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How to Keep a Dog Entertained Outside: 16 Great Activities

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

jack russell terrier dog on green grass outdoor with owner

Physical activity is a necessity for all dogs, although the amount they need can vary due to factors like breed, age, health conditions, and weight. As long as your dog has been cleared by a vet for activity, physical activity should be a daily occurrence for your dog. Some dogs need much more exercise and play than others, so you can tailor activities to suit your dog’s needs and preferences. Once the weather starts to warm up outside, there are tons of activities you can do with your dog or support your pup in doing, helping them burn energy and stay healthy.

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The Top 16 Tips on How to Keep a Dog Entertained Outdoors

1. Walking

One of the most accessible outdoor activities that you can do with your dog is simply going for a walk. Walks can take on a lot of forms, whether your dog likes to keep pace with you or prefers the full “sniffari” experience of smelling every pole and blade of grass. Walks not only provide your dog with exercise but also mental stimulation and enrichment.

Going for a walk is often underappreciated for how beneficial it can be for humans and animals alike, but both of you could benefit from going for a walk around the neighborhood once or twice per day.

2. Hiking and Trail Running

woman hiking with a dog
Photo Credit: Viktoriia Bu, Shutterstock

Hiking is a favorite weekend activity of many people, and it’s easy to see why. Hiking combines the beauty and relaxation of the outdoors with exercise. Hiking has the added benefit of being able to be tailored to fit your dog’s and your own physical abilities, so check out hiking trails near you to see what you can find.

Trail running is a more advanced form of exercise that involves jogging or running along hiking trails, as opposed to roads and sidewalks. Remember to check any trails to ensure they are dog friendly before you go.

3. Running and Canicross

Running and jogging are common forms of exercise for people, and like walking, they are often very accessible. As long as you live near a sidewalk, gym, or track, you have access to going for a run. Obviously, running does require more physical exertion than walking, and many people have physical barriers that prevent them from running, not to mention that some people simply don’t like it.

Running is a great way to help your dog burn energy, though, so if you are a runner, consider taking your dog with you. Just make sure you start them slowly and work them up, especially if your dog is not used to exercise or is still growing. Canicross is a form of exercise that combines running with a waist strap that essentially allows your dog to help “pull” you during the run.

4. Bikejoring

a siberian husky dog with its owner in bikejoring competition
Photo Credit: travelarium.ph, Shutterstock

Bikejoring may be an activity that you’ve never heard of, but this sport combines biking with taking your dog for a run. Ideally, you should invest in proper bikejoring equipment in order to do this safely. Simply attaching your dog’s leash to your bike and setting off can be dangerous for both of you.

This activity requires training your dog to properly run beside your bike, as well as investing in the appropriate gear. As always, make sure you’re wearing a helmet whenever you go bikejoring with your dog.

5. Canine Sports

There are a ton of canine sports, including agility, Fast CAT, lure coursing, dock diving, Earthdog, and obedience trials. Each requires a different set of skills and training for you and your dog, so make sure to study the requirements of each before getting into something.

Check breed and kennel clubs in your area to see what canine sports are offered locally. Joining a club not only can provide you with access to activities but also access to mentors to ensure you and your dog safely and comfortably move into a new activity.

6. Swimming

golden retriever dog swimming with a toy in its mouth
Image Credit: Chanin Suchaxaya, Shutterstock

Swimming is a good low-impact exercise for you and your dog, and many overweight dogs and those with joint problems can benefit from swimming. Always check with your vet before taking your dog swimming, though. Some dogs may enjoy simply swimming around with you, while others may want to retrieve a toy over and over.

Your dog should always wear a life jacket while swimming, especially in lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, and oceans, and you should only take them to places that are safe and free of riptides and strong currents.

7. Outdoor Games

Outdoor games are a fun way for you and your dog to bond. Fetch, tug, and even a simple game of chase around the backyard can be enriching and fun for you and your dog. There are other activities you can help your dog do, like playing with a flirt pole or solving a food puzzle.

Some people invest in kiddie pools and sandboxes for their dogs to play in as well. Adjust your outdoor games to suit whatever space and supplies you have available, as well as what your dog’s physical abilities and preferences are.

8. Scent Work

airedale terrier dog playing scent work game
Image Credit: Ryan Brix, Shutterstock

While some dogs have professional-level tracking skills, most dogs can learn how to participate in scent work. Scent work is a great enrichment activity that works out your dog’s brain. It also provides physical exercise, but you can make the physical aspect of scent work as challenging or easy as you’d like.

This does require some training to teach your dog to follow a scent trail, but there are kits on the market that come with supplies and instructions on how to train your dog in scent work. If your dog is a natural at following a scent trail, you may look into scent-tracking groups in your area.

9. Visiting Local Parks

No matter where you live, there are probably some parks near you, whether they’re state or national parks or they’re just local parks with walking trails. Visiting a park can be a way to make walks or jogs more interesting for your dog, and it certainly creates a more enriching experience by allowing your dog to see and smell things they wouldn’t do at home.

Always check to make sure parks allow dogs before visiting, especially if you’re looking for an off-leash place for your dog to visit. Use caution when visiting dog parks, though, since these can be chaotic environments with unpredictable results.

10. Geocaching

owner playing geocaching with dogs
Image Credit: Beachbird, Shutterstock

Geocaching is technically a human activity, and it involves using GPS to follow coordinates to find a hidden “cache,” which can be anything from an envelope to a large box. It’s a fun way to get some exercise, and geocaching can be done in urban or rural areas. Wherever you are right now, there’s likely a geocache or two near you. Taking your dog on your geocaching adventures can be an interesting and exciting experience for your dog, especially since geocaching often requires going a little bit off the beaten path.

11. Group Activities

There are lots of different types of group activities that you and your dog can participate in together if you want to spend time outside, but it will primarily depend on what’s available in your area. If you are struggling to find group activities for you and your dog nearby, you can always start your own, using social media and signs around town to garner interest. Group walks, hikes, playdates, and swimming trips are all enjoyable ways to get your dog outside, get some exercise, and socialize with other people and dogs.

12. Sitting on a Patio

woman's hand patting her dog's head in an outdoor area of restaurant
Image Credit: doublelee, Shutterstock

In the US, more and more businesses are becoming dog friendly, including restaurants and bars. There are typically restrictions on taking dogs inside of buildings, though, so many people end up sitting on patios with their pups. Dog-friendly patios can be fun for your dog since it allows them to socialize with people and sometimes other dogs, as well as smell interesting foods, drinks, and people.

If you do take your dog to sit on a patio, remember to use common sense and etiquette by keeping your dog out of walkways, off of tables, and away from other people’s tables and chairs.

13. Visiting the Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market is an easy way to support local businesses and go home with fresh foods and handmade items. Many farmer’s markets are dog friendly, and the farmer’s market can be extremely exciting and enriching for your dog. There are often other dogs around, as well as lots of people, smells, and sounds that are unusual for your pup. Some farmer’s markets even offer themed weeks and events, including dog-focused events.

If your dog is still working on socialization, keep in mind that farmer’s markets can sometimes be overwhelming, so start slow and be prepared to take your dog home if they get overwhelmed.

14. Dog-Friendly Events

a group of cute beagle dogs playing toys in the swimming pool
Image Credit: golfyinterlude, Shutterstock

Dog-friendly events pop up everywhere during the warmer months. They are often offered by places like bars, restaurants, baseball fields, swimming pools, and community centers. Check out the local calendars of cities and businesses near you to see what dog-friendly events may be coming up in your area. Always check the rules of the event before going, as some will require you to bring proof of vaccines for your dog.

15. Icy Treats

There are few things more refreshing than eating something cold on a hot day. Homemade, dog-safe popsicles are easy to make, and they can be very fun for your dog to eat. Low-sodium broth, fruits, veggies, and dog food and treats can all be used to make popsicles for your dog to eat on a hot day. They can get messy, though, so most people offer frozen treats outside to limit the mess.

If your dog has overheated or you think they may be experiencing a heat stroke, do not give them anything ice cold. Icy treats should only be offered to dogs that are currently at a normal, safe body temperature.

16. Dog-Friendly Vacation

bernedoodle dog playing and jumping in park
Image Credit: Steve Bruckmann, Shutterstock

Most of us have to leave our pups behind whenever we go on vacation, but there are tons of dog-friendly vacation spots. From beaches to national parks, you’ll be able to plan a vacation that will allow your dog to enjoy the outdoors with you.

Of course, it’s extremely important that you familiarize yourself with the policies of any hotel you’re going to stay in with your dog, as well as the places you’re planning to visit. You also need to check the laws in the area you’ll be visiting, especially when it comes to vaccines and traveling across state or country lines with a dog.



If you’re looking for tips on how to keep your dog entertained outside, there’s no shortage of good ideas. Always be aware of the temperature, though, because dogs can overheat more easily than humans in hot weather. They tend to do anything necessary to keep up with their people, which can be detrimental to their health, so keep a close eye on your dog and take breaks frequently.

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