Your dog loves fresh air and sunshine as much as you do—not to mention all the new and interesting sights and smells the outdoors brings! Try some of these outside games and activities to keep your dog healthy and happy. In addition, playing with your dog, like training him, enhances the bond you share and helps him keep his focus on you!
Take your dog to a large open area or yard and have him follow you around as you deliver commands: SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME, etc. Give lots of praise when your dog completes the correct action. You can then move on to more advanced commands, teaching your dog to BACK UP, JUMP over something, CIRCLE around, etc. Continue walking around the area so that your dog has to focus his attention on you!
Set up your own obstacle course. Try including a tube (such as an agility tunnel/chute, available at most pet retailers) for your dog to run through, a pause table, a ladder, weaving sticks, poles to jump over, etc.—you can be creative with everyday items already in your yard, like sticks or Hula-Hoops. Start with your dog on a leash, and walk him through the course in the order you want him to complete the obstacles. Give him lots of praise when he gets it right, and recruit friends, family and neighbors to serve as judges—or to bring their own dogs to compete!
For a twist on traditional fetch, grab a Wiffle bat and a dog-safe ball to hit across the yard or a park and have your dog play outfielder—no glove required! Try not to hit another ball until your dog has brought the first all the way back to you so that he learns he must return the item for the game to continue.
You can use a Popsicle mold or just an ice cube tray to freeze yummy, refreshing treats for your dog. Get creative by tossing ingredients such as yogurt, bananas, peanut butter, and carrots into a blender with a little water or, for picky pooches, chicken or beef broth (all-natural or low sodium versions are best). If your dog is a dedicated chewer, try stuffing a KONG® with your concoction and putting it in the freezer. Your dog will look forward to cooling off with his special reward at the end of playtime.
WET & WILD
Fill up a kiddie pool with water and encourage your dog to splash around. For even more fun, grab a hose and have your dog chase the stream of water in and out of the pool. Add some dog-safe shampoo to combine playtime and a bath!
Start with your dog in a SIT/STAY, allowing him to smell a treat, then hide it somewhere in the yard. Release your dog from the SIT and watch him explore with unbridled enthusiasm to find it! As your dog masters the game, add a degree of difficulty by hiding a number of treats in advance. You can also try scatter-feeding your dog his kibble at mealtimes (throwing it all around the yard)—many dogs will spend hours enthusiastically hunting for every last bit.
Remember that basic obedience is the foundation for having fun with your dog—games and activities should be a fun and rewarding bonding experience, not a stressful time, for you and your dog.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.