Fun Things To Do With Your Dog
By Dr. Kaitlin Wurtz April 25, 2020
Participating in fun activities with your dog can improve the social bond between you and your pet, relieve boredom, and even improve your health. In this article we’ll discuss a variety of fun things you can do for fun with your dog both at home and elsewhere. These activities will improve your relationship with your furry friend and encourage them to express their natural behaviors.
What Do Dogs Naturally Do To Entertain Themselves?
Domestic dogs are considered a generalist species, meaning they are highly adaptable to many environments and circumstances. This is one reason they make such great pets and can thrive living with humans. In feral environments, dogs are scavengers that typically rely on humans for food and are rarely observed hunting (Majumder et al., 2014). From studying free-ranging domestic dogs we have found that dogs adapt their activity levels throughout the day based on human activity. In general, when humans are more active, so are the dogs. This increases the likelihood of obtaining food either directly from humans, or by searching through discarded waste. It has been shown that dogs typically are active for about half of the day and spend the remaining time resting. The activities dogs typically engage in are directed towards feeding or searching for food. In their quest for food, dogs can spend a large portion of their day walking. Other activities that feral dogs spend their time doing include ‘maintenance’ behaviors such as grooming, urinating/defecating, or trying to find a mate. Additionally, dogs will spend time playing or interacting with other dogs or humans (Banerjee and Bhadra, 2019). When considering options for how to keep our pet dogs entertained it is important to consider these natural behaviors that dogs are motivated to perform.
Fun Things To Do With Your Dog Inside
- Play With Toys
When spending time inside our homes there are many ways we can satisfy our dog’s desire to play, forage, and socialize. Toys are a great way to encourage play behavior and many allow us humans to get in on the fun. When providing toys, consider those that encourage the dog to engage in natural behaviors such as chasing (balls), chewing (bones), pulling (ropes, pull toys), or even shredding (soft plush toys with supervision or homemade toys made from cardboard boxes).
One fun way we can encourage foraging behavior is to hide treats for your dog to sniff out. A simple way to start is by having your dog guess which hand you are holding a treat in. When they choose correctly, they get the treat as a reward. This game can be extended by hiding treats under cups or in boxes for your dog to sniff out. The advanced level of this game could include hiding the treats somewhere in your home. This provides great mental stimulation for your dog and is fun to watch as pet parents.
- Puzzle Feeders
Another way to keep our dogs mentally active is through the use of puzzle feeders. These come in many forms such as balls or complex bowls that require the dog to manipulate the feeder by opening doors or sliding pieces in order to gain access to their food. When first introducing puzzle feeders, start with the ones that are easy to solve to prevent frustration. Then work your way up to more advanced feeders to keep your dog interested. Rotating through new puzzle feeders and toys will help prevent your dog from getting bored.
Fun Things To Do With Your Dog Outside
- Walk Outside
When the weather is nice why not get outside with your dog! There is plenty to do outside that can satisfy your dogs need for exercise and socializing. Take your dog on a walk! Walking is not only fun but it also has health benefits (Johnson et al., 2011). This can be as simple as taking a stroll in your neighborhood. To spice up familiar, close to home walks consider letting your dog take the lead. Dogs rarely get to choose our walking routes and are typically trilled when they get the chance to make these choices. It is always interesting to see where they take you!
- Hiking Or Camping
Alternatively, for the more outdoorsy people you can take your dog hiking or camping with you. Many state and national parks allow dogs – just make sure you only enter areas of the park where dogs are permitted and be sure to follow any leash laws. This is not only for the safety of your dog, but it provides protection for wildlife within the park.
Keep an eye out for dog friendly beaches as well. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon playing in the water with your best friend.
- Play Date With Another Dog
Another fun thing to do outside is to arrange play dates for your dog. Allowing dogs to have supervised play time with other dogs can satisfy their need to socialize while also burning off some energy. Make sure the dogs have been properly introduced and ensure that they are in a safe (preferably fenced) environment.
Fun Things To Do At Night
- Watch A Movie
Dogs are naturally less active in the evening and at night when their owners are winding down. During this time of day consider low arousal activities. Cuddle up with your dog and watch an animal themed movie.
Take a nap with your dog in your bed or on the couch. This would also be a good time for some gentle grooming or even providing your dog with a calming massage.
Another calm activity to do with your dog in the evening is to spend some time cooking together in the kitchen. There are many food scraps that are safe to feed your dog such as carrots, green beans, and bananas. You could even bake up some homemade dog treats or even a full dog-safe meal for special occasions.
Fun Training Games To Play With Your Dog
Believe it or not, training is a form of enrichment that can help prevent boredom in your dog. Positive reinforcement training encourages desired behaviors through providing rewards. We most commonly think about treats being the most desired reward, however, verbal praise or playing with their favorite toy also works (some dogs even prefer this over food). Many owners and dogs find training to be an enjoyable activity that can strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
Basic Training Commands
Training specific postures such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, and ‘shake’ is a great place to start when new to training. These behaviors are fairly simple and come naturally to your dog. We shouldn’t stop our training there, though.
There are a few behaviors that are great to have trained to ensure the safety of your pet. One great example is the command ‘leave it’. This can come in handy in case your dog tries to sniff or eat something that could be harmful to them. Training a good recall command such as ‘come’ is also important, especially if you ever plan to have your dog off leash. You can also use this command to play ‘hide and seek’ with your dog by hiding and then calling for them.
Commands such as ‘touch’, ‘stay’, and ‘give paw’ can make nail trims, grooming, and vet visits a more positive experience for both you and your dog.
Once you and your friend have mastered the basics, feel free to get creative!
- Learn names
Dogs have the ability to learn words and can associate these words with objects. You can turn this into a fun game by teaching your dog the names of their toys. Once they’ve learned their names, you can ask your dog to find them and bring them to you. There are a few dogs out there that have learned the names of hundreds of objects!
- Scent work
Our dogs can be taught to recognize certain scents in order to obtain a reward. Once the association has been made with a scent, we can hide the scented object for our dogs to find. Treats can also be used for this game and are a great starting point for training nose work.
- Endless other possibilities
The possibilities for what we can teach our dogs are truly endless. Some fun behaviors pet parents have trained include sorting laundry, opening doors, and cleaning up their own toys.
Fun Places To Take Your Dog
- Pet Stores
When you and your dog need a break away from home, there are plenty of exciting places to go. Most pet stores allow you to bring your dog into the store. Many even purposefully place toy bins low to the ground so your dog can select their own toys to bring home.
- Dog Parks
If you live in an urban environment look for nearby dog parks. These spaces allow for off-leash play time and some socialization with other dogs and humans. If you have a small dog, look for parks that have designated areas for them to prevent them from being injured by large rambunctious dogs. Make sure to closely monitor your dog at all times when visiting a dog park to make sure they are playing appropriately and are still enjoying themselves. Dog parks are great for giving your dog freedom but can quickly become overwhelming for some dogs.
- Obedience Course
For more controlled socializing between your dog with others, consider enrolling in an obedience course. This is a fun opportunity to learn new skills and it allows your dog to socialize in a safe, managed environment.
When the weather is nice, look for restaurants with an outdoor patio that allows you to dine outside with your dog. Ask if they offer any dog-safe treats so your dog can join in on the dining experience. Some drive throughs even offer special menu items for dogs such as the ‘puppuccino’ at Starbucks.
- Local Events
Finally, many local events in your town are dog friendly. Outdoor concerts and sporting events are a great way for you and your dog to enjoy spending time together.
By understanding our dog’s natural behaviors and tendencies, we can provide activities to keep them satisfied and entertained. Thankfully, these activities are typically rewarding for us human as well. Hopefully this article helped spark some new ideas for fun things to do with your dog both at home and away. Have fun having fun!
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Banerjee, A., & Bhadra, A. (2019). Time-activity budget of urban-adapted free-ranging dogs. arXiv preprint arXiv:1912.00791.
Johnson, R. A., Beck, A. M., & McCune, S. K. (Eds.). (2011). The health benefits of dog walking for pets and people: Evidence and case studies. Purdue University Press.
Majumder, S. S., Chatterjee, A., & Bhadra, A. (2014). A dog's day with humans–time activity budget of free-ranging dogs in India. Current Science, 874-878.