Summer is here! Time for barbecues and pool parties and fun in the sun with our friends. Well, maybe not this year! It’s a cruel, weird summer, leaving many of us alone, seeking social-distanced, safe fun. Thank goodness for our four-legged family!
Whether you are going stir crazy from the stay-at-home orders or cherishing the quiet, comfort of social distancing and most of our dogs would agree, they are ready to #OptOutside, As much as we all love Netflix + DOGTV ‘n chill 😉 it’s our role as pet parents to find safe ways to exercise our dogs’ minds and bodies.
Safe And Fun Summer Activities To Do With Your Dogs
Here are a few of my favorite activities to beat the heat with your pup:
One of my favorite ways to introduce dogs to water is with a kiddie pool! Simply fill it with a few inches of water, toss in healthy snacks, like Num Nums or diced pieces of apples, bananas or hot dogs (in moderation!) Encourage your dog to play a version of the classic “bobbing for apples” rewarding them for bravely putting their face into the water to grab the treats!
This choice-based game allows your dog to explore the water at their own pace. As their confidence grows, you gradually fill the pool with more water!
If your dog likes the water and enjoys chase games, you can get creative with water fun that also helps practice impulse control. Using the hose, a sprinkler or dog-specific splash pad or fountain toy, ask your dog to show off a simple behavior to activate the water game.
By incorporating dog training, you can help pace your dog, keep him under his threshold and prevent him from ingesting too much water! Once your dog offers a nice behavior, like a: “sit,” “high-five,” circle” or “down,” turn on the water, cheer on your dog and encourage them to chase you with a game of tag through the sprinkler!
Does your dog love to swim? Is your dog afraid of the water? If you have a pool or are thinking about taking your dog to a pool, be honest with yourself on your dog’s skills. Always carefully supervise your dog! Not all dogs are born natural swimmers, but with positive reinforcement training, you can teach any dog to swim. Start with conditioning your dog to wear a personal flotation device, to help keep her head above water. Then you can practice getting in and out of the pool, along with swimming.
The most important thing with swim training is to teach your dog where the exit is. You can set up a flag or a “licki mat” at their eye level so they have a visual of where the ramp or stairs are.
Swim training is one of the most critical things to teach your puppy especially if you have a pool without a fence around it. Many dogs who love retrieve-type games will enjoy fetching toys out of the pool.
Swim therapy is also excellent for dogs of all ages to help with body conditioning. Be sure to help your dog warm-up and stretch before she uses her swimming muscles. Keep sessions brief because swimming can be exhausting.
If you have a fearless dog who loves the water and can’t get enough of playing fetch, the exhilarating sport of dock diving is a perfect way to get exercise and stay cool.
Many dog training facilities offer group classes or private lessons, or you can try teaching your dog yourself. You just need a safe body of water and your dog’s favorite float toy. Before the games begin, teach your dog where the safe exit is; you should do this with every new body of water you introduce him to.
When the weather heats up, there’s nothing cooler than a delicious lickable enrichment snack. Create a PUPsicle for your dog out of his favorite healthy chew, treats or toys. Take a plastic kiddie sandcastle bucket or an empty mixing bowl or ice cream bucket and grab bone broth, chicken stock or coconut water and add in a handful of healthy snacks, fruit or veggies — whatever your dog loves most! Freeze overnight, pop out the snack, set up a towel outside then let your dog lick to his heart’s content.
KAYAKING & PADDLEBOARDING
I have been a surfer for years and when I discovered paddleboarding it became my personal favorite doggie/mamma activity, I was hooked and it was a way to include my dogs in my happy place — the ocean.
As with any dog sport, begin with slowly by introducing your dog to the vessel, whether it’s a kayak or paddleboard. Train in brief sessions. Break down each step, positively rewarding your dog for looking at, hopping up, staying on, then getting off the board.
I like to wear a training pouch, filled with Num Nums or other water-friendly treats. Reward your dog for moving into position.. Practice a duration stay; if kayaking, between your legs; if paddleboarding, I like my dogs centered on the board; over the handle, to help with balance and keep them out of my paddle’s way.
For more help learning to kayak or paddle with your dog contact me on social @LauraNativo or better yet, join me at Wild Blue Dog camp where I teach dog water sports!
Summer provides infinite opportunities for fun, but there are dangers we need to be aware of including:
- Keep play, exercise, and training sessions short, staying mindful of the sun and temperature.
- Remember, dogs can get sunburned too, so consider applying doggie sunscreen like MyDogNoseIt or wearing a cooling vest like RuffWear Swamp Cooler.
- Plan for early mornings, evenings, and the coolest time of the day.
- I also talk with my veterinarian about any medical predisposition my dog might personally face in summer.
According to veterinarian Dr. Laurie Coger: “Be sure your dog is dried off promptly after swimming. Damp hair can lead to skin irritation and the development of hot spots and skin infections. Be sure to check ears as well; water in the ear can lead to otitis and ear infections. Cleaning ears with ear cleaning solution after swimming is a great way to prevent problems.”
Finally, recognize the signs of water intoxication, and carefully monitor your dog’s water intake around the pool, lake, river, ocean, sprinkler, or kiddie pool. Consuming excessive amounts of water in a short time period may lead to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition marked by dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood. Symptoms may include lethargy, glazed eyes, blue-tinged lips, nausea or vomiting, excessive salivation, and loss of coordination. This can be followed by difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and possibly coma or seizures. If you suspect your dog is suffering from water intoxication, seek medical attention immediately.
Healthy hydration is important, give your dog plenty of quiet breaks and do not allow them to ingest too much water while playing in and around it.
Wherever you are in the world, I know summer looks different. I hope you’re making the best of it, and feeling inspired to try something new with your dogs. My dogs and I are enjoying quality time together. We are paddle boarding in Marina Del Rey, frolicking on the beaches of Malibu, and getting ready for our road trip with DOGTV to WildBlueDogs camp in Lake Tahoe.
How are you and your dogs enjoying this strange summer? Comment below, or tag us: @LauraNativo and @DOGTV on Facebook and Instagram to share your most cherished summer memories with your canine family.
And if you’d like to join me + DOGTV at dog camp, visit to learn more about this incredible, socially-distant friendly summer camp for people and their dogs!