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Nowadays, there are more ways than ever to spend time with your dog. Classics, like going for walks and playing ball, are great, but sometimes it's good for both of you to try something new.
Here are five things you can do together that might surprise you!
Paddleboarding is a fun and casual water sport that doesn't require a lot of equipment. Try it out a few times on your own so you're secure in your balance, and if you're renting, make sure dogs are allowed. Get your dog his own life jacket for safety's sake, and then you're ready to start. (Of course, if you own a breed that isn’t a natural swimmer, like a Pug or a Bulldog, you’re probably better off choosing a different fun activity on dry land.)
According to pet expert Kim Campbell Thornton, your dog should already respond to basic obedience skills, like "sit" and "stay," and you need to get him used to standing on the board on land before venturing into the water. Pick a board that's large enough to be stable with both of you aboard and that doesn't have a slippery surface.
Start in shallow water and encourage your dog to sit or lie down as you get started. You can also kneel or sit instead of standing, if that helps your balance. If your dog falls off, don't panic! That's why he's wearing a life vest, and why it has a handle on the back, so you can help him back on. It's a different way to have fun together in the great outdoors — and a great workout for you while your dog enjoys the ride.
If your dog loves to run with you, he can be more than a great training partner. Did you know that there are organized trail and road races you can enter with your dog? Some also have walking versions for the slower-paced, and others even benefit animal organizations. Check out this list of dog-friendly races, curated by Iron Doggy.
Your dog needs to be comfortable with other dogs around, of course, and with crowds of humans. If that will stress him out, stick to solo runs. Before starting to train, visit your vet to make sure your dog's joints and cardiovascular system are up to the workout. Age can be a factor, as well — and not just advanced age. Although your puppy has a lot of energy, it's better not to start pounding the pavement until his body is fully developed.
Keep safety in mind, too, starting with equipment. That means no retractable leashes. Remember that your dog doesn't know when to stop running, especially if you are encouraging him along. That's why it's important to slowly build up to longer distances, keep your dog hydrated and avoid running in the hottest part of the day.
Maybe you've dreamed of being on one of those TV dance contests. But wouldn't you rather dance with your best friend than some B-list celebrity?
In canine freestyle competitions, a human-dog team performs a routine set to music. Start with basic obedience skills like heeling, add some fancy footwork and you're on your way! Tricks like spinning in a circle, jumping, bowing and giving a paw can all be turned into dance moves as you work together to the rhythm. More advanced and athletic pups even walk on their hind legs!
Several organizations hold competitions, but you don't need to go as far as working toward a title. Like any training, it's a great way to bond with your dog, and might be more fun than the usual "stay" and "heel." You may be able to find a beginner's class at your local dog training school. If not, watch some videos to get a sense of it, and turn your own living room into a canine ballroom! Just remember to get the all-clear from your vet first, to make sure your dog doesn't have any painful joint issues that would make dancing less fun.
We tend to think of dog-friendly activities as being always on the go, and sure, getting enough exercise is important for a happy, healthy hound. But, calm time is critical for your dog, too, and calm time together can be a bonding experience, as well.
Dogs read your body language and get used to your routine. So, if you make a habit of meditating on a regular basis, chances are they will settle in and share the moment. Choose a spot that will be comfortable for both of you. Your dog enjoys your company, so he'll probably gravitate to be with you. At first, he will likely try to get you to interact, since that's what he's used to when you're around.
But, eventually he'll get the hang of it, because after all, what does he do when you're not home? Probably lie around, totally relaxed, with a calm and empty mind — just the state you're trying to achieve. You can't explain meditation to your dog, but maybe he can teach you.
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