Spending focused time playing with your dog on a daily basis is a boon to your bond and a sure-fire joy booster. Enjoy a good game of tug-o-war or hide-and-seek in the house or backyard, not to mention every dog’s favorite: fetch. Learn to dance with your dog (google “canine freestyle” for inspiration), or tantalize Bowser’s brain with tricks like “turn around” and “take a bow.” In short, get creative and have a ball with your canine pal. “Ball?” pant, pant. “Did somebody say ball?”
“Will Work for Food”
Hiding your dog’s daily meals is one way to keep him mentally stimulated. There are loads of non-toxic stuffable chew toys on the market, or simply hide the meal and let him sniff it out. Remember: dogs in their natural habitat spend a good portion of every day hunting for food. Portioning out his daily rations and hiding small amounts here and there gives your dog a taste of this primal experience.
The Social Scene
Your dog loves you dearly, but the company of other well-matched dogs is likely his all-time favorite thing. See Bay Woof’s list of local canine groups and meet-ups at http://baywoof.com/resources.shtml. There are social occasions available for all breeds and sizes. Not hot on groups? Make regular play dates with compatible people and their dogs.
If your canine companions is painfully shy or overly aggressive (read: doesn’t play well with others), find a local trainer who can help solve the problem.
The Bay Area is home to many gorgeous hiking trails where dogs are welcome. To learn the rules and find some great trails, visit www.ebparks.org/activities/dogs/faq#q3 and www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/pets.htm, or the Parks and Recreation Department nearest you. Another great resource is Bay Woof’s interactive dog park map at http://baywoof.com/dogparks.shtml.
Utilize the Environment
You can help your dog exercise his natural instincts by creating special environments for him to enjoy. Many dogs love to swim or splash in water, especially in warm weather, and there are plenty of lakes, rivers, and waves in and around the Bay Area for him to enjoy – please supervise closely, limit exposure to cold water, and consider a life jacket. Even a wading pool in the backyard can be a refreshing playground for your pup. Some breeds, such as Dachsunds and Terriers, thrive on digging. If you have space in the yard, create a sandbox or digging pit to keep them entertained.
Dog sports are booming in the Bay Area. Agility, Flyball, Dock Diving, Canine Disc – the list goes on and on. The Internet can connect you with a myriad of training classes and competitions for specific sports. You’ll see for yourself why so many dogs and their people are hooked on canine sports.
Peggy Greenfield is a freelance writer and dog lover who lives in the wilds of Northern California.