Dogs are like children -- they enjoy being social and having their own play dates. Before deciding where to go with your pooch, Dr. Kari Foss, an Ohio veterinarian, recommends asking yourself a few questions and consider what your dog will be up for. First and foremost, she says, "Get to know the place/setting you're heading to: are there hazards, like toxins, busy streets, etc., that you need to watch out for?" Another big factor is whether your dog can handle being off leash, or if she needs a fenced-in area for some play time. Of course, always take into account how well your pup plays with other dogs. Once you know your dog's limits, it's time to get out and play. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Play with the Kids
Dogs are part of our families too, and there's nothing more fun than watching little ones playing with their furry kids. The ASPCA recommends arranging "play dates" between your kids and pets. This helps your children gain respect for your animal and vice versa, much like how play dates between kids cultivate healthy, lasting friendships. Of course, these should always be supervised by you, a babysitter or a nanny.Have your child blow dog-friendly bubbles; the dogs will have a blast trying to catch them, especially if they're flavored! You can also set up a race between the kids and your pup or play hide-and-seek -- have the kids hide while your pooch tries to sniff them out.
Head to the Dog Beach
Cities throughout the country have beaches that are designated as dog beaches, and these spots are perfect places for your furry friends to cool off in the sweltering heat -- as long as they're swimming dogs. They'll also get to romp around in the sand, too. Longtime dog owner, Carly Carbo of Madison, Wisconsin, adores watching her dogs dive off the pier to go swimming."I take my pups to various dog parks. There is one here that is right on the water, so they can swim and jump off the pier to go swimming," says Carbo.
Play Games in the Park
Not only do pups get to interact with lots of other dogs at dog parks, but they're also great places for your canine friend to get some exercise. Play soccer, Frisbee, fetch or just let your dogs romp with some new friends. "Keep a close eye on them if they are off leash in a confined area," recommends Tian Shuai, owner of Little Paws Walking, a pet care company in Chicago, Illinois. "You know your own dog well, but you never know how other dogs may react to things." Always check out the park without your dog first, to see if there's a fence. If you have a smaller dog, look for a separate area for smaller animals to play.
Go on an Outdoor Adventure
Dogs are natural explorers, and taking them on a hike is a wonderful way to satiate their curiosity, whether they're off leash or on one. For more immersion into nature, Dr. Foss recommends becoming involved with Dog Scouts of America, which has programs for owner- pet bonding. They plan trips full of fun activities for you and your pup, such as hiking, learning agility courses, swimming and even some training.
Grab a Cool Treat
Give in to your dog's desire for some human food by getting them dog-friendly ice cream! Frozen yogurt locations throughout the country offer great fro-yo options for your dog. Many ice cream parlors will have doggy snacks too; just ask for the doggie cone, and your pooch will be sure to gobble it up.Bring the kids for a fun afternoon outing, or have your nanny take the pooch along when she treats the little ones to a yummy ice cream parlor dessert. Or look out for dog-friendly treats at your local bakery or specialized dog bakeries, for a tasty alternative for pups that don't handle dairy well.
Meet Up with Other Pooches
Dogs are social creatures, and a wonderful way to meet other dogs is finding a meetup in your city via http://www.meetup.com/. "I have taken my little Yorkie to a bunch of meetups with the Chicago Yorkie Meet Up Group," Shuai says. "It's a nice way to get them to socialize with their own breed and same-size dogs."
Train Your Dog at an Agility Course
Who said training has to be all work? Agility courses and clubs like Clean Runare located all over the country, and are great ways to focus your dog's abundant energy while also getting in some exercise.
Challenge Your Pet with Some Games
Like agility courses, games are a great way to hone your dog's skills, while also having some fun. One such game suggested by the Whole Dog Journal is "find it!" (Just be sure it's played in a safe, fenced-in area where your dog can't stray too far.) The goal is to make it harder and harder for your dog to find his treats. Simply show your pooch the treat, excitedly tell him to "find it!" then throw the treat in any direction. After you've repeated this a few times, have your pup sit while you put the treat down about 15 feet away. When you go back to him, tell him to "find it!" again. Eventually, you can start using this command to play a fun game of hide-and-seek with your dog. Get your kids involved with games like this, and both your human and furry kids will have yet another way to bond.
Once you know where you're headed, take some precautions to keep your dog safe while she's having fun. "Always bring plenty water with you to make sure your pups are hydrated all the time," suggests Shuai. Another thing to watch for is that they don't burn their paws; in the heat of the summer, sand and concrete can get too hot for sensitive pets. Lastly, no matter where you go, keep a close eye on your pup. You can never predict how your canine companion will react to things, whether he is in a new environment or not. What matters is that, while staying safe, both you and your dog are having fun. You can do fun outings like this every week, or more often with dogs that require more exercise. Your dog will have a blast every time!
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found here.