Our dogs love being outside, it’s why they get so excited when you reach for their leash or even whisper the word ‘walkies’ within earshot. That love of the outdoors is understandable, and our dogs certainly aren’t the only ones with a need to immerse themselves in nature.
We humans do just the same, whether it be on the beach, a nature reserve, the forest, or even a stroll through a city, we just love feeling the sun beating down on our backs. Let’s look at some of the best activities we can do with our dogs to share in our mutual love of the outdoors.
Treasure Hunting and Scent Working
Perhaps the most powerful tool in our dog’s arsenal, apart from their heart-melting puppy dog eyes, is their sense of smell. They love all kinds of scents, from disgusting ones to lovely ones, but typically, the worse a smell is, the more likely they are to jam their snout in it. You can create a fun backyard game with your dog using a find-and-seek scent work technique that makes good use of their sniffing skills.
A simple way to start them on a scent work game is to put six boxes in your backyard with the lids open while your dog is inside. Place some treats in half of them, and then take your dog outside on the leash. Whenever they discover a treat, praise them without petting to ensure their tracking isn’t interfered with.
As your dog improves at the game, start closing some of the lids, and even hiding the boxes so they have to work extra hard to find those treats. While rewarding, it’s important to note that this activity can be taxing on your dog, so we recommend limiting their time playing to about 10 minutes to allow for a break.
Camping Under the Stars
It doesn’t get much more ‘outdoorsy’ than sleeping under the stars, and camping is one of the best ways to spend some quality time with your dog. You can even buy them their very own pup tent if they are well behaved, but a more mischievous dog might not fare so well in their own tent.
That just means you get the pleasure of their company all through the night, which is perfect if you’re camping during the colder months of the year. Dog-friendly camping allows you and your dog to slow the pace down, and chill out when you want or go on a wilderness adventure.
Here are a few items you may wish to consider for camping with your dog:
- Paw protectors
- Pet wipes
- Light up collar
- Flea and tick care
- GPS tracking
Walking and Hiking
Going for walks with your dog can become a little stale and boring if you stick to the same old routes, both for you and your beloved friend. That’s why it’s great to start exploring routes nearby or even loading up the car and finding a hiking spot.
Make sure you come equipped when taking your dog for a hike, and you will need to take plenty of water and food for you and your dog. If your dog is small, then a dog carrier backpack allows them to be comfortable when they need to take a break on long hikes.
It’s also important that you do your research before visiting anywhere with your dog. There may be certain times of the year when you aren’t allowed to visit with your dog, or perhaps they must be attached to you, for instance in the spring and summer months to avoid disturbing ground-nesting wildlife.
A hike through the forest can be hugely rewarding for your dog as there are lots of scents for them to follow, sending their noses into overdrive. They may wish to roam through the undergrowth but do your homework to understand the types of wildlife they may encounter. Any dangerous animals or protected species in the area and you should keep your dog on its leash at all times.
Taking Photos in Wildlife Settings
A hike through the woods and wilderness is the perfect time to capture your dog’s movements in video or photographs. You may capture an image of them that will stay with you forever, plus you get to practice and hone your photography skills.
As most dog owners will know only too well, our pets don’t always act like the perfect models we know they can be. That can make it tricky to find the perfect shot but that’s part of the challenge.
Award-winning wildlife cinematographer, Alex Vail, says, “I find you learn most about light and composition simply by experimenting with what works best.” He adds, “you ideally want to develop your eye for composition through practice so that when an amazing moment happens you intuitively frame it in a way that looks nice.” Once you do finally nail that shot of your dog in action all of the practice will have been worth it and you’ll have an image worth showing off to the world.
Playing Water Games
An outdoor activity with your dog doesn’t require a trek across the country to visit a national park and your backyard works just as well. On sunny days, your dog will appreciate you turning on the sprinklers and giving chase to the water that spurts out.
If you don’t have a sprinkler you can still encourage your dog to start enjoying watersports with a bucket of water and some tennis balls. As they float on the surface of the water your dog will try to catch them but they will be bobbing up and down, making the task a little more challenging.
It all helps to cool your dog in the searing summer heat while providing plenty of entertainment for those watching on. You could even make more of a game of it by throwing the ball into a shallow pool, where your dog may just jump in after it.
Sticking with the aquatic theme, and swimming is a great way to stay active with your dog. This is particularly effective if your dog is energetic but is getting older and their joints aren’t what they used to be. Swimming is a low-impact activity but it also requires many muscles to work at the same time. It becomes a great way to exercise your dog without putting them at risk of injury.
Lots of dog breeds are perfectly capable of swimming in chlorinated water, so they can jump into your home pool if you have one, but they should be carefully monitored afterward. The chlorine may affect their fur so it’s important to give them a wash or a bath to rinse it away. You may choose to partake in open water swimming instead, which doesn’t have the risk of chlorine but you should provide your dog with a flotation device.
Dog experts suggest, “When you first take your dog swimming, you should only go in the water for a very short period of time. This will get them (and you) accustomed to being in the water.” The experts add, “You should consider that for your dog, a minute of swimming uses the same amount of energy as walking them for a mile. They will get tired quickly. Every time you go swimming though, increase the amount of time that you are in the water.”