Temperatures are slowly dropping, which means for longer, more comfortable excursions outdoors. Many of us are scrambling to squeeze the last drop out of summer, but fall too has great potential when it comes to enjoying fresh air and wide-open spaces with your pup.
If you’re social distancing still due to the coronavirus, you might need to choose activities that don’t involve other people and can keep you 6 feet away from others. Not to worry, we have 10 suggestions so you and your pup can have some fun and still be safe in fall weather.
1. Obstacle course
Work on obedience cues while having a blast. If your dog enjoys agility training you can work on skills like jumps, table, tunnel and tire. If your pup is just looking for a fun way to get the energy out, you can set up jumps or a tunnel in your backyard. Consider using things you would find in nature if you’re on a trail or hike. For example, jump over a log, practice a stay on a tree stump or picnic table or go around a large rock. Remember when on public trails to obey any leash laws and vaccine requirements.
2. Teach "stay"
While stay is a skill you might want to start indoors with minimal distraction when you feel ready you can take this one outside. Start on a short leash. Since the distraction level will be high - so many things to see and smell. Start with a short distance between you and your dog and only ask for a short duration. Short could mean 3-5 seconds if you are new to working on stay but if your dog has been regularly rocking 60 seconds in the house, try to see if your pup will stay 15-30 seconds outdoors. As your pup gets better at holding their stay outside, add distance (by using a longer leash), duration, or even distraction as other people or dogs walk by you.
Like stay, recall is another skill you will want to start working indoors and progress to working on it outside. While no trainer can ever guarantee your pup will reliably recall, it is a skill you want to practice and get as consistent as possible. For this skill, you always want to reward your dog when he comes when called. No matter what. You can use a higher value treat for this than you would for a command like sit or down. You always want your dog to know that when they come back they will be rewarded! This means you want to set your dog up for success when working recall outdoors. Start with a short distance recall and work your way up to having them come from across the back yard, trail or park at the end of a 20-foot leash.
If your pup is athletic and enjoys being outdoors with you consider having them join you on a fall hike. Research routes and make sure your dog is healthy enough for the hike. If you’re not sure, consult your vet first. Remember to pack plenty of water, a basic first aid kit, and abide by all of the rules on the trail. This includes making sure your dog is appropriately vaccinated, keeping your pup on a leash and on the trail, and picking up after yourself and your dog. No one wants to step in dog poop - even on a muddy trail.
5. Road trip
If you have a social and adventurous pup, consider a road trip! Before you hit the open road, you’ll need to do a few things to prepare. First, make sure your pup us up to date on all vaccines and has updated ID tags with your cell phone number and a working microchip.
Next, plan your route to ensure you know where all of the pet-friendly hotels and rest stops are along the way. You will also want to make sure you have a comfortable and sturdy crate or seatbelt to secure your best friend and co-pilot.
Safety first! Choose activities along your route that your pup will enjoy. That could mean stopping for a special treat like ice cream or finding some new hiking trails to stretch your legs and let your dog enjoy some new and exciting smells. If your pup isn’t really into the great outdoors, consider a hotel stay and some delicious room service. Many pet-friendly hotels offer menus just for pups.
7. Nose work
While you may want to start nosework indoors, you can take the fun outside. This might make it more difficult as there are already so many great smells outside. Your pup will really have to work hard and focus on the task at hand, which is great for mental stimulation. Don’t be surprised if your pup is extra tired after this one!
8. Dining al fresco
Whether you pack your own picnic or enjoy a dog-friendly restaurant or beer garden, your pup might love to head out for brunch or dinner with you. A few considerations to make sure this is a fun, relaxing activity for you both. If you go to a sidewalk cafe or beer garden try to go at an off peak time. If you can find somewhere with a patio or slightly quieter space it might be a little easier. If you’re eating outside a restaurant in a busy city with people and dogs walking by, your dog may want to bark or otherwise interact. Trying to keep your dog quiet and not running after everyone the whole meal will make it less enjoyable for both of you. In addition to finding a quiet spot consider bringing your dog’s place or a towel for them to sit or lay on. You can also bring them something fun to do while you wait for your food like a kong or LickiMat. Finally, don’t linger too long and pay attention to your pup’s signals. If they are getting bored or restless - it is time to ask for the check and move on to the next fun thing.
While this might be the simplest suggestion on the list, it could also be one of the most fun. If your dog loves to retrieve, you can up the ante on your fetch game. Teach your dog to fetch all kinds of objects including a snack or even a cold beer.
10. Take a drive somewhere new
If you don’t have time for a full road trip, you could still take a drive somewhere new. If your pup isn’t crazy about the car, keep your drive to 15-30 minutes. Try a new dog park, trail, pet store, or head out somewhere with a new and tasty treat. This will use up some downtime in a more engaging way. Even if you just take a drive to a different neighborhood, your best friend will just be glad to be exploring with you.
While these activities assume your pup has some basic obedience skills, this is important when being out and about. To keep your pup safe you want to always keep them on a leash (even if it is a longer one in appropriate areas) and make sure your pup has a solid recall as well as able to “drop it” and “leave it” so they don’t pick up things they shouldn’t.
If you’re spending prolonged amounts of time enjoying the outdoors, you want to make sure your pup always has access to fresh, clean water and protection from the sun. Yes, we’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating as you want to keep your pup hydrated and safe.
Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your fun in the great outdoors with your best friend.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.