Give a Pup Massage

Take your pup to doggie zen with a massage. You can experiment to discover what your dog likes, but some hot zones to focus on include the ears, jaws and shoulders. I like to start by gently rubbing Daisy or Rosie’s floppy ears until they’re so relaxed that they close their eyes. Then I focus on other areas such as jaws, shoulders and each leg. I end a massage with gentle circles on their back. This is a great pre-bedtime activity. If you want to go the whole nine yards, you can try a doggie spa day.

Take a Hike

Dogs love the outdoors. I’ve hiked with my pups more times than I can count – including all around New Mexico and the Grand Canyon. If you’re a novice, try shorter distances at first. And always make sure you (and pup) come prepared for the trail by bringing the proper gear, doggie poo bags, water and food. Learn about some dangers on the trail.

Participate in Dog Sports

There are a variety of dog sports like disc dog, flyball, agility and tracking. I’ve participated in agility with my dogs since 2009 and I’ve found it’s a great way to build confidence in your dog. It also builds an unbreakable bond as you and your dog become a team. Learn about getting started in agility.

Play Tug of War

Grab a pull toy, stick or rope and play tug with your dog. Many dogs will get excited and growl during this kind of play. Don’t worry – they’re just having fun. Always make sure your dog is willing to surrender the toy when asked though – you don’t want a create a possessive/aggressive pup.

Rosie loves playing tug. When she starts getting really worked up during play, I generally ask her to “drop” (my command for dropping/surrendering an item). After she drops the toy, I verbally reward her and start playing again. This lets us bond and have fun while curbing any possessiveness. Learn how to make your own pull toy.

Teach them a New Trick

One of my favorite mottos is “never stop learning.” That goes for dogs too! They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but why not? Teaching your dog a new trick will not only help you bond, but it will keep your dog’s mind agile and help them build confidence. Some commands to choose from include “leave it,” “spin,” “shake,” “roll over,” “finish” and “hi five.”

You can also make up your own. Some of the commands I’ve made up include “go leg,” (dog runs through my legs), “under the bridge” (dog goes through my legs from the back side), “go cobra” (dog gets in the yoga cobra pose) and “hug” (dog jumps in the air and wraps arms around me). Another fun spin on this is to teach your dog commands they already know in a new language. I’ve taught Rosie “platz” (“down” in German) and a variety of commands in Spanish.