Holiday traditions are meant for the whole family to enjoy, and that family includes your dog, right? Looking to create some fun new memories and holiday traditions with the family member who asks the least yet deserves the best?
Over the years, I’ve created some really fun howliday traditions with my dogs and time-tested them so they have held steadfast year after year. Here are six fun things to do with your canine sidekick as you celebrate the holidays together.
1. Holiday light drive-through displays
If you are not privy to a nearby display or one that can be easily accessed, create a route in a nearby neighborhood or surrounding town and let the sparkle shine. Holiday drive-through displays have been a time-honored tradition for me and my dogs for more than 18 years. There is something quite magical about ever so gingerly coasting through a darkened night and into an illuminated path of spectacular lights, displays, and holiday cheer. Some displays are miles long and others takes 15 to 20 minutes to view. Get your pup into the holiday jingle and make a night (or two or three) out of it. Here in Pennsylvania we have Allentown’s Lights in the Parkway and HersheyPark’s Sweet Lights. USA Today named a few, too.
2. Holiday photos with Santa
There is something fun, community-oriented, and holiday spirited when standing in line with a dog for Santa photos. Be sure your pet is OK with strangers. A good yardstick by which to measure is reading the “How to Ace the Canine Good Citizen From Home” elements and decide from there. If so, ho ho ho and smile/wag for the camera. Check out local pet supply businesses, after-hours at local malls (they sometimes do Santa with pets photos when the kiddies are gone in the evening), or even Petsmart, Petco, or other chains.
3. Be inspired and give back
This time of year, I frequently hear people say, “I want to help but I just don’t know where to start. So many animals need homes.” There are things you can do. One person can and does make a difference. True, it is difficult to visit a shelter and not want to take at least one home. Then the pleas of the barking animals can rip to the core. How about sponsoring an animal via Petfinder’s sponsor a pet program in your area? If a dog you shared life with has since passed away, what a wonderful tribute to carry on the legacy and goodness of all things dog. Or check out a foster group who has the dogs and needs the funding. I am sponsoring a pet every month for $10, as every bit helps.
4. Host a doggie holiday party
This will take some pre-planning, but perhaps you and a group of your dog-loving friends can come together at a different house each year and spread the cheer, get the tail waggers together, and enjoy some indoor winter fun. Not sure what games to play when pup and friends get together?
5. Play winter games (it worked for Rudolph)
Take one part ingenuity and mix with some resourcefulness to diminish indoor winter boredom blues. Indoor games work well for holiday parties that include dogs.
It helps to have space for this one, but Musical Mats is a favorite indoor game. Set up a few mats on the floor, just as you would when playing the Musical Chairs variety for humans. Each dog should go to their mats and sit when the music stops. Before the music starts again, remove one mat. Dog moms and dads may encourage their darling but make sure not to push or pull (the dog or each other). The last dog with a mat wins a pre-determined prize.
Indoor Limbo is a fun game. I’ve been a guest judge for the annual New Jersey State Dog Limbo Contest (yes, it exists). Dogs can get their musical vibe on as the limbo stick gets lower and lower, but not too low. Lower the notch with each round and eliminate any dogs who “bump” the limbo stick. The last dog to successfully go under the limbo stick without knocking it wins a prize.
6. Retail therapy with dogs
Did you know there are a bevy of malls across America that allows dogs in many of their stores? Indeed. What yours truly did is plan ahead, found out when Santa was going to have pet-photo night and then did a “three-fer”: We visited the mall, walked in and out of stores together, had Santa photos taken, and then had a wonderful evening driving through lights in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area for Lights in the Parkway.
So what are your holiday traditions that involve the family dog? Share your stories below. I’m always looking for new things to do, fa la la la la!