Pet owners sometimes focus more on proper behavior and training for their dogs than having fun. Constantly reinforcing canines for good behavior and punishing them for the bad can cause you to forget how to play. Professional and experienced dog trainers know exactly how to incorporate games into training but for the average family, there are plenty of activities you can do to bond with your dog. As humans, our relationship with dogs can be reinforced through play and can help us to remember just why we chose to have this canine friend in our lives.

If you have sufficiently socialized your dog to the point where you can take him in public, then do so. Not only will he be able to get a different view of the world than what he is accustomed to indoors, but he will also love experiencing the new smells and sounds with you.

Consider taking your dog for a long hike, assuming he comes back when you call him and the location has a “no leash” policy. You can hike, relax, play in ponds or streams, jump over or climb on fallen trees or branches, watch the birds or play with tennis balls. Some great places to explore in Licking County are Spring Valley Nature Preserve, Blackhand Gorge, The Dawes Arboretum (leashed only), Taft Reserve (leashed only), Lobdell Reserve (leashed only), and TJ Evans Panhandle Trail.

Some dog owners throw parties for their canines, whether it be for the dog’s birthday, adoption, or a new canine arrival to the family. Invite your friends and their dogs and serve a variety of treats for adults and animals. You can find ice cream and other homemade goodies prepared especially for a dog’s diet at Bath & Biscuits and play games with the food.

Try to find a dog park in your area. It should be taken care of, fenced in and clean. Small dogs should be able to have a separate area to play without worrying about being trampled by larger dogs. Some parks have rules regarding spaying/neutering, vaccinations or food to avoid confrontations between dogs so be sure to check the regulations. Check out our great local Infirmary Mound dog park off Rte 37 in Granville. It has separate areas for both small and large dogs to play safely.

Once a week, take your dog to a different area of your town each time you go out. If you live near shops or a park, ride your bike and let your dog run beside you. Not only will this allow you to get a better feel for your community, but your dog will have fun, too. Some shops are dog-friendly, you can eat at an outdoor café or find hidden parks or hiking trails.

There are a variety of games you can play indoors on rainy days, a favorite being one called “Find it!” It’s best to start this game with your dog by your side. In an excited voice, say “Find it!” and toss a treat across the room. Once he gobbles it up, repeat the process and throw the treat to the other side. Do this a few times and then switch it up by placing a treat in plain view and tell him to find that one. Once he masters this, start hiding the treat in various locations while he watches. Gradually make the places harder for him so that he must use his nose instead of his eyes to find the treat. You can also play hide-and-seek with him using the same command.

Go pumpkin picking! Branstool Orchards located in Utica allows you bring along your leashed dog to help find that perfect pumpkin. Don’t forget to pick up a few extra to eat together too. Pumpkin is actually really good for their health and super yummy.

Playing fetch and Frisbee are classic games that dogs love. However, there are many interactive toys on the market that allow you to truly have fun with your dog. Some tug toys have fleece on the end of a rope that is attached to a pole and you swing it around for your dog to chase. Interactive stuffed animals are also a big hit, where smaller toys are hidden inside larger ones for your dog to get out. Play football or soccer in a big open field. Your dog will love running around with you chasing the ball.

Most important this Fall, grab a cup of tea or hot chocolate, snuggle in tight and enjoy the best Fall ever with your furry friend.