Dogs need an environment that is stimulating and interesting or they often end up making their own fun. This usually takes the form of many behavioural complaints:
Destruction of furniture
So What to do about it? We often create playgrounds or enriching back yards for our kids, but it's also a great option for our dogs!
Untreated pine is great tool, making sure the construction isn't toxic if they decide to chew it a little is really important.
Unused Childrens play equipment
Old cable spools
You'll be surprised what you can pick up at your local building recycler or tip shop.
So what should you make?
Sand or dirt pits allow for constructive digging and toys or chews can be hidden in them to make them a desireable place to practice that instinct (instead of your plant pots)
In summer, having a sandpit that can turn into a pool can be a great option for dogs that love water and swimming.
Platforms provide dogs with a feeling of safety and security and allow them to survey their property without having to run tracks around it.
Ramps can be great fun to run up and over - anyone who has had dogs start their zoomies inside have seen the way they like to jump up and over furniture - so give them some obstacles of their own to enjoy.
Dens can be made in the form of kennels or dug in areas. You could even build an above ground den by putting in a dome or some tires and building dirt over top. These can also take the form of tunnels that are fun to run through when play kicks off. Stuff a kennel or den with hay to provide a warm, comforting environment for sleeping and an enriching thing to dig through.
Jumps and Agility equipment are things they won't use so much when you're not there but can be great additions to the play time you do spend with them.
Plant dog safe plants and grasses in special planters that won't matter if they dig them up or look for bugs amongst them.
Don't put high structures too close to fences to avoid them using them to get out, centre structures in the middle of your yard.
Avoid too much visual access to whats going on out in the street to avoid barking
Avoid toxic materials or toxic plants
Avoid easily destroyed materials that may be harmful if ingested
Be aware of the equipment you put on your dog and make sure collars are the plastic quick release ones - this goes for any backyard situation as getting a collar stuck can be a dangerous situation for a dog.
Consider doing a 2 for 1 and creating a playground that is appropriate for the dogs and the kids.
For Social time, having obstacles and levels makes play more interesting and less stressful. If dogs have multiple places they can go to lower arousal, take a break or just press pause, it helps them interact more naturally.
For play with you, it again, gives them more options to take the game to a new level.
When you're not home, you can hide things around for them to find during the day and so they can explore - think of it as a zoo enclosure for your dog. Put chews or bones in the sandpit or behind an obstacle, scatter their food across the area.
You are likely to come home to a much calmer dog who is living their best life!
Comment below if you have set up a doggy playground for your pet!