15 Dog Bucket List Ideas to Try with a Pup or Older Dog

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In The Bucket List, a 2007 Hollywood blockbuster film, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman go on a mission to accomplish all the things they’ve ever dreamed of doing before they die—a bucket list. It's easy to imagine going on an adventure like this with a best friend. But what if you did it with your four-legged best friend? 

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It could be so rewarding, though it could depend on the age and general health of your canine companion. Here are some ideas for bucket flist adventures to have with your dog at every stage life stage.

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Bucket List Ideas for an Elderly Dog

You may have a goal to make up for a lifetime of work when you retire by engaging in your favorite leisure activities. Why shouldn’t your senior dog do the same?

1. Make special meals 

Yeah, yeah. Your vet’s told you a million times: Human food isn’t good for pets. But older dogs in otherwise good health can do well with homemade dog food made with high-quality meat and vegetables.

You don’t have to cook a catered dinner for your pet every night, but you can treat your senior dog to things like ground turkey, brown rice, broccoli, and carrots once a week. As always, clear food changes with your veterinarian ahead of time to make sure your dog is getting the right nutrients.

2. Go camping

Most dogs love going outside, but elderly dogs don’t have the same stamina as young dogs. Take your dog to a campsite where he or she can hang out with you by a lake or by the fireside. Your senior dog can go on some easy hikes during the day and hit the outdoors without overdoing it. 

3. Schedule a playdate with an old friend

Most people take puppies to dog parks to socialize and run off excess energy. As dogs get older and calmer, those trips may become less frequent or stop altogether. Make plans for your elderly dog to spend time with other senior dogs. Socialization is still important, even if they’re not as active as they once were. 

4. Splurge on a comfortable dog bed

Older dogs can start to experience the same kinds of aches and pains that people experience as they age. Help them rest a little easier by investing in a high-quality pet bed. Many companies make ergonomically-friendly orthopedic beds for dogs of all sizes. Even some mattress companies have dipped their toes into the dog bed market. 

5. Teach some tricks

Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks. In fact, it can be easier than training a puppy because elderly dogs are usually more patient and can maintain focus. There are certain things you need to do to train a dog properly.

Working on tricks with your dog gives you an opportunity to stimulate him or her physically and mentally. It also provides your dog with a one-on-one with you. 

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Bucket List Ideas for a Terminally Ill Dog

You might think you have lots of years left with your pets. But then the unthinkable happens and you learn your dog has a terminal illness. Once the clock starts ticking, you might have to say goodbye to your pet before he or she is in too much pain. In the meantime, you can create some special memories before you reach that point. 

6. Get family photos taken

A lot of people have tons of photos of their pets, but not many photos of themselves with their pets. Hire a photographer or ask a friend to take some portraits of you and your dog. These photos will comfort you after your dog dies.

They can also be good to have down the line if you have young children so they can view photos of a pet later that they might otherwise forget. 

7. Provide them with comfort

Pain management is usually an owner’s primary concern when it comes to a pet with a terminal illness. You don’t want your pets to suffer, but you also don’t want to miss out on time with them.

Look into options like pet massage, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. They won’t cure your pet’s illness but they can help your pet’s quality of life.

8. Have a slumber party

Consider letting your dog bunk in with you on occasion if you don’t normally let your pet sleep on the bed. You’ll both benefit from the closeness as you try and cram in as much quality time as you can.

You can get a small staircase to assist your dog onto the bed if your dog’s mobility is compromised. Or you could get an inflatable mattress and camp out on the same level — next to your dog’s bed. 

9. Cuddle up by the fire

Older, ill dogs can get chilled fairly easy. Build a roaring fire and snuggle up with your dog in front of it. Bucket lists aren’t always about big moments — sometimes they’re just sharing quiet moments with an old friend. 

10. Have a party for your pet

More and more people have pet funerals. Instead of waiting for your pet to die, you can have a celebration of life ceremony while your pet’s still around to enjoy it. Invite the people who love your pup, including people who take care of him — the vet, the dogwalker, the employees at doggy daycare.

Invite your pet’s playmates from the dog park. Get special dog treats for all pets in attendance. This will give people time and space to say good-bye to your good boy or sweet girl and will let your dog feel loved and special. 

Bucket List Ideas for a Puppy or Dog in Good Health

If you’ve just adopted a new puppy or have a dog that’s still young and energetic, there are activities that are better suited for them than an older dog. Start checking items off your dog’s bucket list early, and you can create hundreds of memories with your puppy. 

11. Take a beach trip

Young and active dogs typically respond really well to beach trips. There’s lots of exciting stimuli - the salty sea air, the wind, the sound of the waves. They can run up and down the shore, splash around in the water with you, and soak up the sun. It’s a trip that can make most young dogs happy.  

12. Dress them up for Halloween

There isn’t much cuter than a dog in a costume. Start a tradition by dressing up you and your dog in coordinated Halloween costumes each year.

Some classic combos include Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, and Han Solo and Chewbacca. You’ll love looking back at photos of you and your dog later on down the line. 

13. Put together a pet calendar

Everyone thinks their furry friends are the most photogenic. You may even be one of the people who has a pet with a major social media following. Since you’re snapping photos of your pet anyway, see about making your own calendar starring your dog. You can keep it as a memento, hand them out to friends and families at the holidays, or even sell them online if your pet has a lot of followers.

If you do the latter, consider donating proceeds to an animal-centric nonprofit organization. 

14. Go on an epic road trip

When dogs are young, they’re often excited to get out of the house. One of the easiest ways to get a puppy worked up is to ask them if they want to go for a ride. Make their whole year by taking them on an awesome adventure.

Take a few weeks off and map out an epic journey for you both. Look up pet-friendly hotels before you leave so you know where you can camp out for the night, and drive around the country. Several national parks are pet-friendly.

These include the Grand Canyon in Arizona, California’s Redwood National Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, Acadia National Park in Maine, and Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park. If you’re not one for long car trips, you and your dog could go on a pup-friendly cruise.

15. Teach your dog to be a good citizen

Pets take care of people just as much as we take care of them. Your puppy could help a lot of people in your community. The American Kennel Club has a Canine Good Citizen training program that you and your dog can go through together.

This program can help your dog prepare to be a therapy dog for someone in need. You may also be able to take your canine pal into nursing homes or children’s hospitals and brighten a lot of days.   

Bucket List Adventures for Your Four-Legged Friend

Whether you’ve just adopted a puppy, or you’re getting ready to say goodbye to an old friend, you can embark on exciting adventures with your canine companion. These bucket list items, or ideas you come up with on your own, can help you create lifelong memories with man’s best friend. 

If you're looking for more items to add to your bucket list, check out our picks for the best summer bucket list activities, some fun fall bucket list ideas, and travel bucket list destinations.

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