Crisp fall temperatures. Quiet moments in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa (for the humans, at least). Giant piles of leaves to pounce, run, and jump in. In the northern USA, there’s hiking among the summer leaves. In the south, there’s still swimming and sunbathing (just without the typical high humidity and heat. And let’s not forget the crazy, costumed fun of Halloween! There’s just so much for pups and people to enjoy when the dog days of summer quietly slip away.
Can’t decide what to do first? “Fall” for these five incredibly dog-friendly activities and “leaf” your worries behind. September may be behind us, but there’s still October and November to enjoy!
If you’ve ever watched a canine agility show, you’ve probably watched dogs fly through tunnels, over ramps, up stairs, and even jump through hoops as they dash along the track. Agility sports are fantastic outlets for energy and brain stimulation for dogs, but not everyone lives near an agility club. Fall is the perfect time to create your own version right at home using piles and bags of leaves instead.
Make several piles of leaves at varying depths and lengths. Be sure the leaves are free of any hazards like sharp sticks or rocks. Then, stagger a few garbage bags full of leaves to create a barrier your dog needs to jump over. Adding some pumpkins into the mix to jazz things up is always a good idea (and even make for a healthy, tasty snack that your dog will surely love).
Starting with each “obstacle,” take your dog around the track and encourage him to navigate it as best he can. Reward him with treats when he jumps, dodges, and dashes correctly, but don’t worry if he spends most of his time jumping and rolling around in the leaves — to him, it’s all pretty fun!
Halloween can be a confusing time for dogs. They don’t always understand costumes, makeup and masks, and encountering them randomly can sometimes produce canine anxiety. Loud, boisterous children and fireworks just add to the stress, so you should only bring your dog trick or treating if you’re sure he can handle the chaos.
But that doesn’t mean your dog has to sit Halloween out.
Get together with a few friends who own dogs, either from within your neighborhood or even from doggy daycare. Pick a house or meeting location (a community hall works well for lots of pet parent and puppy pairs) and set up your own dog-friendly version of Halloween. Your puppy party should be optimized for pooches; these tips will help:
- Use puppy-safe decorations made from cardboard versus glass.
- Skip the flame candles (use flameless LED candles instead).
- Keep all light sources and decorations up high and out of the way.
- Serve dog-friendly snacks (like home-baked milk bones and pumpkin “muffins”).
- Invite only dogs you know are socialized and patient (fights are no fun).
- List rules for respect (like asking before petting) on pet parent invitations.
- Offer disposable water bowls or encourage pet parents to bring them along.
- Serve the red version of this wine for dogs to mimic spooky blood.
- Serve dog-safe human finger foods, too (just in case).
Pet parents should be encouraged to costume — but only if their dogs don’t show signs of stress. After all, it’s no fun if the guests aren’t enjoying themselves!
Hit the Trails
Changing leaves and cooler temps mean it’s the perfect time to hit the trails. Best of all, cooler temperatures make summertime dangers like canine heat exhaustion and heat stroke less of a concern. Although you’ll still need to be mindful of dehydration and overexertion, it’s just easier to relax and enjoy your surroundings in fall.
Groaning at the thought of taking along extra supplies? Most dogs can carry a small dog-appropriate backpack with food, snacks, or treats. Just be sure it’s fitted properly and don’t pack on too much weight!
If you and your dog aren’t used to long hikes, don’t start with a three-hour excursion. Head out to the local park for an hour; see how you both do. Slowly extend your time out and the difficulty of your walking environment until you grow your endurance. After a few short weeks, you’ll be ready to head to your local state park for extended adventures.
Need a great fall energy outlet, but can’t go too far? Nothing beats a few rounds of “fetch football” in the backyard. Purchase a ball in a size that best suits your dog’s size (small for toy breeds, full-size for large breeds) and head out into the backyard to have some fun. Once you both get the hang of it, it’s time to head to a fenced-in dog park with more room. You’ll both arrive home after every session happy, exhausted, and bonded together just a little bit closer.
Have a particularly ball-motivated dog? If you find he’s running away with the ball the second he grabs it, don’t get frustrated. Instead, use the opportunity to work on his drop, fetch, and stay skills at the same time.
Cool Canine Camping
Thinking of autumn camping this year? Take your dog along with you. As long as he has basic obedience skills down, he’ll enjoy the experience nearly as much as you will! Choose whatever level of camping best suits your preferences and level of ability:
- Renting a fully equipped chalet.
- Renting a small cabin.
- Heading out in an RV.
- Towing along a camper trailer.
- Tenting at a fully equipped campground.
- Full-on wilderness tenting in the brush!
To ensure your camping trip goes off without a hitch, use a 30-day preventative flea and tick medication at least one week in advance. If you’re staying near other humans or dogs, both of you should be respectful and use good dog park etiquette at all times. Otherwise, just have fun experiencing each other’s company without the usual worldly intrusions!
These five activities set the stage for an amazing autumn, but they’re hardly your only options. Curling up with your best canine bud to watch the game, heading out hunting, boating, and even bird-watching can all be fun for the two (or three…or four?) of you. Take advantage of fall’s comfortable temperatures to get out there and have a bit of fun!Tags: dog exercise, dog fitness