Summer months bring hours of sunshine, laughter, and inevitable shouts of boredom from little ones home on summer break. Dog owners also find that the sights, sounds, and smells of summer bring out an increased yearning for the outdoors in even the most domesticated house dog. Bored and restless dogs and kids create a less than relaxing, summertime home front. Luckily, it is possible to get both the kids and the dogs active and outdoors. Why not satisfy the whole family with a few outdoor games that the kids and dogs can play together during the summer?
Water play games are fun outdoor activities for dogs and kids. A hot, summer day offers the perfect setting for water play. Kids and dogs alike enjoy breaks from the heat with water themed outdoor games. We simply set up a sprinkler in a safe, open space. The kids enjoy running through the sprinkler. The dog enjoys running with the kids or biting at the water spray. We have also found that setting up inflatable kiddie pools keeps the three of them entertained, and cool, during warm afternoons.
Sport practice fetch makes practice time fun for kids and dogs. If the youngster needs to practice a skill for an upcoming sports season, there are a number of ways to incorporate practice into a dog-friendly game of fetch. For example, one of our daughters played tennis and would spend hours practicing a serve, or various swings. We added a bag of dog-friendly tennis balls and a high energy puppy to her practice session. She would serve the tennis ball, and the puppy would fetch it and return it to her. We have also done similar things with softball swings, soccer ball kicks, football throws, and baseball pitches. The dog received the exercise and attention that he needed; the child put in a few practice hours and both had fun.
Obstacle courses provide outdoor fun and exercise for dogs and kids. Even if the family dog is not ready for obstacle course competition, setting up a fun obstacle course in the backyard is a terrific way to keep both dogs and kids busy on a summer afternoon. Take a creative look at the kid's toy collection or the basement storage area for items like play tunnels, hula hoops, soccer cones, ramps or any other items that make fun obstacles. Help the kids set up a small, safe obstacle course, then let the kids take turns teaching obstacle course maneuverability to the family dog. Our girls turn this into a circus game and love "training" Max the circus dog. They take considerable pride in watching Max accomplish a run over a simple ramp and through a tunnel, and Max loves the extra attention and play time.
Dogs and kids enjoy games of hide and seek. Playing hide and seek outdoors takes a little training on the part of the dog--with some dogs more suited to the game than others. We began playing hide and seek as a game of chase, where Max the dog would sit until the girls were about 50 yards away from him. On command, we released him, and he ran and caught them. Once he was a catching expert, we shielded him from view as the girls ran, in loud, little girl fashion, to easy hiding places, like behind trees or rocks, along their usual run. On command, we released Max to seek out his little people. Over the years, the hiding places increase in difficulty, but Max is foxhound mix who loves tracking his two playmates. Of course, his ears rarely miss the occasional hidden giggle either.