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Maximizing Evening Quality Time: Walks, Exercise, and Play for the Busy Dog Owner

Life can be a whirlwind of work, family, and daily responsibilities. For busy dog owners, it often feels like there aren't enough hours in the day to dedicate to our beloved four-legged family members. But guess what? There's a solution that's both effective and enjoyable – making the most of your evenings with your fur baby.

Why evenings are an untapped potential for you and your dog

Evenings might be the only time you have for quality interaction with your dog, and it's essential to make these moments count. Here are a few things that you can get out of maximizing your evenings with your pets:

A Chance to Unwind: Just like us, dogs can have stressful days. And yes, I know, the idea of your pup just lounging about all day everyday doesn’t sound too stressful- but put yourself in their paws for a second- imagine that nobody is at the home, and they hear someone approaching the house (maybe to deliver mail, or maybe to clean out your gutter)- they might even ring the doorbell. Your dog can’t speak, and likely has no context for the person approaching their home- and they know they can’t really do anything about it! So they get worked up, or maybe hide. But worst of all? You’re not their to help them calm down, or attend to the situation- so they wait, until you come home. While they can’t communicate to you about what they experienced during the day, evening activities provide a chance to unwind, relax, and bond with your pet.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Dogs need regular exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. When you leave the home each day, you have access to go for a walk on your own, maybe stop by the gym, and you get to interact with different people and different tasks. Unfortunately, our dogs really rely on us to fully get their bodies exercised, and definitely to stimulate their minds. Did you know that dogs get bored, just like us? So when they are doing the same thing everyday all day, it can get old pretty quick. And who better to introduce them (or re-introduce them to something completely new and engaging? Evening walks and playtime are perfect opportunities to meet these needs. I guess there’s a reason why our dogs stick by us- they know we usually have something pretty interesting to do!

Strengthening the Bond: Spending quality time together in the evening helps strengthen the emotional bond between you and your dog. Maybe I’m projecting a little, but my love language is quality time- and I can only imagine what my dog’s might be (I have a sneaking suspicion that it is also quality time, maybe sprinkled with a little bit of words of affirmation - “good girl!”). I’m probably not alone in really looking forward to seeing my dog at the end of a long day- because no matter how stressful or long the day was, this little fur ball is extremely excited to see me. And I personally think we should all look forward to paying into that relationship a little more.

How to maximize your evening time with your dog

And I get it- sometimes I feel completely drained from the day, or am inundated with other tasks or responsibilities I need to take care of when I get home in the evenings. Keeping in mind that there are benefits for me and for my dog, though, I wanted to provide a couple of tips for how to maximize your evening time so that you can fully invest in your four-legged friend.

Niska enjoying an evening walk in her Peach Harness & Backpack

First up is the simplest of all: evening walks. Walks are a fantastic way to relax and unwind while giving your dog some much-needed exercise. The cooler temperatures make the experience enjoyable for both of you. My dog, Niska loves them so much that she jumps as soon as she sees me grab her harness. Order your harness & matching collar here:

Next up, is playing outside. If you have a yard, use it! Play fetch, run around, or engage in a game of tug-of-war. These activities are not only fun but also great for exercise. This can also be a powerful time to practice “fetch” and “come” commands- and if you do this, be sure to have plenty of treats on hand! Personally, I like to switch been practicing commands and just getting Niska to run around to release her energy. I find that for her, if I act like I am going to run towards her, it triggers her zoomies, and she runs. I encourage this by saying “go, go, go” - which she has learned to mean “keep running” or “run faster.”

Another option is a more passive one, which is to utilize an interactive toy. Toys can help stimulate your dog's mind if you choose them well. Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys are excellent options. And the bonus? They can keep your dog engaged while you unwind- sort of win-win! If you have a chewer like Niska, you may need to monitor how they do with a new toy, and be sure that it either doesn’t have separatable pieces, or ensure that these pieces are removed once they have served their purpose. I have in mind the types of toys that have a cap or piece over a space that holds a treat. Niska has toys that both just slide over, and some where the covering is not connected. We have already lost some of the pieces from the one that doesn’t connect- and the ones we do have are covered in bite / chew marks. For her, I have found that these are best when connected- and unfortunately, she is very smart, so these only keep her entertained for a short period of time- but still a great option!

Something you might consider to help with socializing your dog and with getting exercise is a dog park. You can plan to take your pup there after you get off work, or in the evening. I have found that it can be a great time for your dog to meet other dogs, and to learn to play nice. Beware though- dog parks are not usually just passive times. If you are going to a new dog park, a few considerations are the size of dogs (I only take Niska to specific small dog parks so she can play with others her size); another consideration is how other dogs play/interact (you may have to intervene if your dog does not play well, or if another dog does not play well); and finally- if you have a dog that likes to eat poop (Niska- say hi!), then you’ll want to keep an eye on the perimeter of the park, as sometimes owners may not catch the poop over there, or some think it doesn’t matter. Overall though, dog parks are a great place for your pup to socialize and burn off energy.

Something that can be paired with another option here or a stand alone is training sessions. The evenings can be a great time to work on obedience or teach your dog new tricks. Training is mentally stimulating for your dog and since you are involved in the process, it helps to strengthen your bond. I haven’t been especially good about this lately, but I used to have a list of all the tricks Niska knew, and we would practice each of them a couple of times every night. She loved it- because not only did it mean quality time with me, it was challenging for her to remember each of the cues- and she got lots of treats! I have also used this time to teach her new tricks- some that are necessary, and some that are just for fun. Here are the ones Niska currently knows, and you could work to treat your dog too:

  • Sit

  • Stay

  • Wait

  • Lay down

  • Play dead

  • Roll over

  • Come

  • Stand up

  • Back up

  • Go to spot

  • Ballerina

  • Spin

  • With me

  • Up

  • Down

  • Touch

  • Smell

  • Paw

  • Wave Hi

Finally, if you have evening plans, consider whether you can take your pup with you! Depending on the circumstances, it can be a great opportunity for your dog to get used to other humans, and it can allow them to smell new things, and best of all- they’ll get to spend time with you. In decent weather, I try to ask my friends if we can do something outdoors- maybe sit on the patio at a dog friendly restaurant, or perhaps go somewhere with a beer garden, or even visiting a festival/event that is outdoors. On things like this, consider how you will transport your dog (do they have a car seat or harness? Another thing to consider is bringing the essentials- if it covers dinner time making sure you have food for them- and of course plenty of water. You’ll want to bring treats and toys too. Adventures not specifically designed for dogs can be a great time to utilize our cross body harness and backpack, which was designed specifically with dogs in mind. This allows you to carry essentials and let your dog join you in your evening adventures. Order yours here.

Even for the busiest of dog owners, evenings provide a golden opportunity to bond, exercise, and play with your dog. It's not about the quantity of time but the quality of moments shared. Make the most of these precious hours, and watch as your dog's happiness and well-being thrive, creating beautiful memories that you'll cherish forever. So, go ahead, and enjoy your evening adventures with your furry friend!

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