Occupying Your Dog in the Summertime
As warmer weather and vacation days approach, your thoughts have likely turned to filling this all too brief time with outdoor activities, day trips, and at least some rest and relaxation. Surely some of your summer fun will include your four-legged companion. Many dogs delight in accompanying their owners on bike rides or trips to the beach. Some pets even join their owners on vacations. All dogs, however, need entertainment when they can't tag along with their favorite people. For these animals the summer months can be all too long without something to do when their owners are away or busy. They aren't called the dog days of summer for nothing!
Make a Splash
You certainly don't have to own a Labrador Retriever or Portuguese Water Dog to make swimming a part of your pet's summer schedule. Numerous breeds, as well as many mixed breeds, enjoy taking dips in the ocean, a nearby lake, or their owners' backyard pools. Swimming is an ideal canine pastime. It's great fun, especially when combined with a throw toy like a ball. Investing in a throwing stick will help you keep the activity level high for your dog without wearing out either your back or your throwing arm.
Swimming is also the perfect way to cool off when temperatures start rising. What's more, swimming is wonderful exercise for dogs. Of course, if you will be near deep water or boating with your dog, it's smart to invest in a canine life jacket, but rest assured that this safety device won't detract from your pet's enjoyment or activity level. A day filled with playing in the water usually leads to a content—and tired—pooch by evening.
If a trip is part of your summer plans, consider enrolling your dog in camp when you will be gone. It doesn't matter if your plans will take you away for a single afternoon or several days; time spent home alone is never fun for a dog. Many pets even resort to inappropriate chewing or other unpleasant behaviors out of the boredom they feel in this lonely situation. Much like camps for children, canine camps provide your pet with stimulating activities that help them pass the time. Also known as doggy daycare, these programs are an excellent alternative to using a conventional boarding facility. Some camps even provide small pools for those dogs who enjoy cooling off in water.
Another benefit to doggy daycare is the added socialization it offers, but you needn't board a plane yourself to provide your pet with both friends and fun. Visiting a dog park can be a wonderful way to spend summer mornings or afternoons with your friendly dog. Your pet will get to meet up with other dogs of a variety of ages and breeds, and they will all have plenty of space to run and play. While you're there, you may just end up making a new friend or two as well.
In addition to offering us a chance to travel and explore the great outdoors, summer also provides us with the opportunity to kick back and relax a bit more. Whether you cook on the grill with your neighbors or order takeout in front of the television while you binge-watch your favorite show, your dog deserves some enjoyable downtime as well. (Plus, occupying your pet keeps him from begging for a taste of that takeout.)
For many people summer just isn't complete without a trip or two for ice cream. It may be tempting to take your pet along for his own serving, but this is one case when it is better to leave him behind. Even in the setting of your own home, giving your pet regular ice cream is a bad idea. Most dogs have a hard time digesting dairy products, so your pet may experience an upset stomach from this well-intended treat. If you want to give your pet a frozen dessert, check your grocery store for a non-dairy brand made especially for dogs.
When You're Away
Few pet owners have the luxury of taking the entire summer off. For those who must return to work after a week or two of vacation, keeping their dogs occupied for longer periods of time must be an ongoing priority. Save a few different chew toys for when your dog must spend time alone. Doing so will make them more appealing to your pet. Rotating these toys—and adding new objects from time to time—will keep their value high in your pet's eyes.
If you will be working or traveling for a considerable period, consider making daycare part of your dog's regular routine. Daycare certainly doesn't have to be a summer-only activity, but it is especially important to consider this option if your home is not climate controlled during the hotter months of the year. You can't always occupy your pet personally, but you can make sure that his needs are being met both when you are nearby and when you are not.
Tammy Gagne is a freelance writer who specializes in the health and behavior of companion animals. A two-time Dog Writers Association of America writing competition nominee, she has authored more than 50 books. She lives in New England with her husband, son, and myriad furry and feathered creatures.