical with a dog. Everyday occurrences, like car rides or your arrival home at the end of the workday, cause your pup’s face to light up brighter than the tree at Rockefeller Center. The holidays, though, offer a chance to introduce your pet to new experiences.

Starting new traditions or organizing a cool outing with your dog can make your pup even happier and serve as a bonding experience. The opportunities are endless, and there’s a fun fit for any type of pet, from animals who crave adventure to those who love snuggles.

If you’re looking to make a memory this year, consider one or more of these fun holiday activities for dogs.

dog waiting for treat by tree
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Prepare homemade dog treats

Though Christmas cookies have a bit too much sugar and spice (and potentially chocolate) to be good for dogs, pet parents can still whip up something extra-special for their fur baby. Amateur dog-treat chefs can get inspiration from cookbooks under $20. There are also tons of pet-safe recipes on the Internet, from easy gingerbread cookies to six-ingredient pumpkin and peanut butter biscuits. Avoid recipes with added sugar, xylitol (found in sugar-free items), and chocolate, as these can be health hazards for dogs. You might want to first clear any recipe with your vet.

Get Santa photos taken

Those Santa mall photos aren’t just for little kids. Dogs may want to ask Kris Kringle for a new toy or treat for Christmas, too, and the snap can leave you with a memory and fodder for your holiday cards. Some malls host pet nights, and your local Petco, PetSmart, or animal shelter may also offer them. Often a portion of the proceeds goes to a worthy cause. Remember, you know your dog better than anyone. If a pup has stranger anxiety, this activity may not be fun. It may be the perfect day trip for social butterflies, though.

woman petting dog by tree
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stage a photo shoot with matching PJs

If Santa photos are no-gos, you can still get photos you’ll treasure forever. Many stores, like Kohl’s, and vendors on Etsy make matching PJ sets for humans and dogs. Purchase a design you like, and hire a local photographer or ask a talented friend to snap photos of you and your best friend. You also can set a timer on your smart phone and place the phone a stand to take some snaps.

Watch holiday movies together

Some pets are more low-key and crave snuggles more than anything. These pets are the perfect companions for a relaxing night of self-care. Pick out a few of your favorite holiday movies, grab a homemade treat you whipped up for your dog and a bowl of popcorn for you, and chill on the couch together. Cuddling underneath a warm, holiday-themed blanket can up the festive factor without much fuss, especially if the weather outside is frightful.

Shop together

Shopping for your pet’s holiday gifts can be more fun if she’s around to offer opinions. Many pet stores allow dogs to walk the aisles on a leash. Take your pup with you and see what toys she loves most. You may even be able to let her taste test some treats. The best part? She’ll still be surprised and superexcited if you choose to wait until Christmas to give the gifts.

Go on a holiday light tour

Dogs who love car rides or long walks and are mesmerized by lights will love an evening of exploring your hometown. Many neighborhoods get all dressed up for Christmas with colorful light displays, sometimes set to music. Such decorations and displays can be fascinating for dogs. Touring them is a great way to beat back winter-induced cabin fever. Plus, if you’re walking, that can help both of you enjoy some physical activity.

Happy holidays!

Dogs make every day a little brighter, so paying it forward by making the holiday season extra magical for them offers them a well-deserved treat. The best holiday activities for active dogs may include going on a long winter walk together or hitting pet-friendly shops so that they can pick their own stocking-stuffers. Pups who prefer more low-key bonding will probably love snuggling with you on the couch for a holiday movie marathon. Most dogs will relish homemade taste treats. Consider making Christmas cards cuter by getting Santa photos taken with your pet or organizing a fun photoshoot with matching PJs.

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on and In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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