Fun at the Park For You and Your Dog

What’s a better fit than you, your dog and the great outdoors? Spending time in the sun with your dog benefits you both. Here are some ways to spend a real dog day afternoon.

• Frisbee. Tossing a Frisbee with your dog improves his agility and coordination. It’s fun for you both, whether at the beach, a dog park (like our fabulous new one in Champaign, IL), or your own backyard. With a little practice — and patience — you can teach your dog to be a Frisbee pro.

• Running/Jogging. If your park allows it, let Fido accompany you when you run. Just watch out for his well-being.

• Camping. Dogs make the perfect camping companions — they’re up for accompanying you in whatever you do, whether that’s running, hiking or fishing. Remember to pack for two, however — and don’t forget enough food and water for both of you.

• Bicycling. Your dog will love running along beside you as your ride your bike. Just make sure you both are in good shape before hitting the road (and heed some common-sense safety tips), and you’ll both have a great time.

• Dancing. If you are, to say the least, courageous, you may consider dancing with your dog at a park. It’s not as unusual as it sounds. Canine freestyle, the term for the sport in which dogs and owners do choreographed “dance” moves to their favorite moves, is quickly gaining popularity. Canine freestyle is usually performed in a 40′ x 50′ ring, so when practicing your dance moves, choose an area that’s secluded enough to give you privacy if you’re worried about surprising passersby, yet open enough to give your and your dog plenty of room to boogie!

• Rollerblading. Perhaps a more conventional (yet equally fun) activity for you and your dog is rollerblading, which gives you both great exercise. As you skate along, your dog will be happy to prove he can keep up with you. Of course, you should be an experienced skater before you invite Fido to accompany you, and you should obey all safety rules. Carry water if you’re going on an extended jaunt so your dog (and you) won’t overheat.

• Obstacle courses. In the sport called “Agility,” dogs — with help from a handler — race through timed obstacle courses. With a little imagination, you can train your dog to run through obstacle courses in your own backyard or a local park.

• Other games. From fetch to basketball, the options for entertaining your dog are endless. Most games you enjoy can be enjoyed with your dog. For example, practically all dogs love swimming. Keep away from public pools, where dogs may not be allowed, and swimming is great exercise and entertainment for you both. Just be creative and think of what you like to do; your dog will probably enjoy it also. Basketball fan? You can let your dog play hoops with you. Play tennis? Teach your dog to be the ball “boy.” Tug-of-war and ring-jumping are other dog favorites.

Of course, before beginning any activity with your dog, make sure he is healthy and well-trained. A dog who disobeys commands isn’t much fun! Whatever activity you choose, don’t forget to bring along water and maybe some food for you both. Since your dog will likely play harder than you, make sure he doesn’t dehydrate or suffer from heat stroke. With a few safety precautions, you and your dog can have fun all summer long.

Rodney Ash