The spring-like weather that has been hitting Northern Virginia has me and the dogs wanting to spend as much time outside as possible. While I still enjoy our regular dog walks or a good romp in my parents’ backyard, I’m constantly looking for ways to spice things up. I love turning our outside time into an adventure and a memory I’ll want to keep forever.
Over the past few years, I’ve come up with a go-to list of fun things to do with the dogs on days off and weekends. It’s handy to have a reliable list of activities – a doggie date list, if you might – because sometimes the hardest part is coming up with an idea and plan for what to do.
And now after browsing the PawCulture™ website, I have a few new activities to put on our bucket list for this spring and summer.
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16 Fun Activities to Do Outside with Your Dog
1. Practice Your Training
Training practice is an excellent bonding activity for you and your dog. Regular practice is also crucial for ensuring your dog will remember and respond when something is asked of them. When the weather is nice, why not take advantage of it and do some training outside?
An open field is a great spot! Refresh or teach “Stay” with a long leash. Hold on to one end of your dog’s leash and slowly back away while telling them to “Stay”. With each successful stay, move back a bit until you are at the end of the leash.
You can also visit a busy spot like a local Starbucks and practice existing tricks and commands with a bit of distraction. It might be a bit challenging at first because training with distractions is supposed to be harder. Take it slowly – focus on one command at a time and don’t forget to reward your dog with a tasty puppuccino when you’re all done.
And remember, you CAN teach old (and young) dogs new tricks.
2. Take Funny Photos
Why not create actual memories on your adventures? Bring along a camera or your smart phone and try to catch some action shots of your pup. I love taking pictures of the dogs running or trying to catch a treat. All the natural light on a sunny day is perfect for it. If you have a DSLR, make sure to use a fast shutter speed so that the details are crisp and clear.
And any good dog mom or dad knows that selfies are okay. No matter what your dog says. Go selfie crazy! Just maybe don’t post them ALL on Instagram.
3. Get Your Sweat On – Exercise
Dogs are excellent exercise partners. They push you to keep up with them and are your biggest cheerleader. Going for a run or a day hike are some excellent dog friendly work out options. Just make sure to bring enough water for you both and keep an eye on how your pup is doing.
I also love doing circuit training with Ralph and Luna by mixing in sprints, squats, and various other exercises. Need a bit more of a challenge? Add some weight to your squats by holding your dog if they are small enough. The goofy look on their face as you move up and down will keep pushing you to finish even when it gets tough.
4. Explore Your Surroundings
It always surprises me how often I stumble across something new within a few miles of where I live. Just recently we came across a fancy piece of artwork featuring a beautiful pane of stained glass. We’ve also stumbled across new parks and trails completely by accident.
Start by walking in a new direction. You never know what you might find. Once you’ve covered all the area that is walkable to you, pile into the car and drive around. Look out the window and see if you can find a new place to explore.
You can also check out your local county or states park department’s website to find new places near you. And, if that doesn’t work just look for green spots on Google Maps. Sometimes they are just a bunch of trees without real trails, but sometimes they are pleasant surprises!
5. Plant a Garden
Gardening can be relaxing for everyone involved especially if you dog loves to dig. Have them help you dig a hole for a new plant or build them a separate play area. If your dog will be spending a lot of time unsupervised in the garden, make sure your plants are all pet friendly. You’d be surprised how many flowers and shrubs are poisonous to dogs and other pets!
6. Play a Game
Whether your pick is frisbee, tag, hide and seek, or fetch, playing a game with your dog is a great way to get a bit of exercise and bond. Plus if you have a backyard or leave near an open field, it doesn’t have to be an all day activity. This is a great option for when you come home from work or only have a few minutes on the weekend. Get out and play!
7. Go Shopping
I’m always surprised how many shopping centers are pet friendly. We live near several outdoor shopping centers and outlet malls that welcome pets. Make sure to come prepared with water, treats, and poop bags. And, remember that just because the shopping center is pet friendly doesn’t mean that every store is. Ask before you enter and bring a friend in case you want to visit a store that doesn’t welcome pets.
8. Find the Nearest Beach
When I think “beach”, I think of the ocean but beaches aren’t just found on the coast. Some of our favorite beaches are inland and located along rivers or lakes. Often these beaches are park of state or local parks, so your state or local park department’s website is a great place to find out where these hidden gyms might be.
When you head to the beach, double check that pets are allowed and what the leash laws are. Also, keep in mind that you might want to avoid busy times. And remember to bring along a dog life jacket to keep your dog safe and fresh water, so that they don’t drink from the lake or river.
9. Take a Bike Ride
We’re lucky to not live too far from the W&OD Trail, which is a major path for biking, running, and hiking in the DC area. When the weather is nice, we hop on the trail and can ride a few miles to an outdoor shopping center where we can people watch, enjoy a puppucino, and take advantage of pet friendly restaurant patios.
Since Ralph and Luna are small, we have a bicycle trailer for them. It’s super handy and fun to bring them along, but the extra weight does make going uphills and biking long distances a lot more challenging! If you have a larger pup, they might want to run besides you. Just make sure to check on them and don’t overexert them by going long distances at first.
10. Visit an Off-Leash Dog Park
For apartment and condo dwellers, off-leash dog parks sometimes seem like godsends. Ralph and Luna love to run, but I don’t trust them to be off-leash if they aren’t fenced in. I don’t know what squirrel or bird might walk by and distract them from staying close.
We have a few different dog parks near our apartment plus a few bigger and more exciting ones that are about a 20 minute drive away. I like to vary up which park we go to so that one doesn’t get boring. Plus then we get to see new dogs and new people!
11. Rent a Boat
Many state and local parks allow you to rent (or bring your own) boat for their lake or other waterway. As long as your dog isn’t afraid of water, trying out a canoe or paddle boat might be a good option. Just don’t expect their help with the paddling!
If you live near a large river or lake, their might also be charter boats that allow pets. One of our bucket list items is to go on a dog friendly cruise in Alexandria, VA.
12. Practice Nose Work
If you have a scent hound like Luna, then nose work might be a good option. It’s kind of like hide and seek, but your pup uses their sense of smell to find whatever they are looking for. It’s actually a competitive sport!
If you are looking to be competitive, you can also try out an Easter Egg Hunt. Place bits of fruit or dog treats inside sealed Easter eggs and then hide them around your backyard or local park. Then encourage your dog to find the eggs and crack them open. You might have to help your pup for the first few eggs, but once they enjoy the tasty treats inside the egg they’ll want to keep looking for more.
Plus, it doesn’t have to be near Easter to do this fun activity. Though keep in mind the eggs do crack occasionally, so you might want to stock up at the next after Easter clearance sale.
13. Eat a Tasty Brunch
I absolutely love restaurants that have pet friendly patios. You can enjoy a delicious brunch while spending time with your dog. That is the perfect weekend for me! Some restaurants even feature pet friendly meals that you can order right off the menu.
Always call ahead to make sure the patio is open and that they allow pets. When you ask for a table, make sure you specify that you have a pet with you. Who knows! They might bring your dog a treat and a bowl of water. Just in case, I always make sure to have water, treats, and even a chew or two with me to keep Ralph and Luna occupied.
14. Catch a Drive in Movie
During the summer, communities and businesses often feature outdoor films for a small fee or even for free. Double check that pets are permitted to attend and pack a picnic. Bring along chairs, blankets, and enough water for everyone. Bonus points if you get to see a pet film!
If you are lucky enough to live near a drive in movie theater, even better! Though this seemed to be a dying trend, I think they might be making a comeback. I’m hoping to find one within an hour or two from us so my boyfriend and I can enjoy a movie with our pups this summer.
15. Enjoy a Dog-Friendly Winery or Brewery
Northern Virginia is full of pet friendly wineries and even a few pet friendly breweries, so we’re a bit spoiled in this department. However, I know it’s a growing trend throughout the rest of the country and there are many in other major wine producing areas like California and New York.
When we visit a pet friendly winery, I always call ahead to make sure they do allow pets and clarify whether pets are allowed in the tasting room or just on the winery grounds. Unfortunately, if the winery serves food pets might not be allowed inside the buildings. However, most places still allow you to enjoy a glass or bottle outside and some even have outdoor tastings available. I’ve learned that if you tell the bartender that you plan to purchase a bottle, they’ll even give you a tasting or two for free to make sure it’s the right bottle for you.
Make sure to come prepared! Bring water, treats, and poop bags of course.
16. Fire up the Grill
Grilling out is probably one of my favorite things about warmer weather. We don’t have the luxury of our own grill, so we rarely, if ever do it during winter months. For me, grilling is an easy way to get a new flavor on the same old food. Plus, it’s easy to enjoy with your pets!
Whether you are cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken breast. or something a bit more creative, you can make a dog friendly option. In most cases, just hold the spices and avoid onion. Your pet will gobble it up! When serving to them, just make sure it isn’t too hot for them to eat.
As always, pack water for everyone and any necessary bug spray. Don’t forget the music!
Now go out and have an awesome spring and summer by spending time outside with your pets!
Celebrate the unbreakable bond between pets and their people by visiting PawCulture for information, inspiration, entertainment, helpful tips and advice about loving your pet. For more outdoor activities, check out this post from PawCulture!
What activities do you do with your dog outside?