Pets and People

Outdoor Activities for Owner and Pet

posted: 05/15/12
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Pet Lovers' Guide to the Great Outdoors

A breath of fresh air can do wonders for both you and your pet. Outdoor activities not only provide exercise and mental stimulation, but also help curb bad behaviors by giving your furry friend a chance to release excess energy. So set aside the remote, step outside with your pet, and have some fun al fresco style - we've got plenty of ideas to get you started!

Organize a Play Date

Play dates are a great way for dogs to keep their socialization skills sharp. Find a dog park in your area to meet and greet with other pups, or if you have your own fenced-in yard, invite friends or family members over with their pets for an afternoon of backyard fun. Make sure to have plenty of water on hand along with bags to clean up after any messes, and keep a close eye on the group to make sure everyone plays nice. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Ning can also be a great resource for finding a doggie meet-up in your area, even ones based on specific breeds.

Get Active With an Activity

Whether it's in your own back yard or at a local dog park, you can up the outdoor ante with a game of Frisbee or fetch. Most dogs love to hunt and retrieve, and you can also use these types of games for training opportunities as well. If you don't have access to a confined space, consider biking with your pup. There are a number of leashes made specifically to attach safely to a bicycle - never try this by holding the leash in your hands while steering, as this practice is an accident waiting to happen. Start slowly and teach your dog to keep pace with a steady trot, and build up the distance gradually as well. You can also search for canine biking classes in your area.

Take a Hike

Even if you take your dog on regular walks in your neighborhood, hitting the hiking trail can provide a challenging, refreshing change of scenery. You can vary between a leisurely or more intense pace and even mix up the length of your outings, from short stints to an all-day excursion. Before you head out, make sure your pup has adequate protection from ticks and fleas, pack enough water for both of you, and don't forget a collapsible bowl and a few treats for your pup. Need tips on tracking down a trail? Check out Hike With Your Dog for the most dog-friendly locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Visit an Outdoor Café

Pet-friendly dining is becoming more and more popular with establishments that offer outdoor seating, from coffeehouses to full-fledged restaurants. If you have a well-behaved pooch, it can be a great opportunity to relax and bond. Make sure your dog relieves itself before settling in, and keep extra bags on hand just in case. Keep your pup out of the way of other diners and the wait staff, and attach the lease to your chair, not the table - your weight makes a much better anchor than plates can provide. Speaking of plates, feeding your pooch from your own is a big no-no - keep treats on hand instead. Dog Friendly provides a list of restaurants across the U.S. that welcome four-legged friends, but it's always a good idea to call ahead first and double check.

Test the Waters

Water sports can be a great way to cool off your pup on a hot day. Though many dogs are natural swimmers, getting a Coast Guard-approved pet life preserver is worth the investment to play it safe, whether you're in your own pool or a nearby lake or stream. There are a number of waterproof, buoyant toys available as well that can make splish-splash time even more enjoyable. If you live near a beach and you're an experienced surfer, why not take your dog along for the ride? Make sure your pup is comfortable in not just calm waters but waves as well, and consider a foam surfboard for starters, as this will provide an adequate amount of standing room and grip. Also consider taking your furry friend along for a canoe or kayak ride, but make sure you're both outfitted in the necessary safety gear.

Here, Kitty Kitty

Contrary to popular belief, outdoor fun isn't just for dogs. With the right preparation, cats can get in on the action, too, even if you have a cat that primarily spends time indoors. If you have a yard with a high fence, you can take your kitty out for some supervised exploring. Also, fence-type, portable kennels made for dogs work just as well for cats, and many offer adjustable shelves and ramps to enhance playtime. While most cats don't take to a leash naturally, some will with a bit of training, or you can explore the stroller option, which gives kitty a moving but safe view of outside sights and sounds.

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