Just like humans, dogs need regular mental and physical stimulation. As the American Kennel Club (AKC) notes, “A mentally stimulated dog is a happy dog.” We’d add that physical stimulation and fun are equally important.
So, what is the best way to keep your pup active, happy, and healthy? The answer is simple: Spend time with him. If you’re at a loss as to what activities you and your canine can enjoy together, you’re in luck! We’ve collaborated with fellow canine experts and devoted dog owners to bring you 15 fun activities to try with your pup.
1. Teach Your Dog New Tricks
Many dog owners housetrain their dogs but fail to follow through with ongoing training. A great way to stimulate your dog both mentally and physically is with regular training sessions.
Keep each session short and sweet by teaching your pup one trick at a time. We love this video by YouTube star, MsMojo, who demonstrated 10 cool tricks you can teach your pooch in no time. As your dog learns new tricks, you can incorporate each one into his daily playtime.
2. Take a Hike Together
Outdoor time is important for humans and their pups, and exploring new areas can make getting outside even more exciting. We recommend checking out hikewithyourdog.com to find a pet-friendly trail near you. Tote along plenty of water, snacks, your phone, a flashlight, and a pet first aid kit to ensure a safe outing.
3. Make Treat Time Play Time
There’s nothing wrong with making your pup work for his daily treats. Try a fun iteration of hide-and-seek by hiding a few strong-smelling treats in a room of your house while your pup is asleep. Once he wakes up, encourage him to search for the treats, and give him hints as needed. You can eventually hide his treats in different rooms for a more challenging activity.
4. Pick Up Toys Together
If your dog tends to make a mess by spreading his toys throughout your home, try making clean-up time fun by picking up toys together. If you’ve taught your dog to fetch, teaching him to pick up his toys shouldn’t be too difficult. We recommend teaching your dog the name of each of his toys so he knows which favorite to clean up next. Be sure to offer him plenty of praise—and a treat—for a job well done!
5. Treat Your Pup to a Pet-Friendly Puzzle Toy
One surefire way to engage your dog in a fun and challenging activity is with a dog-specific puzzle toy. There are countless options on the market, but we’re particularly fond of this hide and seek hedgehog toy by ZippyPaws. Check out Chewy.com for a wide selection of engaging—and adorable—toys!
6. Give Your Dog a Massage
Bonding with your dog could be as simple as treating him to an impromptu massage. eHowPets’ YouTube channel features an excellent tutorial that’s easy to follow and is sure to leave your pup feeling fabulous! If your dog is high-strung, or if he suffers from arthritis, he will likely love this relaxing activity.
7. Make Grooming Sessions Fun
There’s nothing quite as cuddly as a freshly groomed, squeaky clean dog. If grooming is a chore you dread, you can make it more tolerable and fun for your dog by offering treats throughout the grooming process. Rewards make bath and nail-trimming time more enjoyable for everyone, and if your pooch knows he has treats to look forward to, he may actually get excited about subsequent grooming sessions.
For many dog owners, one of the most frustrating aspects of grooming is brushing their pups’ teeth. We recommend substituting traditional tooth brushing with dental stick toys on occasion. You can even add dog-safe toothpaste to boost the cleaning power. Your dog will have sparkly teeth, and you’ll save time and energy.
8. Introduce Your Dog to Bubbles
Most folks have fond memories of blowing bubbles as children, and dogs love them, too! You’ll get reacquainted with the childlike joy of bubble-blowing, and your canine will act like a puppy. Start by picking up an inexpensive bottle of bubbles, and if your pup loves the experience, consider splurging on a bubble machine. Traditional bubbles are completely pet-safe, so there’s no need to splurge on expensive pet-specific products.
9. Switch Up Your Dog’s Toys
You don’t need to splurge on a massive collection of dog toys. Choose a designated hiding spot in your home, and switch up your pet’s toy selection every couple of days. Playing fetch will be more fun and engaging for you both if you’re not continuously throwing the same old, ratty toy.
If you do decide to stock up on toys, opt for a variety. Having several options will stave off boredom for you and your canine. You can even make your own toys! Check out this fun-filled video for creative ideas and tips.
10. Set Up a Doggy Playdate with a Friend
Humans and dogs crave social interaction and thrive from being around others. What better way to socialize than by setting up a double date with a friend and his or her beloved pup?
You may choose to host the playdate at your home, or meet at a local dog park or dog-friendly café. If the dogs hit it off, we guarantee that playdates will become a regular occurrence.
11. Visit a Local Dog Park
Don’t fret if you don’t have a friend with a pooch nearby. Hitting the local dog park is a great way to connect with other dog owners while your pups play. Just remember: It may take time for your dog to feel comfortable interacting with other canines if he hasn’t spent quality time with other pups in the past. Let him interact at his own pace, and keep an eye out for aggressive behavior. Some dog parks even have separate areas for larger and smaller breeds to keep pups safe.
12. Make Dog Treats
One excellent way to show your dog you care is by spoiling him with homemade dog treats. We love this video by Rosanna Pansino, who offers great tips and tricks. Most of the ingredients are relatively inexpensive, and the treats aren’t too difficult to make. Best of all, every ingredient is pet-safe, so you can sneak a taste or two to your pup while you’re whipping up his treats!
13. Watch Something Both You and Your Dog Will Enjoy
Cuddling up and watching a movie with your four-legged family member is probably a daily highlight for you both. To enhance the experience for your pooch, consider choosing a flick that will capture your canine’s interest.
We love this article by PetMD, which suggests five awesome movies to watch with your dog. From Scooby Doo to 101 Dalmatians, your pup won’t be able to keep his eyes off the screen.
14. Get Away Together
Our lives are a collection of meaningful experiences, and vacations are an excellent way to make lasting memories and strengthen your bond with your dog. Plan a dog-friendly trip by visiting petfriendlytravel.com. From lodging and restaurants to pet-friendly activities, you’ll find a plethora of options to create a trip you’ll never forget.
15. Cool Off Together by Hitting the Beach
If you’re anywhere near water, we highly recommend checking out local pet-friendly beaches. You can find a list at bringfido.com. If you’re taking your canine swimming for the first time, we recommend reading this informative article by the AKC, which features helpful training and safety tips.
No beach nearby? Check for local dog-friendly ponds or lakes, or treat your pooch to his very own doggy pool.
Enjoy the Adventure!
The simple act of spending time with your dog will cement the bond between you. By introducing your pet to new, fun activities, you’ll give him a life filled with excitement and boundless joy—the same gifts our dogs give us when they come into our lives.
Becky Simmonds is a professional dog walker and part-time rescue worker. In her local community she's known as the 'dog whisperer'! Her innate ability to understand and communicate with dogs (even if they're not hers) is quite incredible! Becky's loyal companion Chip, a German Shorthaired Pointer accompanies the group on their daily adventures!