Have some fun and plan the next 25 days of Christmas activities with your dog. The holiday season and winter can be stressful for you and your dog, so the only rule to finishing this dog advent calendar is to have FUN!

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You can download our 2023 dog advent calendar for free to keep track of your progress.


1. Play with your dogs favorite toy

Our dogs favorite toy is always a ball of any kind. For a long time it was these ChuckIt squeaky balls, then I found these Kong rubber balls on sale but they don’t last very long.

This Christmas I am giving the dogs a few different brands of balls, I’ll have to report back to see which becomes the new favorite and which hold up the longest.

If your dog doesn’t have a favorite toy, then pull out a toy they haven’t played with for a while and get them excited about it again.

two dogs playing in snow with a ball
Thunder and Bear trying to play with the same old and deflated ball.

2. Take a trip to a pet-friendly store together

Did you know many stores allow you to bring your dog inside? Not only is it fun to have your dog tag along, but it’s a great socialization opportunity.

Here is a list of pet-friendly stores I know of, but always confirm with your local store as each may have their It’s pet policy.

  • Pet Stores such as Petco, PetSmart, Mounds and more
  • Home Depot
  • Lowes
  • Tractor Supply Co
  • The Apple Store
  • Bass Pro Shops
  • Macy’s
  • Nordstrom
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Michaels
  • JoAnne Fabrics
border collie standing on a cart inside of Home Depot
Thunder being brave inside The HomeDepot store.

​Riding in the car is an essential skill all dogs need to learn. So if your dog doesn’t love car rides, now is the time to start. If your dog needs help overcoming his fears and anxiety about car rides, then read this article.

3. Make a dog treat jar

Start with a mason jar or cookie jar and decorate until your heart’s content.

I designed this cute For Good Dogs Only artwork and used my daughter’s Cricut to print a decal. This is the glass jar we used for our treat jar.

dog leaning on bench drooling over treat jar
You can’t see it in this photo, but Ginger was drooling all over the bench. She LOVES treats. Do you think she’s a good girl?

Want to make the same jar? You can buy the artwork in shop.

Here are some more great ideas on my DIY Pinterest Board.

4. Have a veggie taste-testing party together

Did you know that fresh foods, what some may call “people food”, are healthier than kibble for your dog?

Have fun with this one, you don’t need to buy anything special. Choose fruits and vegetables that you have in your fridge already.

Experiment with which ones are his favorite and which he refuses to eat. Here is a list of foods your dog can and cannot eat.

My dog’s favorites are apples, carrots, and broccoli.

5. Play a game of hide-n-seek

Hide and seek is not just for kids, it’s also a lot of fun for your dog!

You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a game of hide-n-seek! But If you do have kids, have them hide and the dog find them. The bonus side-effect is that you’ll have a tired dog and kids, LOL.

If you don’t have another human to play with, then your dog will need a good sit/stay command. You can also use your place command. Have your dog stay and go hide, yell out your release word and wait for your dog to find you.

dog hiding behind a green board
Thunder being silly hiding waiting to go seek out his human.

6. Teach your dog a new trick

Yes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Dogs are smart, they can learn at any age. Teach your pup a new trick and have fun with it! Some ideas are: wave, dance, roll over or sit pretty.

dog balancing on balance boards
Our dog, Thunder, learning feet awareness and how to balance. A great trick to teach a dog that does agility. ​

7. Explore a new walking path together

Dogs love to use their nose. So for today’s activity, find a new path to walk with your dog. One that they’ve never been to before.

And if that’s not possible, change directions on an existing path.

Your main agenda is to let them sniff till their heart is content. Don’t worry about how far you get.

The mental stimuli of all the new smells will exhaust them more than if you walked twice the distance.

If you walk at night, check out these 10 Tips & Tools for Walking at Night with Your Dogand make sure to follow these 5 dog walk etiquette rules.

yellow lab dog hiking on path in the fall
Bear loves to explore new paths, so many great smells and sights to check out.

8. Make a dog-themed craft

This is one of my favorites! I found so many creative ideas for dog crafts, so I saved them to my Pinterest Board. Make sure to follow Rescue Dogs 101 on Pinterest as I will continually be adding new crafts.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Paw print wreath
  • Footprint puppy
  • Paper bag puppy
  • Paw print ornaments
Thunder showing off his artwork.
two dogs laying next to Christmas tree with paw print ornaments
Bear and Ginger showing off their paw print ornaments.

9. Play enrichment games

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for your dog. Playing the muffin/ball game, puzzles, and even an obstacle course are all fun ideas.

We love taking empty Amazon boxes, tossing in some crumbled paper and treats, and having the dogs find the treats. They go crazy over this game.

Here are 11 Fun Enrichment Game ideas.

Remember how happy you were to find and adopt your rescue dog?

The holiday season is a great time to thank the shelter or rescue and make a monetary donation or donate your time.

Volunteering for our local rescue and humane society has been one of the most rewarding acts of kindness I’ve experienced. I get to spend time with dogs and keep learning how to help them in new ways… it doesn’t get much better than that!


11. Make sweet potato treats

Sweet potatoes are a healthy snack for both you and your dog.

Below is a video showing how I make these treats, it was very easy and took me less than 10 minutes to prepare for the dehydrator.

You can keep it as simple as plain sweet potatoes, or add a few ingredients like I did. Plus, you can eat these too! They make a great snack.

Here is a video of how I make them:

Or if you prefer to read and download the recipe, here is the blog post: How to make dehydrated sweet potato dog treats.

Here are the tools I used to make these sweet potato dog treats:


12. Make a homemade dog toy

Your dog doesn’t care how much their toys cost, in fact, it’s usually the empty box or water bottle they’d prefer to play with.

We made this crinkle toy with a plastic water bottle inside an old sock.

Use Christmas or Holiday socks, (or any old sock), put a plastic water bottle inside, and tie a knot… doesn’t get much easier than that!

two dogs playing with a sock/bottle toy
Thunder and Bear LOVE playing with their homemade crinkle toy.

NOTE: I prefer to use old socks vs. buying new since it’s likely your dog will tear the socks.

Here are some more DIY toy ideas:

  • Fleece tug toys
  • T-shirt tugs
  • Denim plush toys
  • Snuffle matt

DIY dog toys make great gifts too!

Important: never leave your dog unattended with a toy if they are prone to chewing or destroying their toys. These toys are designed to be interactive with YOU!


13. Set up a holiday photo shoot for your dog

A picture is worth a thousand words. So how many words for a thousand pictures? 

LOL, yeah I do have more photos of my dogs than anything else. But they are so darn cute, I can’t help it. 

No matter what holiday you celebrate, have fun with this. What special background or props can you use?

Or how about these adorable matching PajamaGrams for the entire family… dogs and cats too! Make sure you have plenty of treats and a helper is nice too.

a yellow lab dog with a green Christmas wreath around neck
A simple wreath transforms a plain photo into an adorable holiday photo.

If you want to be in the photo with your dog and don’t have a helper, a tripod can be handy.

These are photos you will cherish forever. 

14. Play Sniffing Games

Sniffing games are fun and a great way to stimulate their natural instincts and provide mental enrichment.

You’ll need some of your dog’s kibble or favorite treats, empty boxes, plastic cups or bowls, empty egg cartons, or even muffin tins. The options are endless, you can use a scuffle mat, the grass outside or even just scatter your dog’s kibble across the floor.

Hide the treats inside the containers and scatter them around a room, your house or to make even more challenging, your backyard. But start with easy hiding spots at first, and as your pup gets the hang of it, you can level up the challenge.

dog with nose inside a box

Keep the sniffing game fresh and exciting by changing up the hiding spots and introducing new elements. You can hide treats in a blanket or towel, or even incorporate some puzzle toys. The key is to make it enjoyable and mentally engaging for your dog.

Not only is this a fantastic bonding experience, but it also taps into your dog’s primal instincts, leaving them not just physically tired but mentally fulfilled. So, grab those treats and get ready for a tail-wagging good time!

15. Give your dog a massage 

There is nothing better than the relaxing feeling of someone massaging your shoulders, back or feet after a long day.

If you’ve ever received a massage, then you know that it can help reduce stress and anxiety, increase circulation, and decrease pain.

It does the same for your dog PLUS it will strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

There are many techniques to giving a massage to your dog, but this doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow your dog’s cues to see what feels good to them.

a dog getting a massage

Our dogs are a little spoiled and they get frequent massages. They’ve even received professional massages from a lady that offers them at the agility trials we attend. Yup, spoiled rotten… I mean I won’t even splurge for a massage for myself, LOL.

16. Teach your dog how to unwrap a gift

If you want your dog to be able to unwrap their gifts on Christmas morning, practice showing how to do it a couple weeks before.

Wrap some boxes with treats and help them by starting a corner of the paper. Once they realize there’s something yummy inside they should figure it out rather quickly.

If you are concerned that your dog will open other gifts under the tree, then you may need to skip this one. So feel free to repeat another activity that your dog enjoyed.

And if you need gift ideas for your dog, then check out my dog themed gift guides here.

17. Make a frozen doggy treat

Dog treats with fruits and veggies are not only healthy for your dog, but they will love how yummy they are.

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean your dog can’t enjoy a ​Festive Frozen Dog Treat with Strawberry and Yogurt​.

I have several frozen treat recipes to choose from in this Easy Homemade Frozen Dog Treats blog post.

You can even purchase a printable recipe book as a gift for a dog-loving friend.

And if you need supplies to make your treats, here is my ​Amazon Shopping list​.

dog taking a bite from a frozen treat
My Bear loves his frozen dog treats!

18. Go for a winter hike

Don’t let the cold stop you from enjoying the outdoors, but of course always protect your dogs paws in extreme cold and be watchful of the temperature.

Take a hike on your favorite trail in the snow to make it an entirely new experience.

The snowy backdrop can make for a beautiful photo opp… just look at our dog Thunder looking all handsome.

border collie standing in snow

19. Take a holiday-light walk

Take a walk around the neighborhood or drive to a professional holiday light show with your dog. Enjoy all the lights together and let your dog stop and smell all the new smells.

Our little town has light show put up by the village, but there is a homeowner that has an amazing light show set to music each year that we make sure to visit.

Do you have any holiday light shows you go to every year?

This is an old picture, but one of my favorites… Ginger standing in front of a lighted gingerbread house!

20. Have a photo taken with Santa

Not all dogs will be okay with the guy in a big red suit. So if this is your dog, try to find a statue or blow up Santa.

Be creative… it doesn’t have to be scary. ​

And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, find another way to photograph your dog in a holiday theme. 

We found a Santa display at our local Home Depot store.

border collie dog sitting in HomeDepot in front of a Christmas display

21. Play in the snow together and build a snow dog

The dogs LOVE to play in the snow. Each year on the first snowfall, they rush out the door like little kids, running and romping in the fresh snow… it makes all the cold weather so worth it to see how happy they get.

☃️ This year be creative and build a snow dog that resembles your dog… or any dog. Have fun!

Born and raised in the Midwest, I forget sometimes that not everyone has the pleasure to experience snow. So if you live in an area that doesn’t get snow, then go play in the sand and build a sand dog!

Stay warm! And if you live somewhere warm, I’m jealous 😍

two dogs sitting next to a snowman and snow dog
Bear and Ginger showing off our snow-dog and snow-man.

22. Groom your dog

Today is all about spoiling your dog. So if your dog likes bathes, then a nice warm bath is a perfect way to startA good brushing, nail trim and a yummy dental chew to finish it off.

Feel free to skip any stressful situations. But consider working on desensitizing what stress your dog most. A lick mat can be a great tool to help your dog like bath time. 

And if you want to make your own homemade dog shampoo, then I’ve got a few recipes to choose from here

Now they’ll be all spruced up for the big day!

wet dog after a bath

A funny fact, our dog, Bear, loves to be vacuumed! I didn’t teach him this, must have been his previous home.


23. Meditate with your dog

Meditating with your dog can be a game-changer, bringing a whole new level of peace and connection to your relationship. Dogs are incredibly intuitive, and you’ll find that as you become relaxed and mindful, your dog will too.  

Start by finding a quiet space where you and your pup can relax without distractions. Play calming meditation music, I like to use Insight Timer app on my phone.

Invite your dog to join you, but don’t worry if they don’t want to right away. Once they feel your energy slow down, they will most likely want to be closer to you.

You can gently pet your dog or just place a hand on their back. Feel the warmth of their fur, notice their rhythmic breathing, and embrace the shared stillness.

woman sitting and meditating with dog

Meditating with your dog isn’t just about finding your inner peace; it’s about sharing that peace with your pup. So, take a deep breath, let go of the outside world, and embark on this serene journey with your new meditation buddy!

24. Watch a holiday movie and snuggle

Not all dogs like to snuggle, so don’t pressure your dog if they prefer to sleep on their dog bed. The point is to spend some quiet quality time together.

Some dog-themed holiday movies ideas are below (links to PrimeVideo):

dog watching holiday movie on TV
Thunder loves watching dogs on the TV, especially agility.

25. Read a holiday story to your dog

It’s been proven that reading to your dog not only soothes the dog but also the human. It’s a great time to relax and bond with your dog.

Make sure to get the kids involved, it’s a super confidence builder for them too!

Here are some of my favorite fiction dog books.

Ginger is very interested in hearing this story about Santa!

What’s next?

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season no matter what you celebrate. Stop and be thankful for what you have, at the very least you have a dog that loves you… and after these 25 days, you will have an even stronger bond together.

Christmas stocking with paw print illustration

Don’t forget to fill your dog’s stocking!

The most adorable dog Christmas stockings and stuffers

dog jumping with red heart illustration

Hosting a holiday party

Make sure your dog is well-behaved and doesn’t jump on your guests.

checklist with paw print and green check mark

Traveling for the holidays?

Get our Checklist for Leaving Your Dog While on Vacation.


About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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