The sun is shining, the snow has melted, and you and your dog couldn’t be any readier to get outside and have a little fun.
But are you fully prepared for the outdoor adventures you have in mind?
Manners matter when you’re taking your dog out to public places, but teaching your dog certain commands isn’t just about looking like the proud owner of a well-behaved pup. In some cases, making sure your dog responds to your cues is the best way to help keep him safe!
Here are five outdoor adventures you and your pooch might consider this spring and summer, along with suggestions from trainer Mikkel Becker for which commands you should get down pat before you head out.
If You Want to Visit a Dog-friendly Restaurant
As dog lovers, we get pretty excited about a dog-friendly restaurant, but it's important to remember that just because you can bring your dog, it doesn't always mean you should.
Assuming your pup has the right temperament for hanging out on a patio while you finish your meal, you'll still want to make sure he's learned the "drop it" command. You never know what interesting things your dog will sniff out beneath the table, but if he will "drop it," you can feel better about taking him with you.
If You Want to Go Hiking With Your Pup
Hiking is a tremendous way to enjoy the outdoors and get a bit of exercise with your favorite furry friend. To help make it as safe and enjoyable as possible, train your dog to heel and walk on a loose leash. This way you can focus on the scenery around you rather than try to control how hard he's pulling you. You don't want to be pulled off your feet or trip on uneven surfaces, because of a tug from an excited pooch.
Another good command to work on prior to your hike is to teach him to come when called. There is so much in the outdoors to tempt a curious dog, and you'll want to make sure he'll come right back to you if he happens to get loose.
And remember, just as it's not a great idea for you to go straight from being a couch potato to hiking a challenging trail for miles and miles, it's best for your dog to slowly increase the duration and distance he's hiking as well. Be sure to ask your vet if your dog is ready to hit the trail.
If You Plan to Attend a Dog Meetup or Group or Class
Taking a class or hitting a meetup group (like the ones specific to breed or type of activity) is a great way to make new friends of both the human and canine persuasion if you have a friendly pup. But even the sweetest dog can have a bit of trouble focusing in the midst of so much excitement, so a great command to work on ahead of time is making eye contact on cue. This is not a natural behavior for most dogs, but it's a fantastic way to get your dog's attention amid other distractions and also help ease his fear when other people stare him right in the eyes.
If You're Going to Be Hitting the Water at the Beach or on a Boat
What better way to celebrate sunny skies than by getting out on the boat or playing on the beach, right? While there are numerous safety factors to consider before going to the beach or taking a boat ride (including finding the right life jacket for your dog), we'd also suggest teaching your dog to obey the "stay" command. This way, you can keep him from bounding into the water or onto the boat before you're ready — or it's safe — for him to do so. And from a practical standpoint, it's a smart way to keep a wet dog from jumping into your car before you've had a chance to dry him off!
If You're Attending an Outdoor Concert
Before deciding to take your dog to any outdoor concert, you should always make sure there's an area you can sit with him without the noise level being too high. After all, his sense of hearing is probably far, far stronger than yours, so music that's just a little on the loud side for you can be truly stressful and uncomfortable for him. To avoid another kind of stress — like that of your fellow concertgoers glaring daggers at you as your dog "sings along" — work with your dog on the "quiet" command (which first requires teaching "speak").
This command isn't the right fit for every dog though — if you have a fearful or aggressive barker, for example, you'll want to work with your vet or a certified trainer on his barking behavior.
Of course, your dog should be current on vaccines and parasite control any time he’s going to be exposed to other dogs or exploring out in nature. More on Vetstreet: