The sun is out, the weather is warm and everyone is out and about having fun and making memories! Many of us of course want our furry family members to be a part of the activities too so let's talk about what we should be prepared for this summer season.
1. VACATION CONSIDERATIONS:
I recently took my almost 13 year Pit Bull Lola on a trip up to Ojai with my sister and her dog and it was the most heart-warming feeling seeing her enjoy the open grass spaces and all the attention from the other hotel guests and staff. The key word here though is 'enjoy'. After all everyone wants to have a good time, including your dog, which means asking ourselves if the environment and all that the vacation will entail will indeed be something that they, as an individual will cope with emotionally, feel safe around and be physically fit enough for. I go to this vacation spot in Ojai every year, but this was Lola's first time coming with me... why? Because her brother Levi, when he was still alive would have found the constant presence and unpredictable proximity of other doggy guests so overwhelming that he would not have been able to make good choices. He was far more comfortable staying home and so Lola by default stayed home too.
Let's look at some other things to consider:
Will you need to drive or fly and what will this look like for your dog?
Research dog friendly hotels and Air BnBs.
Can your dog(s) be left alone comfortably in a hotel room or air bnb (without barking, being destructive or having potty accidents)?
Environmental change may affect your dog's appetite.
What supplies will you need for your dog while you're away? (medication, favorite toys, crate, familiar blanket, potty pads, food consistent with daily diet, long line - for 'off-leash' but not really off leash freedom).
It’s ok if your pup needs to be left with a trusted in-home dog sitter or at a reputable boarding facility while you're away. It's of course always a good idea to prepare them for this beforehand with 'meet and greets' or sleep overs.
Hotel Restaurant Hotel Balcony
(visual access to people and golf carts)
2. WHAT SUMMER BRINGS
Allergies and Fleas: The pollen count is high and those pesky bugs that cause our pups to itch up a storm are highly active. This is something that will be of increased risk if you have a backyard where your dog may like to bask in the sun or you spend a lot of time hiking, camping, going to the park etc. Lola used to suffer terribly with skin allergies and bad reactions to flea bites and personally, I like to stay away from chemical topicals as much as I can. I will say that a high quality fresh diet, regular bathing and rug vacuuming, a raised bed outside to get her up off the grass/dirt and a good soothing Neem based skin oil has been a pretty reliable combination for us, as well as regular check-ins with our Holistic Veterinarian.
More Critters Scurrying Around: Don't be surprised if your dog seems more distracted or attentive to the environment that usual. I've met many a dog with a lizard fixation and even had a client once who's pup was afraid of flies. Flirt poles and teaser toys can be a great option to fulfil a dog's need to chase.
Busier Outdoor Environments: With so many people outside and children off school, some dogs find certain environments and activities more overwhelming than usual. 'Things on wheels' are a very common challenge so remember to keep a distance from these things if this helps your dog to be more successful behaviorally. At a safe distance, your dog being able to 'hear' your instructions will also be easier.
Mood: Let's ask ourselves how we feel when it's really hot... tired, distracted, head-achy, dehydrated, irritated, needing to potty more often due to drinking more water... these are all things that our dogs will be feeling sometimes too. This means that your training goals may need to be simpler, your working sessions shorter and your patience higher ;-) Kibble can also contribute a lot toward dehydration, so a adding some bone broth, wet food or fresh par-boiled green veggies are great options for keeping your furry friend hydrated.
3. EXERCISE AND TRAINING:
Pick your activity: walking, hiking, swimming, toy play, manners work, mental games... Every single one will be a form of exercise.
*Not all activities need to take place outdoors. Even work on loose leash walking and 'come when called' can be great fun to play inside where distractions are fewer and temperatures are cooler.
- Increasing your dog's mental exercise, for example searching/foraging for their meals and problem-solving with food dispensing toys can be hugely valuable for keeping them passive and occupied.
- Swimming is an excellent, low-intensity, but tiring activity to teach your dog. Always do so at their pace and with use of a life-jacket for beginners as a precaution.
What age and breed is your dog? Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs already have compromised respiratory systems so can become easily over-heated. Both senior dogs and young puppies may also be unable to tolerate high temperatures and physical exertion.
*Don't be tempted to get your 'double-coated' dog such as Huskies and German Shepherds shaved in an attempt to make them cooler. This layer of hair actually helps protect them from things like heat stroke.
Pick the coolest part of the day and shadiest routes/environments.
Have cool clean water available at all times, even when on the go.
4. SUMMER SELFIES
We often forget that a camera (or phone) is a totally foreign object to a dog and therefore having one thrust into their face is what causes them to shy away or get irritated. If this is the case, simply ask someone else to photograph you together.
(Hey even with the most tolerant, well-rehearsed dogs selfie fails are still highly probable!)
Many dogs can't sit still for a photo because its hot (don't forget about the ground as well as the air temperature!), because they don’t know how or because their environment is too distracting/stressful.
- Avoid forcing the idea of a "sit" or "down" in these cases and try not to get frustrated with your dog. Instead consider action shots rather than stationary poses.
One good little trick is to clip a treat or a toy above the camera (yes they have phone accessories for this!) for the dog to focus on while you get the shot. Don't forget to actually give it to them afterward though and be aware that some dogs may just grab it as it make its way toward them!
Costumes for seasonal holidays or events may be hot, uncomfortable and unless you have conditioned your dog to enjoy the experience, you’ll get a photo of a very unhappy dog. As an alternative, decide what activities your dog does enjoy and take photos of these things instead. For example, swimming, running through sprinklers, chasing a Frisbee, or even expert relaxation poses such as belly up on the cool of the kitchen floor, or flopping in the wet grass.
5. KEEP COOL AND CARRY ON
Here are some extra tools to consider in the hotter months here in California.
Cooling mats and jackets
Cold fruits and veg as treats or meal toppers
Frozen snacks and 'pupsicles'
Plenty of access to shade and indoors.
- Clickit Sport Car Safety Harness
- Zugopet Car Safety Harness
- Easy to Carry Soft Collapsible Crate
**Never leave your dog alone in a hot car when out and about.