It’s getting towards the time of the year when it’s just too hot to go on a long walk with your dog. You probably don’t want to exercise in the heat of summer and for many dogs it can actually be dangerous. Large breed and dogs with short noses tend to be the hardest hit, but since dogs don’t sweat, they all need protection when it’s hot enough. Here are some ideas to keep everyone cool and entertained this summer.
Indoor walks: Pet stores aren’t the only places you can take your dog to walk around inside a store. Most hardware stores and some other stores that aren’t legally barred from allowing animals indoors are happy to let you bring your dog. Places that serve food are out, but several of my local Beer and Wine stores are happy to have you bring your dog, and some of them even have a resident dog of their own. Make sure you bring the tools to clean up any accidents, and only bring dogs that are very well-behaved and unlikely to make accidents. Remember that bringing your dog into a store is a privilege, not a right, and try to make it as pleasant for the owner and employees as it is for you and your dog.
Use your park’s fences: Would you like to go on walks after dark when it’s cooler, but don’t have an area with enough street lights to make it comfortable or safe? This is where your local dog park can come in handy, even if your dog doesn’t like other dogs. Many people without their own fenced-in area use the empty dog park as a safe place to play fetch, Frisbee, or other off leash games. In my area the small dogs area is unofficially the “dogs with socialization issues” area, and everyone knows to ask before popping in when a dog is playing alone in there. Your local customs may vary, but if you go late you’ll probably be able to spot people coming and get your dog before they arrive. If they haven’t banned dogs from your park’s sports fields yet, a baseball field may also work. Be vigilant about poop scooping, because irresponsible owners are ruining these spaces for everyone.
Get your dog used to a little water: Even if your dog doesn’t like water yet, and even if you don’t have a place he can swim, you can still probably convince him that running through a sprinkler or laying on a wet towel are fun. Start very gradually, don’t push him to go faster than he’s comfortable with and make water the signal that fun and treats and games are about to start and he’ll probably get the idea. If you do have a place your dog can swim, take advantage of it. Swimming burns off a lot of excess energy and you can mix it up in a lot of ways. My dogs fetch floating and sinking toys, run around in the shallows, swim out for ice cube treats we’ve tossed for them, and as many other water games I can think of in the summer. It took a lot of exposure to ponds before they’d wade and eventually swim, but summer makes all that patient exposure worth it. Remember that not all dogs can swim, some breeds just sink, and others have bad form, feet too tiny to paddle well or other issues. Don’t force your dog to do anything uncomfortable and keep safety in mind. If your dog doesn’t float, a doggy life jacket might be a good option, but wading is just as cooling too!
Make Puppy Popsicles: Freezing your dogs normal dinner can cool him off and make a nice change. For liquid you can use watered down broth, canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, wet food, or anything else safe and liquidy. Just freeze and feed. I use paper cups and let my dogs peel them off, but you can use any container and remove the popsicle before serving if you’d prefer. Your dog may also like plain ice or other frozen treats. Experiment!
Take a class: Even if your dog doesn’t really need a class, a structured indoor session can be stimulating and help stave off summer boredom. Learning and spending time with you are a big part of why a walk is fun, and your dog will get that from a class. Going back to school a couple of days a week in the summer is a great way to mix your schedule up and provide some variety. Even if a class isn’t an option, training some new circus tricks at home can be a great boredom buster.
High intensity games indoors or in the yard: A human speed walk is pretty low intensity for most dogs, so you can do something higher intensity such as using a flirt pole, providing a digging box, playing fetch, hide and seek, or any other game that really makes your dog work. The exercise that would normally come from a walk can be quicker, before the heat has a chance to really get to you or your dog, and then a nice sedentary trip out of the house can make up for the lack of mental stimulation.
A nice dinner out: Lots of restaurants with outdoor seating will allow dogs in the outdoor dining areas (assuming this isn’t against health code in your area). My favorites will even provide water for your dogs without being asked, but it’s a good idea to plan ahead and bring your own anyway. If your dog isn’t very athletic, just getting out of the house, hanging out in a public place and seeing the sights can be great for them. If they are athletic, it’s still a good complementary activity to round out something more active. You can tailor this to your dog’s level of socialization. If you’ve got a social butterfly, a busy place with lots of people and dogs will be great. If your dog is more shy, try to pick somewhere quiet where you bring your own food to the table and go during off hours. This should be fun, so don’t make your dog be more social than he wants to be.
These are just a few examples of ways to keep your dog entertained during the heat of summer. What do you and your dog do when it’s just too hot to walk?