Our dogs are our faithful companions and best friends. They support us in hard times and share our happiest times. Undertaking activities with your dog can strengthen your bond and improve their physical and mental wellbeing and health.
There are so many ways that we can show our four legged friends how much we care for and appreciate them and there couldn’t be a better time than Valentine’s Day to get those tails wagging!
We all know that dogs love to walk and explore and, like us, they need a change of scenery and regular exercise. A walk keeps them constantly stimulated by new sights, sounds and smells as well as a chance to meet other dogs! Exercise helps your dog to remain fit, avoid digestive problems and also helps them to develop their social skills and address any behavioural issues.
Try planning a route that you have never taken as this will mean a whole new set of smells for your dog to discover. Forests have endless opportunities to run between the trees and root through fallen leaves while beaches allow for a frolic in the sand and possibly a little paddle. Parks and even city centres can also be exciting places for your dog to explore.
Some dogs will be well suited to a long, leisurely walk and others will be better suited to a shorter distance. Also consider the temperature – dogs shouldn’t be out for too long in warmer weather and the pads of their feet may suffer if you are walking on concrete surfaces in extreme temperatures.
Pack a picnic for you and some dog treats for them (check out www.thebarkery.uk for dog treats and snacks which are pocket-sized, healthy and tasty!). Remember to take plenty of fresh drinking water for you both, a sturdy dog lead and a pocket full of bio-degradable poop bags of course!
What could be better than spending some quality time in the fresh air with your four legged friend?!
2. Doggy Paddle!
Most dogs love nothing more than an opportunity to jump in to the nearest sea, lake, stream, pool or muddy puddle! Swimming can be an excellent form of exercise for your dog and, conditions permitting, may be a pursuit you can do together!
Swimming can strengthening heart and lungs, decrease inflammation and improve circulation which helps keep a dogs skin and coat healthy. Moving their limbs against the resistance of the water uses every major muscle group, improving overall tone and strength. The result will be a healthy, happy dog who can run, play, and have fun for longer with less risk of injury.
When submerged, the water takes on most of your dog’s weight, supporting their body and gets dogs moving in a different way than they usually would on solid ground, which improves their range of motion. All of this makes swimming an beneficial form of exercise for senior dogs or those with joint disorders, injuries or those recovering from surgery.
It is also a great form of exercise for dogs who need to shed a few pounds!
There are many dog-friendly beaches across the UK – remember to check as sometimes a dog ban will apply during peak seasons. If you decide to visit a beach please ensure that you use them safely and that you remove all belongings and litter before you leave.
Keep safety in mind if you plan to take your dog swimming. To prevent them from taking in too much saltwater or chlorine, always provide an ample supply of fresh water before and during their swim. Also remember to rinse them off after a swim, cleaning out the ears and snout, to avoid irritation to the skin or eyes.
Ensure that your dog does not get over tired or exhausted and that they take regular breaks. Never leave them unsupervised in the water and ensure that they are familiarised with the safest exit routes from the water.
If it is safe to do so, why not jump in with them for the ultimate bonding experience?!
3. Party on!
Exposing your dog to other dogs and people can be a great way to socialise them and is key to their mental and physical health. It allows them to have fun, practice their survival skills, hone their behaviours, use all of their senses and practice communication with humans and other dogs.
Visit parks, forests and beaches where other dogs will be. Some areas also organise group dog walks, parties and themed events for dogs. Check out what’s on in your local area.
Environments which are too busy or loud however, may cause your dog anxiety and stress so ensure that you choose the right venue for your dog according to their behaviour and needs.
If your dog is already a social butterfly and has a group of other furry friends you might consider throwing them a birthday ‘pawty’ or Gotcha’ Day celebration. You can send invitations, put up decorations and even provide some delicious party food! The Barkery UK dog bakery has a range of dog birthday party packs and handmade treats including dog friendly doughnuts, custard creams, bourbons and Jammie Dodgers! They even have some birthday themed dog bandanas for the star of the show (www.thebarkery.uk)!
4. Teach an old dog new tricks!
Training can be a great way to bond with your dog and build a good relationship with them. All dogs will benefit from learning some basic commands and some may even enjoy attending specific training classes for more advanced training.
You can teach your dog basic obedience like sit, stay and recall. This will give them freedom but will also ensure that they are safe and under control. Training can also help dogs to avoid becoming bored which can lead to behavioural issues in the longer term.
You can use food, toys or praise as a reward for successful training sessions and this should reinforce the behaviour and encourage a repeat performance!
If you are training at home make sure that there are no distractions. Undertake training in short regular sessions and remember to be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Most importantly, have fun and use it as an opportunity to bond with your dog and spend some quality one on one time with them.
5. Brain training!
We all know that dogs love a challenge – mental or physical. Regardless of their age, dogs love to learn new things. In order to have a happy, healthy dog, you’ll need to ensure that they get adequate mental stimulation. After all, a restless or bored dog can quickly turn to destructive behaviour. You can re-direct their attention with games that stimulate their brain.
There are many new brain training puzzles and toys for dogs on the market now – some which you can fill with treats and some which will stimulate their senses. They require problem-solving and focus from your dog.
Exposing your dog to new situations, sights and smells, such as going to the car wash, is also a good way to enrich their lives. Any activity which makes them focus, think and problem solve will make them happier and smarter!
You could also play hide and seek, tug of war or fetch with your dog as a way to engage them and release some energy!
6. Eat out together
There are so many dog friendly cafes, pubs and restaurants now that you will be spoilt for choice of places to head to with your furry friend!
Some places will provide a dog menu now with dishes specially created to tantalise your dog’s taste buds!
If there isn’t a dog menu you may want to consider feeding your dog before you arrive to ensure that they don’t get food envy! A dog with a lovely full tummy will be able to come along with you without ruining the date with whining and jumping up at the table – or other people’s tables!
Make sure that your dog has been well exercised before heading to a restaurant with them and that they are kept on a short lead for the safety and comfort of both them and any other dogs visiting the venue.
If dogs could speak, we are fairly sure that they would say their favourite things to do are eat, sleep, chase a ball and hang their heads out of car windows!
Plan a road-trip with your four legged friend and make their dreams come true!
Make sure that you take regular rest stops and allow them time to stretch their legs and answer the call of nature. Take along plenty of snacks and fresh drinking water (for you both!) and enjoy the trip.
Maybe round off the day with a night in a dog-friendly hotel, cottage or caravan.
8. Take a cat nap!
Dogs love sleep. We love sleep. It’s a match made in heaven!
Spending time with you is part of a dog's pack behaviour. We can think of no better way of making you both happy than curling up in a warm comfy bed with your dog nestled at your feet (or right up in your face!).
Sleeping on your bed can be a treat for your pooch if they are not usually allowed to do so – just don’t let them get too comfy!
9. Get back to nature
Grab a tent, grab your best friend and spend a night out under the stars!
There are many dog-friendly campsites across the UK, some of which are open all year round and others which will open for the peak season.
Camping will give you and your dog some quality time together out in the fresh air without the distractions of phones, tablets, laptops and TVs!
Head out on long dog walks, warm yourselves by the campfire and cook up some delicious food on the BBQ!
10. Take your dog to work
We can’t guarantee that they will help with the filing but we are sure that they will enjoy themselves and add some excitement to your day and that of your colleagues! While the official day to bring your dog to work to the office is 24th June, if you work in a pet-friendly environment, why not make it a regular occurrence?
Studies have shown that having a dog in the workplace can help to ease work place stress and it will mean that your dog doesn’t have to stay at home on their own. We all know how much better we feel after stroking a dog. What if you could do that just before heading in to that stressful meeting?
Joining you at work will enable your dog to socialise with other humans, put their training in to practice and, no doubt, receive several sneaky treats from your work colleagues!
What could be more relaxing than sharing your coffee break with your best friend?!
However you plan to spend Valentine's Day we hope that you and your four-legged friends have a wonderful time – don’t forget to share the love!