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It may be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but don’t forget to share the festive spirit with your dog!

Here are some creative ideas from AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Christie Canfield on making your dog a part of your holiday celebrations:

Make Homemade Holiday Dog Cookies

French Bulldog wearing an elf hat sitting at the table next to Christmas cookies.
©KikoStock -

It’s not too hard to find holiday-themed treats for your dog, but if you’re looking for a special gift idea, try making them yourself! You can give your homemade dog treats a festive twist by cutting them into seasonal shapes or using a silicone sheet mold. Plus, you can put plain unsweetened yogurt on top as “icing.”

Play Hide-and-Seek Games With Your Dog

Australian Shepherd puppy tilting its head alert.
©thejokercze -

Whether you’re home for the holidays or stuck inside for a snow day, it’s always a great time to play games with your dog. Here’s two ideas for games with your dog that can engage them mentally and physically:

Communication: Hide treats while the dog is in another room. Bring the dog to the room and have them find the treats by following your pointing gesture.

Memory: Hide treats while the dog is watching. Then remove your dog from the room for a short time. Return to the room and see if your dog can find all of the treats they saw you hide.

Play Puzzle Games With Your Dog

Golden Retriever puppy chewing on a ball laying in a dog bed indoors.
©photology1971 -

While you’re busy decorating the tree, baking cookies, or wrapping gifts, keep your dog occupied with these puzzle games.

The Bowl Game: Place a treat under an upside-down plastic or stainless-steel bowl. Let them see you hide a treat under the bowl on the floor. Tell them to “take it,” then sit back and watch them figure out how to get the treat. For very small or timid dogs, beginning with small disposable plastic cups can help set them up for success. As they get better, make the cups or bowls bigger or heavier.

Muffin Tin Game: Place treats in muffin slots and cover them with a ball or toy. Then step back and allow your dog to retrieve them.

Nesting Treats: Use plastic storage bowls that nest inside each other, either the same size or large to small. Place a treat in the bottom container, then place the second container on top. Continue layering treats and containers, and include one treat in the top. Open the container to get your dog started. Be sure to do this while you supervise, so you can make sure your dog does not try to eat the plastic containers.

Go for a Winter Walk

Chihuahua sitting in the snow wearing a jacket.
©otsphoto -

Going to check out your neighbors’ holiday decorations? Bring the dog! They’ll appreciate the time they get to spend with their family. If it’s cold outside, consider whether your dog needs some protection from the cold and dress them in the the appropriate winter weather clothes, if needed.

Relax With Your Dog

Russian Toys sitting in a chair indoors at Christmastime.
©annaav -

After a tiring day of running holiday errands, you and your dog could both benefit from some relaxing downtime together. Scientists at Washington State University found that petting a dog for just 10 minutes can have a significant impact on stress levels. Study participants had a significant reduction in cortisol, a major stress hormone.

And if going out shopping is too much for you, check out the AKC Shop. Whether you’re looking for gifts for the dog or dog lover in your life, our online store has everything you could want this holiday season.

For more ideas on maximizing your relationship with your dog and creating an individualized training program, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This training telephone service provides support seven days a week from our team of professional dog trainers.

Related article: How to Prepare Your Dog for the Holiday Season
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