Let’s go Jags!

If you’re a football fan, you’ll know there’s nothing more exciting than cheering on your favorite team from the stands. If you’re a dog, all you know is the sport uses a ball, and that’s all that really matters.

Football is back but will look different this year due to the coronavirus. And there is really no playbook for being a fan during a pandemic. Games go on, but like everything else in 2020, gameday traditions look to be on hold. So, if you’re looking for something – anything – that can fill the void left behind by the stadium and tailgating ban, I’ve got you covered. Here are a few things you can do with your dog instead of watching football.

Play Ball

The start of the football season can be the start new traditions with your dog. Grab a ball and head out to the backyard yard or a local park to play some football with your furry friend. And if they prefer tennis balls, nobody will object. It is a fun way to give your dog some cherished one-on-one time and tire them out for the day. You can even rock your team spirit with matching team jerseys!

Down, Set, Hike

Instead of sitting on the sidelines – or in your game day recliner, you can embark on a hiking adventure with your dog. Taking a walk through the woods, or up a mountain, or along the water, is one of those classic canine-human bonding experiences, and a great way to explore the great outdoors. It’s important to be prepared for all kinds of weather and critters, so make sure to pack rain gear, dog-friendly sunscreen, bug repellant, and of course plenty of water and healthy treats!

Tackle Fallen Leaves

Whether you’re in your backyard, or at the local park, piling up leaves can be fun for you and your dog. Hide balls or other toys in the pile and encourage your dog to find them. For small dogs, you can gather up leaves and put them in an empty box on your porch for them to enjoy. Just be careful to make sure only leaves make it into the pile. Sharp sticks may lead to some painful pokes.

Go Long

Weekend getaways offer a chance to take a break from the commotion of everyday life. If an escape from reality is just what you both need this fall, there are plenty of pet-friendly places where you can both sit back and relax. Whether you’re looking for something completely off-grid or just a spot to rest your paws, road trips are a great way to see far-off parts of the country and huddle together while avoiding the crowds.

Touchdown Celebration

With the season underway, try inviting a few two-legged and four-legged friends over on game day (ok, keep it to 6 people or fewer so that you can safely social distance) and throw a “homegate” party. Tailgating at home is the best alternative for game day gatherings when the stadium parking lot is off-limits. It’s a safe way to enjoy your outdoor space, nosh game day food and snacks (the scents of barbeque and veggie dip are things I still seek before and after the games​) and listen to the game on the radio. Make sure your dog and his pals have a chow zone with dog-friendly grub, so your guests know what food is safe to feed them. And encourage everyone to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently.

Football isn’t just for dog owners; it can easily be for your dog as well. Though it looks a bit different this year, I believe that with a little creativity, a positive mindset, and some planning, you can still create great memories. Your love for football can be shared with your pup who will get just as much enjoyment out of the game as you. Besides, dogs love anything that allows them to chase a ball, get a treat, and spend time with their best friend.