Dog parks, beaches and trails are all common places for canines to socialize and have some fun, whether it’s hiking, fetching a ball or running with the pack. And although canines love repetition and routine, it’s good to shake things up once in a while, if only for your own interest. Here are some different ways to stimulate and bond with your best pal in the great outdoors.
Two wheels, four paws
Exercise caution when you take your dog bicycling. Some people think it’s fun to leash their dogs to their handlebars and have them pull, however this can be dangerous, potentially injuring you and your best pal. Also, avoid keeping your dog at your side while you slowly bike beside them. A leash, a dog, speed and wheels are not a safe combination.
Instead, opt for a bike trailer that’s specially sized for your dog so you can pull him behind your bike. There are even baskets for small breeds that attach safely to handlebars, allowing you and your pal to glide around the neighborhood in style. Be sure your pooch is secured so he isn’t able to jump or fall out accidentally.
If your dog loves to run and chase tennis balls, discs or rabbits, flyball might be the perfect activity. This canine relay race breaks dogs into teams of four, who must negotiate a series of hurdles to get their reward: a tennis ball that’s released from a box after they step on a pad. As soon as one dog retrieves the ball and returns to the starting gate, the next one runs out. Any pooch can play, but if you have a Border Collie, Jack Russell, Australian Shepherd, or Whippet, he may excel at this sport.
Perhaps your buddy has some Sheepdog genes? If so, consider training him for a Sheepdog Trial. Patterned after real sheepherding, each dog competes by moving sheep through an obstacle course made of bridges and corrals.
More advanced competitions require dogs to separate the flock into small groups. Known as "shedding," it’s one of the most arduous activities a Sheepdog endeavors. The trials are now held around the country, no shepherd experience required. Breeds such as Australian Shepherds, Bearded Collies, Border Collies, and Corgis are natural sheepherders so it’s a great way to give them plenty of exercise while utilizing their herding intuition.
Marco, polo (sort of)
Some dogs, even those who aren’t water breeds, love to swim, but how about surf? Dog surfing has been documented in California and Hawaii as far back as the 1920s.In fact, the 1930s silent film, “On The Waves in Waikiki” stars Night Hawk, a surfing terrier who was filmed riding a wooden surfboard with his human companion.
If you’re not into hanging ten yourself, fret not. Some dogs can surf solo, and if your pooch already loves the water, it might be worth a try. In fact, if he gets good enough he could even compete for “Top Surf Dog” at Dog Beach in Del Mar, California. Sponsored by the Helen Woodward Animal Center, the free “Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon” event is held every September and donations benefit the center’s animal rescue programs. Check it out: https://animalcenter.org/surf-dog-surf-a-thon.
Canines can also be trained to glide over the water’s surface on a skimboard, a smaller surfboard sans fins. Windsurfing and paddleboarding are also activities you can try with your best buddy, especially if you’ve mastered those sports yourself.
Dive in, the water’s fine! Dock diving is an aquatic canine activity where dogs compete to see which one can jump the farthest into a pool of water from an elevated dock or platform. This activity has become so popular, it’s featured on cable TV and competitions are held around the globe. All dogs can participate, but first be sure your dog is an excellent swimmer and not afraid of heights.
Larger breeds like Belgian Malinois, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers often lead the diving pack. A Belgian Malinois, Baxter, made headlines in 2011 when he jumped 29 feet and 11 inches on David Letterman’s late-night talk show.
Blue Buffalo® sponsors one of the more popular diving groups, DockDogs. Even if your dog can’t dive right in, he can escort you to one of the shows.
Skijoring has become a popular doggy pastime, especially for skiing snow bunnies who want a break. After all, what could be better than slapping on some cross-country skis and having your dog pull you? This fast-paced activity can be very exhilarating, so if your pal is a medium to large-sized dog and you’re around snow, skijoring might be for you. Never cross-country skied? Doing it with your four-legged companion might be the best reason to learn.
Try something new
Some of these activities may be out of your and your dog’s wheelhouse, but you can always change things up simply by finding a new place to hike. Check out our tips for safe hiking with your dog so you’ll both have a good time. As with any activity, be sure your veterinarian has given your dog the green light, especially for the more strenuous sports that involve water, snow, heights, etc.
Naturally, whatever activity you and your pal do, be sure to have plenty of tasty, nutritious dog treats, on hand to reward and replenish your dog.