Twenty-one Fun Things to Do With a Dog

Here are some nifty ideas of things you can do with your dog to spice up both of your lives.

Border Collie catching a frisbee in the air

1. Walking – Walking with a dog is the first thing most people think of. And walking certainly is beneficial for both of you. But why not make it even more of a challenge. Spend part of the walk teaching the dog to heel by your side. Then teach the dog to stop with you and back up. Most dogs will want to swing around and walk toward you. Prevent this with your hand. Once the dog understands this trick, then walk sideways. First teach stepping to the right while remaining facing forward, then to the left. Or you can circle around a lamp post. Add music and you’re dancing. Don’t forget to let the dog off the heel command and let him play and sniff a bit.

2. Hiking – Most dogs love to travel. Hiking is a great way to spend time together and get some exercise too. Some people even put backpacks on their dogs so that they can carry their own food and water for the trip. But don’t expect a dog to carry more than 1/3 of its weight in a pack. The dog needs to be conditioned and in good physical condition to carry a pack and for any strenuous hikes. Your vet can advise you on your dog’s condition. Check before you go to make sure dogs are allowed on the trail you are considering and be sure your dog is socialized to people and dogs since you might encounter other hikers with dogs. Teach your dog to follow you on the trail so that he won’t encounter any dogs around the bend and out of your sight.

3. Fetching – There’s hardly a better game to play with a dog that fetch. Not all dogs take to this right away. You might have to read up on some training for your friend, but once they catch on, it’s a game they can play for almost all of their lives. Balls, bumpers, and soft Frisbees are some of the preferred objects for a game of fetch. Sharp sticks can flip end over end and injure an enthusiastic fetching dog.

4. Frisbee – This is the ultimate game of fetch. Dogs can learn all sorts of tricks to go along with a game of Frisbee. There are even Frisbee competitions nationwide. You can find some amazing videos and instructions on the Internet.

5. Flyball – Another fetching game is the sport of flyball. This involves a series of jumps leading to a box that propels a ball in the air when the dog presses the pedal. It is played as a team sport and the owner and the dogs have a great time. Check online for videos, and teams in your area.

Dog and owner hiking on a scenic road
Dogs love the outdoors and hiking trips can be very rewarding for both parties
6. Agility – Another great sport for dogs is agility. An agility course is a set of obstacles for the dog to navigate. Typical obstacles include a tunnel, see saw, jumps, weave poles and dog walk. Some people just set up a course for their dog to train on but never compete. The dog enjoys the challenge whether or not he earns ribbons and points. There are many great books on building your own agility equipment and most areas have classes to get you started.

7. Trick Training – There is nothing wrong with teaching a dog tricks. In fact, many of the activities mentioned here could be considered tricks. Training of any sort lets the dog use his mind to solve a puzzle. Tricks could be as simple as finding an object, carrying an object - a variation of the fetch command, sitting up, shaking hands, bowing or more advanced tricks such as limping, crawling, or walking another dog on a leash.

8. Obedience Training – Many owners take their dogs to obedience classes. A good school will have advanced classes as well as the basics. Competing in obedience trials requires daily practice, but even when you don’t earn points or ribbons, the training is never wasted.

9. Rally Obedience – This is a form of obedience competition that is more free-form and relaxed than formal obedience training. Many owners prefer Rally to the more stringent and demanding obedience ring.

10. Free Style – This competition has been called “dog dancing.” It combines tricks and obedience set to music. The handler creates their own program and some are truly amazing. It’s worth looking at some videos even if you don’t decide to compete.

11. Dog sledding – Most people envision a team of huskies frolicking through the snow, but there have been actual racing teams of pointers, setters and Border collies among others. Any athletic, medium sized dog with a drive to run can run on a team. Larger dogs are designed more for weight pulling and won’t be as fast as a more moderate sized dog, but they can still have fun. If you’re in an area that supports dog sledding, you can usually find a club that will help you get started.

12. Carting – If you don’t have enough dogs for a team, carting is another option. There are new carts on the market that are precisely made to keep the weight balanced so the dog can move freely. Many of the large, European mountain dogs were bred to pull carts to market and many of the other larger breeds can be trained to pull a cart.

13. Swimming – In hot weather, nothing is better than a swim. Some dogs actually need some time and training to learn how to swim. Start slowly, in shallow water and gradually introduce them to deeper water.

14. Tracking – Tracking is different from searching in that the dog is supposed to follow the track made by the tracklayer rather than casting around for a scent. Sometimes articles, like gloves, are left on the track for the dog to find. This is a wonderful activity for more sedate dogs that allows them to focus on their exceptional scenting ability. There are tracking titles that your dog can earn, or you may just want to train the dog for fun.

15. Therapy visits – If you like to volunteer and have a sociable, well-mannered dog, nursing home visits can make some residents’ life a little cheerier. Your dog will need certification from a therapy dog organization and some basic training so check on the Internet, veterinarian or training club for information.

Breed Specific Activities

1. Herding – There are many trainers around who give instruction in the fine art of herding. There are many more breeds than you might realize that fall into the herding category. Have your dog evaluated first to see if they have the instinct for this.

2. Hunting – Many hunters use the family dog for this sport. There are also hunting field trials for the hunting breeds. You might find a neighbor or a local club to help get you started.

3. Lure Coursing – This sport was designed for the sight hounds - greyhounds, whippets, wolfhounds and deerhounds among others. Sometimes at a fun match, a club will set up a course and allow other breeds to give it a try. Most dogs take to chasing a plastic trash bag lure immediately.

4. Water Rescue – Some breeds, like the Newfoundland, were bred to help sailors and to save lives. Water rescue is amazing to watch. Check with a local breed club.

5. Terrier races – Terrier races are very exciting sport that is similar to lure coursing. Some races also include jumps and are called steeple chasing.

6. Terrier Trials (Go to ground) - This sport shows of the terrier’s unique style of hunting by digging into the ground.

To find out more about any of these activities, check online or with veterinarians, training schools, training or breed clubs, or look for books or DVDs.

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