Providing lots of mental and physical enrichment for your dog helps to keep them happy, healthy and stress-free. If you’re struggling for new activities, here are 25 fun things to do with your dog.
- Before We Begin…
- 25 Fun Activities With Your Dog
- 1. Take Your Dog to a Beginner’s Agility Class
- 2. Practice Basic Cues in New Environments
- 3. Let Your Dog Play in a Paddling Pool on a Hot Day
- 4. Go Rowing on a Lake
- 5. Play “Indoor” Games at the Park
- 6. Have a Professional Photo Shoot With Your Pet
- 7. Create a Scavenger Hunt
- 8. Dance With Your Dog at a Musical Freestyle Class
- 9. Play the Muffin Tin Game
- 10. Go Geocaching
- 11. Have a Pup Play Session
- 12. Try Dog Yoga (or “Doga”)
- 13. Join a Reward-Based Training Class
- 14. Build a Digging Sandbox
- 15. Go Hiking With Your Dog
- 16. Play Frisbee
- 17. Visit a Dog-Friendly Cafe or Bar
- 18. Have a Pup Picnic
- 19. Try Mantrailing
- 20. Register Your Dog as a Therapy Dog
- 21. Walk Along The Beach
- 22. Learn How to Play Flyball
- 23. Go Camping
- 24. Take a K9 Nose Work Class
- 25. Relax With Your Dog
Trying new things also strengthens the bond you have with your dog – as long as you choose appropriate activities.
If you’re struggling for inspiration, here are 25 fun dog activities to get you started.
Note: Many of these activities are for outside the home. We’ve written a separate guide for indoor activities, which is perfect for those rainy days!
Before We Begin…
These 25 activities are all suitable for dogs, but that doesn’t mean they are appropriate for your dog.
Every dog is different, so it’s important to pick things your pet is likely to enjoy. You should also consider your dog’s health, age, personality and confidence levels before undertaking any of these activities.
For example, high impact activities aren’t suitable for puppies, senior dogs with mobility issues, or dogs with health conditions. Similarly, activities involving other dogs aren’t a good choice if your pet gets stressed by canine interactions or doesn’t cope well with stimulating environments.
If in doubt, always consult a vet or qualified canine behaviorist before taking part. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
You should also be mindful of whether an activity is right for a dog who’s fearful in new situations. If you plan to introduce something new, do it gradually, while ensuring the experience is always positive.
How to Tell If Your Dog is Stressed
Always watch for signs of stress in your dog – especially when taking part in new activities. Observe their body language and subtle changes in behavior, as these can tell you a lot about what your dog is feeling.
Some common indicators that your dog is anxious include:
- Cowering or hunched posture
- Tail tucked between the legs
- Excessive panting
- Avoidance behaviors, including not making eye contact or trying to hide
- Appeasement behaviors such as yawning, lip-licking and sniffing the ground
Never force your dog to take part in an activity that causes stress. This could heighten anxiety levels, create distrust between you, and if the dog is extremely frightened, could even trigger aggression.
If your dog isn’t enjoying something, there are lots of other activities to try. After all, the goal is to make it fun for you both!
25 Fun Activities With Your Dog
1. Take Your Dog to a Beginner’s Agility Class
Agility is one of the most popular dog sports – and it’s a brilliant activity to try with your pooch.
Dog agility involves guiding your pet around a variety of obstacles, which include jumps, weaves, tunnels, A-frames, and see-saws. In competitive agility, the winner is the pair who makes it around the course in the fastest time, with the fewest number of errors.
Whether you’re just doing agility for fun or working towards taking part in competitions, it can have a host of benefits.
As you can imagine, even short agility sessions can burn off plenty of excess energy. Agility is also a perfect way to build your dog’s fitness, flexibility and stamina. You’ll likely benefit in the cardio department too!
If your pooch is nervous or reactive around other dogs, they may not be suited to a busy group class. That shouldn’t stop you setting up a makeshift course in your garden or quiet park though. Some instructors also have special classes for dogs who don’t enjoy being close to others.
While most dogs can take part in some level of agility training, it’s probably not safe for senior dogs with joint problems. Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, may also struggle.
Puppies shouldn’t tackle large jumps or take part in long agility sessions, due to their softer bones. You may be able to slowly introduce low-impact obstacles, however, like the tunnel or weave poles. Check which obstacles are suitable for your dog with an expert before you start.
2. Practice Basic Cues in New Environments
It’s common for owners to teach a dog a new cue at home, such as “down,” only to be surprised that their pet doesn’t respond in a different environment.
The best way to solve this issue is to practice new cues (or “generalize” them) in gradually more difficult environments, until your dog always responds.
Don’t just go to a dog park and attempt the cue though, as this is setting your pet up for failure. The more distractions there are, the harder it is for your pet to follow your cues.
Instead, slowly build up the duration (how long the cue is held), distance (how far away you are when giving the cue) and distractions (what else is in the environment.)
This might not sound like the most exciting activity, but practicing generalization is mentally enriching for your dog. It also builds your dog’s confidence and gives you more trust in their behaviour.
3. Let Your Dog Play in a Paddling Pool on a Hot Day
If your dog is a water baby and you have suitable outdoor space, setting up a shallow paddling pool can be a great way to offer additional enrichment and help your dog stay cool.
Playing in water can be a lot of fun for a dog – and it’s also extremely tiring. If you need a way to exercise your dog on a warm day, a paddling pool is an excellent choice.
Dogs have sharp claws and teeth, so choose a pool that‘s specifically designed for canines. A regular paddling pool probably won’t last long! Set it up in a shaded area and keep the water level low.
Don’t expect your dog to love a new pool immediately. While some dogs might jump straight in, others will need reassurance and encouragement with toys and treats. Of course, you should never force your dog into the pool – let them explore it in their own time.
Pool play should always be supervised for your dog’s safety. It’s also important to regularly refresh the water.
Note: It’s not a good idea to let your dog play with a hose, sprinklers or other pressurized water sources. If your dog ingests too much water during this activity, they could be at risk of suffering from potentially lethal water intoxication.
4. Go Rowing on a Lake
If you have a water loving dog, like a Retriever, Spaniel or Setter, and you have access to a rowing boat, why not head down to your local lake for a boating trip?
Rowing is a great way to spend time with your dog in a peaceful environment, while getting some physical exercise. Your dog also gets to enjoy a new experience with lots of interesting sights and smells.
Of course, it’s important to ensure the boat is suitable for your dog. A Great Dane in a kayak may not be the best idea! Your dog should also wear a lifejacket at all times, even if they are a strong swimmer.
Tip: Spend time getting your dog accustomed to embarking and settling on the boat before heading out to open water. Look for signs of stress when rowing, as some dogs are frightened by a rocky boat.
5. Play “Indoor” Games at the Park
If your dog has a favorite game at home, playing it at a park could add a different dimension to the fun.
The change of environment often renews a dog’s interest, as our canine friends love new experiences. Playing games in the park is also a perfect opportunity to practice generalizing release cues, such as “give” or “leave.”
Whatever game you’re playing, always be sure to reward any desired behavior with further play or a tasty food reward.
6. Have a Professional Photo Shoot With Your Pet
If you don’t mind splashing out, why not consider a professional photo shoot with your dog?
The best dog photographers combine high-quality equipment with an understanding of how to get your pet to “pose,” so the results are much better than smartphone photos.
Aside from being a fabulous memento, photo shoots can be a fun experience for your dog. They are a great opportunity to practice sit/stay training, and your dog will likely get lots of yummy treats or fun play while trying to capture that perfect shot.
7. Create a Scavenger Hunt
Giving your dog an outlet for their scenting abilities is a fantastic idea. After all, a dog’s sense of smell is said to be at least 100,000 more sensitive than humans!
The idea of a scavenger hunt is to hide yummy treats for your dog to find. The dog is then forced to rely on his sense of smell to sniff out treats.
Start easy with a small number of treats placed close to your dog. You may even want to let him see where you place the treats for the first few games, as making it too tough will cause frustration. As they get the hang of it, you can gradually increase the number of treats and the difficulty of the hiding places.
Once your dog understands the game, you can progress to different environments. Your garden is a good start, but you can even play in parks or woodland.
If your dog enjoys scavenger hunts, there are lots of other scent work games you can play. Studies have even suggested that nose work can increase a dog’s optimism, so making these games part of your routine can lead to a happier pup.
8. Dance With Your Dog at a Musical Freestyle Class
I love canine musical freestyle. It’s an up and coming sport that involves a choreographed dance routine with a dog and handler – and it’s such a fun activity for both you and your pet.
During a routine, the handler asks their dog to perform a number of tricks and obedience moves in time to the music. These moves are done in partnership with the moves of the handler.
You’ll often see dogs weaving through their owner’s legs, spinning, rolling over and showing off great heelwork too.
It’s a fun way to practice tricks and build a strong bond with your dog. The routines can also be adapted to dogs of any age, making it a wonderful activity for almost any healthy dog. Plus it’s a lot of fun to be creative with music, choreography and outfits!
The key is to build up your dog’s skill gradually, as trying to do too much straight away can be frustrating for you and your pet. There are lots of online resources to refer to, or you may both enjoy getting some direction from an expert in a class or club environment.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Emily Larlham has lots of great resources on her Kikopup Youtube channel.
9. Play the Muffin Tin Game
This is an inexpensive form of mental enrichment that’s great for forcing your dog to use his brain. It’s usually an indoor game, but you can move to a more distracting outdoor space if you want to increase the difficulty.
Rather than splashing out on another fancy puzzle feeder, simply find an old muffin tin from the back of your kitchen cupboard. Start by putting a tasty treat in some of the tray holders and then placing a ball over them. Your dog needs to get the balls out to access the treats, which isn’t always easy.
Once your dog has the hang of it, you can make the game more challenging by covering all the tray holders with balls but only putting treats under a select few.
If you don’t have enough balls, get creative and cover the slots with rolled-up paper or socks instead.
10. Go Geocaching
Geocaching is a popular outdoor activity that’s perfect for combining with a dog walk. If you tend to walk in the same locations, geocaching is great for encouraging you to explore new locations.
If you haven’t played before, geocaching involves using an app or GPS device to find hidden “caches.” These usually contain a logbook to sign, and some have trinkets that can be swapped out for something of a greater or equal value.
There are geocache locations in every country, with a mixture of urban and rural caches to find. You might be surprised at how many are in your local area!
Just make sure that your planned walk is safe and suitable for your pup in terms of distance, weather conditions and access. Also, if you’re in an area with livestock or wildlife, be responsible and keep your dog on the leash.
Check out the Geocaching website if you’re intrigued and would like to find out more.
11. Have a Pup Play Session
If your dog enjoys the company of other canines, why not arrange a social playdate?
Young dogs, in particular, can learn a lot from play. It can teach bite inhibition and help them understand dog communication and body language.
Not all adult dogs are as driven to play with other canines, but for those that are, it can be a great way to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
There are lots of things that can go wrong during a play date though. You shouldn’t just let two dogs into the same room and hope for the best. Here are a few safety tips:
- Make sure that both dogs are compatible in terms of size, energy levels and temperaments. A shy or anxious dog, for example, shouldn’t be mixed with a boisterous dog. Mixing a St Bernard with a Chihuahua could also be a recipe for disaster.
- Introductions should be made slowly in a neutral and open environment. This minimises the chance of defensive behaviour. An open space also allows each dog to move away if they feel stressed.
- The play should be balanced between the dogs. Watch out for signs that one dog is harassing the other or dominating the play.
- Play bows and relaxed body language are signs that the meeting is going well. Make sure that both dogs are displaying these signals though.
- Mounting, snapping, stalking, excessive barking, pushiness, over-arousal or pinning aren’t good signs, and play should be stopped if you see any of these behaviors.
- Watch out for signs of stress in your dog. A tucked tail, lick lipping, cowering or a stiff posture could mean they aren’t enjoying the company of the other dog.
It’s also important to realise that some dogs just don’t enjoy playing with other canines. Don’t force your dog into this kind of activity, as this can lead to stress and defensive behavior.
I also wanted to mention a pet peeve of mine: dog parks.
Unless a dog park is well-run and responsibly attended, it can be more damaging than fun. Parks often have many dogs running amok without proper supervision from owners, who may not understand canine body language. It’s common to see dogs overpowering others, or pets that are just not suited to being there.
Unless you have a calm, sociable and confident dog, and you know the dog park has a good reputation, then an organised and structured play date is a much better option.
12. Try Dog Yoga (or “Doga”)
Taking part in a yoga class with your dog is becoming increasingly popular – and it can be a lot of fun!
‘Doga’ classes combine a healthy human activity with a chance for your dog to socialise in a new environment. If your dog has mastered “down” or “stay,” practicing these in a yoga class can also be a great way to work on generalization.
There are a variety of types of “Doga.” Some classes simply let puppies or sociable dogs into the room while the owners take part. Others involve dogs more directly, including giving light massages or even lifting small dogs during certain poses (if they are comfortable.)
Even if your dog isn’t suited to a class environment, you can still do Doga by encouraging your dog to settle while you practice at home. Your dog will benefit from the calm training, and it can reduce stress or excitement levels.
13. Join a Reward-Based Training Class
Enrolling your dog in a reputable training class can have lots of fantastic benefits for you both. Classes are mentally stimulating for your pup, provide socialisation opportunities, and can give you more confidence in your dog’s behaviour.
Training classes aren’t just for puppies either. Even if your dog has mastered basic cues, classes are brilliant for practicing advanced tricks while getting guidance from a professional.
There are a variety of classes available. Some focus on practical and functional skills, such as leash walking or general obedience. These can be useful, but there are also classes that are based on fun activities, such as trick training or scentwork.
Whichever type of class you choose, it’s vital that it’s safely run by a trainer who uses science-based methods. Make sure they have appropriate qualifications and that they promote reward-based positive reinforcement training.
Classes which promote the use of punishment and aversive tools can quickly damage the bond you have with your dog. Your dog could also become stressed or fearful, which can have a lasting impact on their wellbeing.
Keep in mind that not all dogs enjoy class environments. If your pet doesn’t like being near other dogs, a 1-2-1 training session could be the better option.
14. Build a Digging Sandbox
If your dog has a strong natural desire to dig, then offering them an appropriate outlet for this drive can be beneficial to their mental wellbeing. It can also be a lot of fun watching your dog digging through sand trying to find a toy!
It’s common for terrier breeds and arctic dogs to want to dig. Buying a sandbox can prevent your dog digging up the lawn, while also giving them a chance to perform this instinctual behavior.
You can encourage your dog to dig in the sandbox by burying high-value toys. The first toys should be shallow, so he quickly understands that the box is a fun place to dig. Over time, you can make the game more challenging.
Note: If your dog is a compulsive digger, this may be due to stress, lack of exercise, boredom or another problem. Read our guide to preventing digging for more information.
15. Go Hiking With Your Dog
What better way to bond with your dog than hiking through beautiful scenery? Spending time in nature can be great for our mental health and, obviously, is great for our physical fitness too.
Hiking can also be a perfect way to tire out your dog, especially if they’re an active and high energy breed. The combination of physical exercise and new smells is hard to beat.
Before you head into the great outdoors, check the route is suitable for dogs. Some parks require dogs to be on a leash at all times, while many National Parks don’t allow dogs at all. If it’s bear country, or somewhere known for snakes, you may need to keep your dog on the leash or look for an alternative location.
Always bring plenty of water for your dog and check the weather conditions before leaving. Avoid hiking in high temperatures, as this can lead to heat exhaustion.
Don’t forget to pack poop bags and consider whether your dog will need a coat, booties for rough terrain, or even their own backpack.
It’s important to be sensible when deciding whether hiking is safe for your dog. Your dog’s size, age, activity levels and health all affect how long and strenuous a walk can be. Be particularly careful with puppies, dogs with medical conditions, and elderly dogs with joint problems.
You may also need to build up your dog’s activity levels before heading off on a full-day hike. If they are used to short walks, a long hike could be dangerous.
16. Play Frisbee
Do you have a high energy and athletic dog that loves to fetch? Frisbee could be the perfect game – as long as you play in moderation.
Many dogs have a natural chase drive, which is why they love playing fetch or frisbee. Choose a frisbee that’s relatively soft, to protect your dog’s teeth, and that flies well. Start with small throws and aim to get your dog to land on all fours, as this puts less strain on the joints.
Keep in mind that many dogs will run past the point of safety when playing fetch. Don’t rely on your dog to tell you when he’s tired, as he may not until it’s too late. Short sessions are key to protecting your dog’s joints and avoiding exhaustion.
As with all high impact and strenuous activities, frisbee isn’t suitable for all dogs. Puppies, elderly canines, or overweight dogs shouldn’t play, as the jumping action puts too much strain on their joints. Rolling the frisbee along the ground can be a safer alternative.
17. Visit a Dog-Friendly Cafe or Bar
If your dog is confident, calm and likes being around other people, then taking them to a dog-friendly cafe or bar can provide stimulation and socialization opportunities.
It’s important to build positive associations, as even a confident dog will feel anxious in a new and crowded environment. A comfy blanket and treats for rewarding calm behaviour are essential for making your pet feel relaxed.
Of course, it’s also essential to be respectful of the space and other patrons. Don’t allow your dog to wander, beg for food, climb on chairs, or disturb others in the cafe.
This is another activity that isn’t suitable for all dogs. If your dog is nervous or easily over aroused, then taking them into a space like this will likely be asking too much. If they’re prone to barking for attention or become defensive around strangers, then they probably won’t make a good cafe dog.
Tip: Be careful with chews and toys in cafes. Many dogs become possessive of these items, which can make them defensive if approached.
18. Have a Pup Picnic
There’s only one thing better than a summer picnic – and that’s a summer picnic with your dog!
While every dog enjoys spending time outdoors with their owner, picnics are a great alternative to hiking for older dogs or those who can only cope with small amounts of exercise. Picnics are also a perfect time to practice settling.
To set your dog up for success, have a walk before your picnic. If they haven’t had exercise beforehand, the dog may find it more of a challenge to settle and relax.
Encourage everyone to supervise their food and don’t leave too many temptations lying around for your dog to steal. You don’t want to reinforce bad habits! It’s a good idea to bring some treats or a chew, so your dog can enjoy something tasty.
Pack extra water so your pooch can stay hydrated and, if it’s a warm day, make sure you select a shaded spot. It’s also important to keep your dog on a leash if there are other picnickers around.
19. Try Mantrailing
If you have a dog who loves to use their nose, then you could consider trying the rising sport of Mantrailing.
Mantrailing involves teaching a dog to trail a specific human scent until they locate the individual. Essentially, your dog is being taught to do what you often see Bloodhounds do when they’re assisting police in tracking a human scent.
The sport gradually builds up your dog’s skill in terms of distance and distraction. It’s made fun by treating trailing like a game of hide and seek, with lots of rewards when the dog achieves their goal.
As well as being highly enriching for a dog, mantrailing can also deepen the bond between you and build your dog’s confidence levels. It’s a brilliant activity and can be adapted in difficulty to almost any dog.
20. Register Your Dog as a Therapy Dog
If you have a calm dog who loves meeting new people, they may enjoy training to become a therapy dog. This is a time-consuming activity compared to others on this list, but can be highly rewarding if your dog is suitable.
Therapy dogs and their owners make scheduled visits to places like hospitals, schools, hospices and assisted living establishments.
For the recipients, spending time with a dog can reduce stress and loneliness. Often these individuals can be shut down, but become more animated and happy when they interact with the dog.
There are many types of therapy dog. Some dogs are trained to sit with children while they read, as it’s thought this can boost confidence and attention levels. Others may be groomed or petted by elderly people with dementia.
Dogs of any age, shape or size can become a therapy dog, but having the right temperament is key. It’s important that the dog is gentle and calm, for example, and that they are confident around new people.
It’s also important that your dog enjoys the visits. If your pet is nervous in new situations, doesn’t like to be around new people, or is over-excitable, then they probably aren’t a therapy dog candidate.
21. Walk Along The Beach
Taking your dog to the beach can be a fantastic way to let them blow off steam. There’s often plenty of space to run or play fetch, and dogs who love digging can have fun in the sand. A paddle in the ocean is also the perfect way to cool off.
Make sure you keep your dog safe and respect the rules, though. Not all beaches are dog friendly, and some request that dogs are kept on leash.
You should also come armed with plenty of poop bags. It’s important to keep the beaches clean, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair if a young child stepped in your dog’s business with bare feet!
Keep in mind that it might not always be safe to let your dog swim. Some beaches have strong currents that could sweep your dog out to sea or onto rocks. Tragically, it’s common for owners to drown whilst attempting to save dogs caught in the tides. You also shouldn’t let your dog drink seawater, as it can lead to serious health issues.
22. Learn How to Play Flyball
If you have an active dog who loves balls, they may enjoy the fast-paced sport of Flyball.
In Flyball, the competitors jump a series of hurdles before pressing a spring-loaded box to eject the ball. They then need to bring the ball back to the start via the hurdles.
The jumps are adjusted in size depending on the height of the lowest dog team member. This means it’s a sport that any healthy and active adult dog can take part in.
When played competitively, each team has four dogs who run in a relay format. Speed and accuracy are vital for top-performing teams, but even if your dog is on the slow side, they can still enjoy this activity.
23. Go Camping
Camping can be a fantastic way to involve your dog in a vacation. It also saves the hassle of finding dog-friendly accommodation – and you don’t need to pay for a dog sitter either.
While many dogs love camping, keeping your pet safe requires planning and foresight. Here are a few tips for a successful trip:
- Plan in advance. Make sure you have the right gear and that the weather conditions are safe.
- Be considerate to other campers and keep your dog on a leash around the campsite. Be sure to pick up their poop, even when on remote trails.
- Pack a doggy first aid kit, including items such as a tick twister, antiseptic wipes and bandages.
- If the temperatures are extreme, consider whether camping with your dog is fair or safe. Your dog could easily overheat in hot weather.
- In the winter months, make sure your pet has a warm coat and insulated bedding.
You may also need to adjust your plans based on your dog’s personality. Nervous or reactive dogs, for example, aren’t suited to a busy campsite. If you have a senior dog or a puppy, hiking into a remote location isn’t going to work.
24. Take a K9 Nose Work Class
Scent work trials and nose work classes are brilliant activities for dogs of any age, size, ability and energy levels.
As I’ve already mentioned, a dog’s natural sense of smell is highly sophisticated. Harnessing this can provide great mental enrichment.
In scent work trials, cotton swabs are saturated with particular essential oils, and the dog has to find where they’re hidden. The difficulty of the task increases as the dog becomes more experienced.
You don’t need formal classes to activate your dog’s sense of smell though. Simply slowing your walks down to allow “sniff time” can be a great option, especially if you have a senior or unfit dog.
25. Relax With Your Dog
While physical and mental enrichment are important, downtime is also needed.
Snuggle time on the couch while watching Netflix, or reading a book in the garden together, can be an enjoyable experience for your dog. They’re companionable animals that seek out human contact.
Don’t force your dog to be with you though. If your dog wants to relax in their own space, no matter how much you want to snuggle, give them the opportunity to do this. Respect their personal space.
Some dogs love being showered with affection and actively seek it out. Others won’t enjoy being restrained in a hug, so just being close to you is enough.
Dogs love novelty, so new activities can strengthen your bond and provide plenty of enrichment. Many dog-friendly activities are also a lot of fun.
It’s important to choose activities that are suitable for your dog’s age, health, fitness levels and temperament though. Not all activities are suitable for every dog, so be sensible and monitor your pet for signs of stress or discomfort.
Have you tried any of the fun things in this article? Or did I miss one of your favourite dog-friendly activities? Let me know in the comments box below!