If you have a big and beautiful yard, why not use it to entertain your dog physically and mentally?
High-energy breeds that are not satisfied with brisk walks and a bit of play will need much more stimulation.
On the other hand, if you’re a busy dog owner, you would probably be really grateful for some games that your dog can play alone either outside or inside the home too.
Getting rid of excess energy is not only healthy but also mandatory to prevent destructive behavior and to have an even-tempered dog at home.
Excess energy comes in the form of mental and physical needs and every dog will require both daily. Teaching your dog new tricks or playing new games with him will strengthen your bond and make him happy.
I came up with 13 fun boredom busters that your dog can play either alone by himself or together with you. For every game, there are different variations, feel free to come up with your own.
Everyone loves bubbles! Children do, adults do and dogs definitely do.
They are inexpensive and will entertain your dog for a long time. My dog loves to catch them in the air and jumps up for each one. You can also transform this exercise into a self-entertaining one.
A bubble machine might be worth the investment if your dog really loves doing it.
Personally, I’d stay away from the bacon
2. Spin the Bottle
This could be a fun DIY project for the evening.
It looks so simple but is such a blast for your furry companion. If you are not familiar with building wooden constructions (like me) you can also replace the wood with a simple cord.
The cord should be as thick as possible to make sure it’s not too easy to turn the bottles. Attach the two ends of the cord to anything you find in your yard like trees or chairs or just tie a knot.
Make sure that it’s a comfortable height for your dog to play with. You can place some treats inside or fill it up with a part of his daily meal.
If you prefer to buy something a bit more advanced that’s already assembled, check out the puzzle toy below.
3. Flirt Pole
This is one of the best chase games out there and will tire out your dog quickly. If you have enough space in your house, you can also play it inside on rainy days.
Make it really fun and engage your dog to chase his toy.
You can either buy the flirt pole here or make your own with a light toy, bungee cord,
Puppies (especially large or giant breeds) shouldn’t play this game since the full stops they perform can hurt the joints. Depending on your breed, light play can start at 9-18 months.
This game satisfies the natural prey drive of dogs without actually encouraging the chase of live animals. Dogs still need to have an outlet for their natural instincts.
4. Water Games
Even if your dog is not so interested in swimming, he will most definitely love any kind of water game. You don’t need a giant pool in your garden to let your dog have fun with water.
A kids pool would be just as fine and there are even pools specifically designed for dogs. You don’t need to go for the biggest size unless you have some room to spare.
You can also invest in a dog sprinkler that will provide your dog with fresh water outside and with lots of fun catching it. Or consider a day trip to a local lake or a friend’s pool.
A dog that doesn’t love water can still learn it. Engage your dog to at least try to get the paws wet once by jumping into the lake yourself or throwing in his favorite toy.
It’s a nice way to keep your dog cool during the summer too.
5. Laser Pointer
Playing with the laser pointer is perfect for the evening after you come home from a long working day and just want to relax in your yard. The bright light in the dark will trigger your dog’s prey drive and he’ll try to catch it.
This game should only be played in short sessions at a time and you should be careful to not point the light into your dog’s eye.
To keep your dog from getting frustrated, you can hide some treats in the grass and point towards them.
6. Scent and Search
My dog tires herself out on walks because she needs to smell everything. Hiding treats in the yard reinforces your dog’s smelling skills and exercises him mentally.
It is also very self
You can also play this game during your walks or when you are at a park. Start with some easier spots and slowly build up the difficulty in relation to your dog’s interest and ability to smell.
7. Jolly Ball
There is nothing in this world my dog loves more than big balls. She will push them in front of her paws for hours. If your dog is not so entertained by a ball in itself, play a little soccer with him to tire him out.
If you have a strong chewer and would like to not have the ball ripped in pieces after 10 minutes, then go for the Jolly Pets Ball.
8. Fetch and Frisbee
The rules of fetch are so simple. You throw a toy, your dog picks it up and brings it back for you to throw it again.
We like to use the Kong Frisbee for fetch games as it easily travels a great distance and really engages your dog to chase after it.
If your dog won’t bring back the toy naturally, call him back each time and have some treats ready to reward him. You can also add a command like “bring it” so you can reinforce it every time.
9. Tunnel Action
Setting up a dog tunnel in your yard could be the beginning of a whole agility course. Obstacles could be anything your dog has to jump, crawl or run through.
The tunnel in itself can be very stimulating for a dog especially if you throw in a ball that jumps through the whole tunnel with your dog chasing after it.
This should also be a part of socialization as tunnel games are easier for fearless and confident dogs. Encouraging your dog to try it out will strengthen your bond and boost his confidence.
My dog ran through the first she saw it but if your dog is more reluctant, start by slowly introducing the tunnel and throwing in a few treats to encourage him to step in.
Check this article with dog tricks for beginners (there’s also a PDF for DIY Agility course).
10. Tug of War
This classic dog game should be part of your dog’s everyday exercise. Some dogs like it more to fetch and others prefer to tug. It can be physically demanding if you have a large dog but it’s so much fun.
Tug of war is the perfect opportunity to build in the “drop it command” and teaching your dog when it’s okay to play rough and when not. Best suited for this game is a thick rope toy.
11. Catch and Chase
This is such an easy dog game without any equipment or toys. When standing in the yard, touch your dog and run away.
He will most likely start chasing after you immediately. Once he caught you, give him a reward and start over again.
My dog likes to take turns and she will run away when I chase after her. This works best with a dog that naturally wants to be chased but it gets easier when your dog has a toy in his mouth.
12. Chewing Toys
Chewing reduces stress and anxiety in dogs and releases endorphins. Chewing toys are a great way to entertain your dog in the yard for a longer time. I use the classic stuffed Kong, put in some of her favorite foods like banana and peanut butter, and freeze it for longer fun.
My Rottweiler absolutely loves this toy. If your dog rips it apart, there’s a little surprise inside.
13. RC Car
Yeah, I know. Maybe not what you’d think when it comes to dog toys for the yard but RC cars are a great way for your dog to have fun!
When buying one, look out for the speed and size and adjust for your dog’s breed.
Size of 1:14 is a good compromise and the speed of this RC car is mentioned at 20-25 km/h -- that’s not bad at all!
Check this video out:
Obviously, if you’re buying one that’s more expensive, you get more speed, size and features but consider if your dog might take it apart or if you need the fanciest remote control, you probably don’t and $45 is a good deal in my opinion.
Precautions for Outdoor Activity in the Yard
Before you can let your dog run around alone in your yard, you will have to take some precautions. Even when you will be with him.
- Research any plant that you have in your garden online and see if it’s poisonous for dogs. Here is a list of some common toxic garden plants. Also, look for any berries or trees that grow in your garden. If some plants have thorns, make sure to either remove them or cover them with a bag.
- Always supervise your dog. It’s enough to look through the window from the inside so you can act in an emergency.
- Your yard should be completely fenced with no escape route for the dog. Don’t underestimate your dog’s digging or jumping skills.
- Give your dog a break before he’s totally exhausted. Dogs usually don’t take a break themselves and would play until they collapse.
- Your dog should be up to the task physically and mentally. Don’t give him something that is too hard to solve to prevent frustration or guide him through exercises.
Safety Tips for the Summer
- Don’t let your dog be outside for too long and choose water and low impact activities that are not so physically demanding.
- Make sure that he is able to lay down in the shade or take him back inside after a few minutes.
- He should be provided with a clean water source and maybe some food for extra energy.
- If your dog is drooling or panting excessively, take him back inside immediately and cool him down to prevent a heat stroke.
- Don’t let your dog outside in the mid-day sun and rather play with him in the morning hours or after the sun went down.