DIY Dog Enrichment Activities to Make Your Backyard Fun
Having a backyard for your dog to play in is amazing, but sniffing the same grass every afternoon can get boring. Soup up their play time with enrichment activities to get their mind and body engaged!
Dog enrichment activities add variety to your dog’s normal routine by making them use their brain to problem solve while getting physical energy out at the same time. That means your dog is going to be happy, satisfied, and ready for a looooooong nap afterwards! Best of all, you can create DIY enrichment activities in your own backyard and watch your dog go to town from your lawn chair.
Safety note: make sure your dog is securely fenced in or on a lead and do not leave them unsupervised while playing.
Here are 5 easy backyard dog enrichment activities to try:
#1. Treasure Hunt
Grab a handful and get to work hiding them around your yard—in the grass, behind bushes, and under your patio chairs. (Just be sure you have pet-friendly greenery in your garden before you use it as a hiding spot.) Then let your dog loose to go find their tasty prizes!
You can easily adjust this game to your dog’s skill level. The first time you play, you may want to let your dog watch you hide a couple of treats so they can figure out the game. As they advance, you can keep them inside until you’re done hiding the treats so they go in blind! Adjust your hiding places to keep them challenged, and use treats with a more potent aroma if they’re struggling to find them.
#2. Puppy Pool
We all know about kiddie pools—so why not give your dog their own puppy pool? You can grab the old kiddie pool from storage or pick up a bargain one to be your dog’s new favorite summer hangout spot. (Don’t go for anything inflatable or made of soft plastic because those dog claws will pop it!)
Grab your hose and fill it up a few inches to see how your dog likes it. Soaking their paws and giving them the option to lay down and wet their tummy is all you need for your dog to get the cooling benefits of the water on a sweltering hot day! If your dog loves the water, fill it up so they can get their splash on.
Toss in some waterproof dog balls and other toys that float to really get playtime started! Just like that, you’ve got the perfect water activity for every occasion from a raucous dog birthday party to a quiet solo soak.
#3. DIY Agility Course
Have you ever watched the pro-level agility dogs run an agility course and thought, “My dog would love to do that”? They don’t have to go pro to enjoy their own DIY backyard dog obstacle course!
You can use supplies you may already have laying around the house to create a wildly fun backyard playground. PVC pipes are a bargain and are perfect for building your own jumps, but even a cardboard box can work for one-time use! If you already have playground equipment like a balance beam or seesaw in your backyard, your dog can take full advantage of it for their own play time.
It might take a few tries and a lot of treats for your dog to figure out what to do with all these new obstacles, but before long they’ll be hopping over your homemade jumps like a pro (or at least a semi-pro).
#4. Human-Approved Shredding
Does your dog have the drive to tear things to shreds? Our sympathies to their tattered stuffed animals, but you can put that instinct to work in a place where it’s a-okay to make a big mess! Our favorite things to let our dogs shred are cardboard boxes and cabbages. (Yes, you read that right—cabbages.)
Most of us have extra cardboard boxes kicking around from our most recent online orders, so put those boxes to use by popping a few treats inside and then folding the box closed before letting your dog tear it to shreds to get the goodies inside! You can take it to the next level by nesting smaller and smaller treat-filled boxes inside each other to keep the game going even longer.
If you’re looking to let your dog snack on something a little greener, have you ever tried giving them a whole cabbage? Many dogs love to peel them apart layer by layer and snack on healthy, dog-safe greens as they do. The softness of cabbage leaves even makes this a safe puppy enrichment activity for their sensitive teeth. (Just be sure to stop them before they chow down on too much cabbage for their little tummies.)
Added bonus if you compost: you can scoop the shredded leftovers of that cabbage or cardboard right into your compost bucket!
#5. Digging Pit
If your dog has ever tried to dig up your flower beds, redirect that energy to a place you want your dog to dig! All you need is an unused garden bed, sand box, or kiddie pool and some play sand (or soil, although that tends to be messier).
Fill your digging zone of choice with sand (and make sure that nothing important is in the surrounding splash zone), then bury a few treats or favorite toys in there! Your dog’s nose should immediately pick up on the scent of their beloved toys or savory proteins and guide them as they go wild excavating their new favorite play area.
Any one of these outdoor activities is a recipe for a more stimulating yard and an amazing afternoon (or twenty) for your canine BFF! Once you’ve checked mental stimulation and physical activity off their to-do list, it’s time to head to your cooldown area in the shade with plenty of fresh water and relax with your tuckered out dog.
P.S. We’ve got more pet enrichment activities made for rainy days inside!