Activities For Small Dogs In The Yard

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Introduction

Whether it's time constraints, their general size, or your proximity to other locations, sometimes it's just best or easiest to have your pup stay in the yard to play. While looking out your window may not reveal much for them to do, there are certainly simple elements you can add to your yard to make it much more entertaining for your dime-sized dog. For most, it takes adding just a few supplies, some elbow grease, and bit of creativity and you've got yourself a makeshift play area you can use whenever your dog is bored in the house or could use some extra exercise or fresh air.

Agility Skills

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Sunny Day
Free
Easy
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Shovel, rake, or other "bar" to jump over
Simple risers like bricks or cinder blocks
Treats
Activity description
Small dogs are usually the easiest to work with in terms of basic agility skills because they need fewer and smaller supplies to achieve the same effect as a larger dog - that is, as long as they're cooperative. You can generally get away with using items that are already around your house, garage, yard, and garden, so it usually ends up being free, is easy to do, takes few supplies, and can last for quite a while as long as both you and your dog maintain patience and interest. Plus, depending on how good they get, you can easily step up the challenges and add more skill courses if desired.
Step
1
Get them comfortable
Depending on the size of your dog, chances are you already have an appropriate tool lying around your yard. Grab a shovel or rake and lay it on the ground, then convince your dog to step or hop over it. Once they do, treat and reward them accordingly.
Step
2
Raise the bar
Once they've gotten comfortable with it being on the ground, try raising it on a pair of bricks at either end, increasing the height. Try to get them to jump over that height, again treating and rewarding as necessary. Once they get the raised bar down, increase the height even more and provide them a real challenge!
Step
3
Change it up
Outside of having them jump over things (which is probably the easiest of the skills training), you can also set up miniature skills courses for weaving such as putting garden markers in the ground, giving them something to crawl under or through, having them walk across balance boards or even having them go across a see-saw. With a few supplies, there are no ends to the type of ways you can get them moving and learning new things.
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Build a Sandbox

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
120 min
Items needed
Stakes
Twine
4 x 2x12" boards
Sand
Screws
Powered screwdriver
Shovel
Tape measure
Sandpaper
Activity description
We're not going to say that building a sandbox is easy, but it most certainly isn't hard for the average handy person. It takes some basic construction supplies, an hour or two to build, and in the end, will provide a location and activity your dog can use again and again. It's not particularly cheap but given it's long-term usage, will undoubtedly repay itself over time. You will need a decent day to construct it (although it doesn't necessarily have to be sunny) and of course, you'll likely want your dog to use it in similar conditions, that is, unless you don't mind them traipsing big clumps of wet sand into the house after romping in the rain.
Step
1
Map and dig
First, you'll need to figure out where to put the sandbox. We recommend placing it somewhere it will receive a relatively even number of shaded and sunny hours throughout the middle of the day, to ensure your dog is comfortable and doesn't overheat. Once you've figured out the location, take your tape measure and mark off a square appropriate to their size (most small dogs will be perfectly fine with a space around 4x4'-5x5') by placing stakes at the corners and wrapping the square with string or twine to bring the shape to life. Once it's marked, grab your shovel and start digging. Since you can use a variety of board widths to build it (we recommend 2x8" or wider), you'll have to gauge the depth based on the board length. If you use 2x12s, dig six inches down so six inches will still be left exposed above ground, just make sure there is enough buried that it will stay properly supported and upright.
Step
2
Get other supplies
The boards and sand will likely be the most expensive and necessary parts, but you can always get them before you start digging (just make sure you don't change your mind on size once they've already been cut!). Go to your local lumber yard or hardware store, select nice, straight boards and have them cut down to the size you've measured, remembering to keep in mind the type of joints you plan to use (most amateurs just default to a simple butt joint - although they are the weakest, they can be easily reinforced and you don't need it super strong just to hold sand). Once you've got your sand and boards cut, get your boards screwed together in a square pattern, then drop them into the hole, making sure to dig out any areas preventing it from sitting level.
Step
3
Sand and sun
Once you've dropped your frame in and made sure everything is level, start pouring your sand in, raking it as you go to keep it even. Once you get it filled with a few extra inches of wood exposed at the top, grab your sandpaper and sand down any exposed wood to make sure you minimize the potential for splinters. Make sure the sand is evenly distributed, the frame securely in place and then comes the fun part: invite your dog in! Sandboxes are a perfect place to lounge, dig, bury, and play, so feel free to encourage them to do all of the above. Hint: depending on how elaborate, sturdy, and large you want your sandbox, there are certainly plenty of other plans and step-based instructions online, many from seasoned carpenters, to go above and beyond this simple frame-and-fill technique.
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Pool Party

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Hose
Kiddie Pool or a shovel and tarp
Activity description
Sometimes, it's just not feasible to get your dog to a large pool, ocean, or lake, and even if it is, those big bodies of water can certainly be intimidating for many pint-sized pups. But of course, there's a perfect yard-appropriate solution: a kiddie pool! While not all dogs love swimming, there is certainly a much larger group of those who still enjoy water, even if they're not fully immersed enough to doggy-paddle. Kiddie pools are the perfect solution because they're low cost, can be quickly filled and emptied, can be filled to various levels based on your dog's comfort, and add another venue for activities. They are generally best reserved for warmer or sunnier days, but given that that is the most restrictive factor, they're still pretty versatile!
Step
1
Set up the pool
Not everyone is going to have easy access to a kiddie pool, although nowadays it's not hard to find a chain department store that carries one. Either way, if your accessibility is limited and you either have a supremely nice landlord or own your own home, you can also just dig a good sized hole, line it with a tarp, and fill it with water. Whatever the case may be, find a good spot to put it and get it filled with a few inches of water.
Step
2
Test the waters
Most people who have had their dogs for a while have a pretty good idea of their dog's comfort level with water. But not everyone has had the opportunity. Get your dog outside and near the pool, then try to coerce them to go in. If need be, carefully pick them up and lower them into the water, making sure you're not further deterring them if they're too anxious or scared. Once you've got them in the water and adjusted, it's time to expand their and your horizons.
Step
3
Games and play
If your dog likes the water, chances are they'll be happy to do more than just splash about (although that's fun as well). Think about introducing some new elements to the pool that will keep them entertained. If the water is shallow, try tossing in some water-proof toys and see how they react. Try to find some that float at least a little so they have something new to bite at and chase around. If the water is a little deeper and their comfort level is high, try tossing in some carrots and apples that they'll have to dive for. With any luck, it will increase their comfort with rewards and give them something fun to do.
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More Fun Ideas...

Hide and Treat

Sometimes it's easy for your dog to get distracted in the yard, but if you'd rather have them keep their nose to the ground, hide a few treats while they're not looking (but make sure they're within reach!), then let them sniff around the yard to find them.

Fetch

Yes, it is certainly simple, but if you have a yard big enough for it, fetch is still a great way to get your dog to burn some energy and stay entertained. If your yard isn't particularly long, try to work with height by using a Frisbee they have to leap for more than chase after or try bouncing a ball instead of tossing it so they try to catch it mid-air.

Keep Away

If you have a dog that needs to get rid of some energy but doesn't have a ton of space in the yard to run, get them running consistently instead of far. Grab a friend and your dog's favorite toy and toss it back and forth so they have to stay on the move to chase it. Make sure to let them get it occasionally or they may quickly lose interest.

Conclusion

Luckily for people with small dogs, yards seem so much bigger by comparison to the house, let alone those who keep much bigger dogs. And while a quick glance may reveal little to do activity-wise, all you need is a few good ideas, some treats, toys, and creativity, and you've got the makings of a backyard playground. Plus, if you find or make any that you can make permanent fixtures, you'll save yourself that much more time in the future, giving you more time to spend having fun with your bantam barker!