Activities For Dogs In North Dakota On Cold Days

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Introduction

For anyone familiar with North Dakota, you probably know it's considered one of the coldest states countrywide. For half the year, from late October to late March, there's a high probably of the temperature hovering around freezing or, during the heart of winter, hanging in the single digits, if not the negatives, leaving all but the most hearty and resourceful people and dogs with little to do and a lot of chill to withstand. While there may not be as many places to check out as there are in other nearby states, that doesn't mean there's nothing to do once the thermometer falls. In fact, with a little bit of holiday help, North Dakotan ingenuity and some warm clothes, there's still quite a bit to enjoy with your furry friend while you whittle away the winter days.

Winter Wonderland

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Cold Day
Free
Easy
30 - 180 min
Items needed
Leash
Dog Bags
Warm Clothes (both human and dog if necessary)
Activity description
When it comes to the holidays, North Dakota is right up there with the best of them. There are plenty of celebrations that happen throughout the state, many of which have their own themes outright, themes you won't likely find in many other places. Thankfully, despite the sometimes unrelenting cold, many of them take place outside, which means you can either jump in your car with your pooch and pump the heater, or take them for a magical holiday stroll. Since most of them are public displays, most of them are also free, easy to attend and will provide at least a couple hours of entertainment for you and your canine companion.
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1
CP Holiday Train
Although it's the shortest activity on the list, the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train is one of the most exclusive holiday events around but does share its gift of cheer with around 6 North Dakotan cities a year (and only around 6 states total). In 2017, it stopped in Hankinson, Enderlin, Carrington, Harvey, Minot and Kenmare, so admirers from all over the state don't have to travel more than a couple hours to enjoy it. When it safety pulls to a stop in each town, the gorgeously-decorated train, which is lit head to toe with holiday lights, opens its stage door and a band plays holiday favorites for the crowd and collects donations for local food banks. It only lasts about 30 minutes but for anyone outside of town, it makes a worthy road trip while anyone in town has one more easy holiday event to enjoy (especially since it happens only one day a year).
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2
Cowboy Christmas
Out of all the holiday celebrations, Medora's is pretty unique. Every year the town celebrates an Old Fashioned Cowboy Christmas. While there are a fair amount of activities that aren't super dog-friendly, there are more than enough that are. Throughout the weekend celebration in early December, visitors can enjoy street vendors, the beautiful display of the holiday lights parade and for dogs that don't mind a bit of extra noise, there's even a big fireworks display. For even more themed dog-friendly lodging, you can even book a room at the Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch and Trail Head or even a few local rentals and Airbnbs.
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3
Get Dickensian
For those looking for a truly classic holiday celebration, head on over to Garrison, which is considered to be the Christmas capital of North Dakota. Like the other holiday fests, there are limitations on what's dog-friendly but the event, which takes places over the course of three weekends, features Charles Dickens-era period dress, street vendors, performances and even a lighted parade. If owners want to help their dogs burn off some extra energy before or after the festivities, the town also has a beautiful state park (Fort Stevenson) right next to the Missouri River. Garrison isn't the last on the list either. Grand Forks and Fort Abraham have similar events, as does Renault Farm, so check your local listings for any other holiday fun!
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Explore Theodore

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Cold Day
Cheap
Easy
1 - 4 hrs
Items needed
Warm Clothes
Dog Bags
Leash
Camera (optional)
Activity description
North Dakota may not have numerous and sprawling splendors of a few nearby states, but it was certainly blessed with Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is one of the most gorgeous dog-friendly parks around. Most of those who choose to visit do so during the warmer months for obvious reasons, but it can be just as magical to explore other times of the year as well. In late fall, the leaves change colors to match the rocky landscape itself and in winter, dustings of snow add to the splendor. Plus, you can avoid more of the crowds! If you're feeling adventurous, you can hike some of the trails or if it's just too cold or strenuous, you can always drive through and take in the natural beauty from the warmth of your car. Daily passes aren't expensive and as far as activities go, it's pretty easy to do whatever you choose.
Step
1
Plan your trip
Especially if you live far away, you'll likely need to do at least some basic planning for your trip. Decide whether you plan to hike or just drive through, as this will determine what kinds of supplies you'll need. We recommend doing a bit of both so you can get some exercise, see it all up close and give you the full reach of the park, but it's really up to you. If you plan to hike, make sure you have shoes or boots with good treads for hiking, as it's generally more slippery in the colder months, as well as enough layers to keep you warm without causing too much sweating. Consider what your dog will need to stay warm as well. If the drive is more than a few hours, it's best to also find pet-friendly accommodations, which will likely come down to rental units like Airbnb, as there aren't any dog-friendly hotels nearby. At less than 30 miles from the Montana border, you might also want to consider checking out Montana guides as well. And don't forget to check the weather before you go!
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2
Explore like Theodore
Once you arrive, check in at the Visitor's Center so you can get the true scope of the park. There is a pretty good range of trails to hike, as well as scenic drives and even designated overlooks with some of the park's best views. There are two different units of the park, so make sure to see what each offers before committing to anything specific, as there may be more features that interest you one way or another. You can always check out both if you have the time. Plan your routes and make sure you keep the map handy so you and your dog always have your bearings. Otherwise, go explore, take pictures, hike, drive and take in all the beauty this fantastic park as to offer!
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Skijoring

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Cold Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 180 min
Items needed
Warm Clothes
Custom Dog Harness
Lead or Leash
Skis
Treats
Activity description
There are plenty of winter activities you and your dog can do together outside, but if you want a chance to grow, learn and experience something new, consider teaching yourself and your dog skijoring. The winter sport is the perfect combination of skiing and mushing that will get you both some great exercise and take you out to enjoy the natural beauty of winter - especially in North Dakota where winters are long and snow is plentiful. It does take a fair amount of work and time to get your dog trained and it will cost a decent amount of money whether you rent or buy, but once you're all set, you'll have a winter activity you can do together any time there's snow on the ground! Of course, you'll need a fit canine large enough to pull your weight, but other than that and some dedication, that's about all you'll need.
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1
Get comfortable
Before you start trying to teach your dog the ins and outs of the sport, you'll want to be steady on skis yourself. After all, you'll just be setting yourselves both back every time they have to learn how to deal with you falling! If need be, take a Nordic skiing lesson first, then test it out on your own before you embark on the doggy side of training. Once you're comfortable, you'll need to have them fitted with a custom or well-fitting harness so the weight is properly distributed and so they don't potentially hurt themselves. Start by putting the harness on casually for 5 to 15 minutes at a time with no additional weight until they're comfortable. Once they are, move on to Step 2.
Step
2
Trials before trails
There are several ways you can go about teaching them the basics. First, they'll need to learn to pull weight. The best way to start is by hooking up a standard leash and going for a walk. Keep the tension on the leash as much as you can without pulling them back, meanwhile adding encouragement (it may be counterintuitive at first, as most owners prefer their dogs NOT to pull and train them accordingly). Once they are able to do so with you in control, consider adding some weight with an object they can pull or drag (try to use one that won't snag), then walk in front of them and encourage them to pull so they learn that they are rewarded for doing so. If you have a friend, one of you can hook yourselves up to the leash and harness with skis while the other walks or jogs ahead with treats and encouragement until they get the picture. Be mindful of their comfort and energy levels during the process and make sure to keep them and yourself hydrated.
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3
Skijor to your heart's content
Once they've got the basics down and understand they should be pulling you, start instituting easy commands for them to follow. Many people prefer to use their own terms, but ones often used include Hike (to go), Easy (to slow), Whoa (to stop), Gee (to turn right) and Haw (to turn left). Continue rewarding them until they get each command individually, then start using them in combination so they fully understand the breadth of commands. Once they've got the hang of it, find a place to test it out and see how they do! Just always make sure they're not working too hard on a full stomach or right before a big meal, stay hydrated, watch for any potential issues in the path and make sure they're happy and comfortable with their workload.
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More Fun Ideas...

Enchanted Sculptures

Just because they aren't the world's largest doesn't mean they're not worth the trip and they look that much cooler against a stark, snow-white background. The Enchanted Highway Sculptures in Regent offer a ton of interesting figures to look at from giant people to animals and even a cross-section of a house!

Biggest Road Trip

We don't mean taking the biggest road trip, but more so a road trip to see "the biggest" of several quirky monuments. North Dakota has both the largest buffalo (in Jamestown) and the world's largest Holstein (in New Salem). A heater-blasted road trip can be a great way to spend a few hours, especially when you get awesome pictures to boot!

Conclusion

North Dakota might not be the easiest place to spend the coldest months of the year, but that doesn't mean it doesn't offer residents and visitors alike some unique opportunities to take it all in stride and have some fun to boot. From roadside attractions to gorgeous landscapes and every means through which to see them, the Peace Garden State has plenty of things to do even when most of the red disappears from the thermometer, as long as you know where to look. Now that you have some ideas, go explore!