How many pairs of shoes has your dog ruined? Have you experienced having your furniture destroyed by naughty chewers? Most dogs have a lot of energy to burn, and if they don’t have an outlet for that energy, they can get into trouble.
Did you add a dog to your family during the time when we were holed up trying to avoid COVID-19? Pandemic pups got used to the new normal of having their people around 24/7. If we are back in the office they miss us, and if we work from home, they don’t get it.
That’s because dogs need to exercise their bodies and minds to stay healthy.
What are some activities for dogs that will stop your pooch from treating your home like a playground?
Walks Are Good for Dogs and People
The number one recommendation for dog owners is to walk with your dog. It provides good exercise for both of you and it can be a great bonding experience to walk together. You can invite some dog pals to walk together, though all involved should enjoy the experience.
Before starting a new walk routine, check out our 10 tips for walking your dog. You’ll want to check with your vet about your pet’s health, know about potential hazards, and walk at a pace that works for both of you. And maybe you can check with your doctor to make sure that you're healthy enough to walk with your dog. Dogs understand the world through their noses, so be patient and let them sniff along the way, at least some of the time.
Walking well-trained dogs is a pleasure. An experienced trainer can help you achieve the kind of control you need. Hint: It involves healthy treats given at the right time. If you’re having trouble walking with your dog in a calm manner, there are some great videos of tips to have a polite and well-behaved dog before and during a walk. You can trust the Florida-based group that made these videos since they have the right training mindset and fantastic credentials—Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers® (CCPDT®), The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), and Fear Free Certified® Professional.
Dog Parks Are a Good Outlet (for Some Dogs)
Some dogs and pet parents love going to off-leash dog parks where dogs can make new friends and run freely. Dog parks do involve some risks, though, like aggressive dogs, unvaccinated dogs, and parasites. Puppies shouldn’t go until they are fully vaccinated, and adult dogs need to stay up to date on their shots.
Dog owners need to stay alert at dog parks. Know your dog’s body language to understand if they are having fun or feeling stressed out. Before you go, check out our tips for safer dog park visits.
Even if they love going to dog parks, it’s still important for dogs to learn good leash manners.
To Fetch or Not to Fetch
Some dog breeds and mixed breeds—like retrievers, Labradors, and border collies—love to fetch. They can’t get enough, and it’s a great way to wear them out. Just be sure to choose objects, like soft frisbees or balls, that won’t hurt their teeth. Make sure any balls are too big for them to swallow. And don’t forget a good old-fashioned stick. They’re free.----
Toys and Puzzles
Scientists estimate that dogs are about as intelligent as a 2-year-old human. That might be comparing apples and oranges, but dogs do remind me of toddlers in the “terrible twos.” If they don’t have enough to do, or they have separation anxiety, they can destroy your stuff.
Dogs need activities and objects that challenge their brains as well as their bodies. Visit a pet store with your dog and ask if you can try out a puzzle before purchasing it. Puzzles usually have different compartments where the dog needs to work to get a treat. If you are thinking of leaving your dog alone with a puzzle, talk to a veterinarian or knowledgeable pet store employee about the safety of the puzzle.
Some dogs like to chew on or play with KONGs—firm rubber objects that often have a hole for peanut butter (make sure there’s no xylitol in the peanut butter!). Pet stores also sell treat-dispensing balls and various textured surfaces that you can use to hide treats—these items make your dog work harder to get those treats.
Again, make sure that any toys are too big for your dog to swallow. Otherwise, you run the risk of an unexpected and expensive trip to the veterinarian.
Most dogs are social animals, so if people in your neighborhood or friend circle have dogs, consider a doggy playdate. It works best to let them have some safe sniffing on a leash (no retractable leashes—they're unsafe and you can't control your dog as well) before letting them off in a yard or place where they are allowed to play.
For people who can afford it, doggy daycares are a great way for your dog to play with friends while you are away at work. Some daycares can even come pick your dog up for a hike.
The best kinds of playdates are those with other dogs that are up to date on their vaccinations and are on monthly parasite preventive medications that they take every month of the year—even in colder climates. Parasites are sneaky!