Here’s How to Turn Your Backyard into an Oasis for Your Dog

Check out this post with Sassafras Lowrey author of Chew This Journal

As our world has become smaller in order to socially distance and stay safe during this pandemic, the same has been true for our dogs. Unlike normal summers where many owould be taking our dogs to parks, hiking, the beach or other outings most of our dogs are spending their summer at home. 

Although you might be missing the social engagement of summers spent with friends and family, the good thing is your dog is perfectly happy to spend more time with you, and that time together doesn’t have to be boring. Even if you have a small yard, you can create an interactive playground for you and your dog to enjoy together during the dog days of summer. As a professional dog trainer, here are a few of my favorite inexpensive ways to turn your yard into a playground for your canine best friend. 

Splash Pool 

If your dog enjoys water, adding a baby pool to your backyard can add hours of fun. You can purchase dog specific wading pools, or  very inexpensively you can purchase a baby pool designed for children. Hard plastic baby pools work best especially for large dogs compared to inflatable pools which have a tendency to puncture with dog’s nails or teeth while playing. Many dogs enjoy the chance to cool off in the water. For added engagement with the pool take treats and/or toys and drop them into the baby pool for your dog to retrieve. 


Digging comes naturally to dogs and most dogs love doing it. Protect your flower beds by giving your dog their own personalized sandbox this summer. Again, for this activity a hard-sided plastic baby pool works well. These are available inexpensively at hardware and drug stores, or frequently given away for free in online neighborhood trading groups.  For a sandbox it’s even okay to use a pool that is cracked on the bottom and no longer able to hold water.  Fill the pool with sand which can be purchased at the hardware store and let your dog enjoy.

Some dogs, particularly those who have been told not to dig in the yard before might need a little encouragement to start digging. In that case let your dog watch you hide a toy or bits of treat in the sand and then encourage and praise as your dog digs it up! To keep your dog’s sandbox clean I recommend covering it at night with a tarp or other lid to keep it dry, and to prevent any wandering cats from using it as a giant litter box (that’s a surprise your dog might enjoy but not something I would recommend).

Agility Course

Is your active dog looking for ways to get some of that energy out? This summer considering setting up an at-home agility course. Dog agility is a fast-paced sport where dogs navigate a series of obstacles while being directed by their handler. Think agility is something your dog might enjoy? You can purchase a number of agility obstacles relatively inexpensively online, but you can also DIY your own agility course with supplies you probably have lying around the house. With all of these obstacles the key is help your dog to make positive associations with the obstacles. Use treats your dog is excited about to reward any interest in the obstacles at first. 

Jumps: by balancing broom handles or other lightweight sticks between cans, rocks, boxes, or anything else you might have around the house. Even if your dog loves jumping be sure to keep the jump height low (just a couple of inches high) to prevent injuries. This is a game you want to save for grassy areas not concrete or other hard surfaces. To get your dog engaged, toss a treat over the jump (remember keep heights very low) and praise your dog when he hops over to get the treat. 

Dog walk: If you have some extra DIY construction supplies around you can make a simple “dog walk” using two cinderblocks lying sideways for stability,  and a board balanced between them. Depending on the width of your plank and the size of your dog getting the hang of the dog walk may take a little practice. To start, place a trail of small pieces of treats along the board and praise your dog as she follows them across the board. The more familiar with the dog walk she becomes you can phase out the trail of treats. 

Tire Jump: Take a hula hoop and balance it between two lawn chairs or other upright supports. Like with the jump when you have your dog’s attention toss a treat through the hoop for your dog to get. 

Tunnel: The next time you get a big delivery save the box. Boxes opened on both ends make great DIY tunnels for dogs to run through. You can also create a larger tunnel blanket fort style by putting two or three lawn chairs next to each other on one side and two or three lawn chairs backs facing each other to create a channel. Put a blanket on top to create a cave for your dog to go through. Start with your dog on one side and you on the other, call your dog through treat and praise.  

Balance: have a wobble board or an exercise disk from your quarantine workouts? Bring it out into the yard for your dog. Treat your dog for sniffing or putting a single foot and then a second foot onto the wobble board. 

When your dog is familiar with individual obstacles, put together a short sequence guiding your dog  between multiple obstacles to create a backyard agility course! 

Hide & Seek

Dogs see the world with their noses. If your dog is missing the chance to get out and smell new things you can channel that sniffing energy into a hide and seek game. Save different sized boxes from deliveries. Spread the boxes out in your yard and put treats (the smellier the better) into a few of the boxes and encourage your dog to search the boxes to find treats. Is your dog getting the hang of it? If you’re looking to make things a little harder you can teach your dog to find specific scents. In the boxes with treats put a teabag or a cotton swab soaked in vanilla extract or an essential oil (just be sure to secure the item so your dog can’t accidentally get it). After a few searches you can take the treat out of the box and when your dog finds the hidden scent give lots of praise and treats. 

Chew This Journal

An Activity Book for You and Your Dog

Is your dog bored? Doesn’t have to be! From bucket lists and outings to arts and crafts Chew This Journal will inspire you to spend more time with your pup. Chew This Journal leads you through fun activities, while creatively recording your adventures in the pages of the book. This unique journal doubles as your dog’s memory keeper and activity tracker, making it a one-of-a-kind keepsake that you and your dog complete together.

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