Beat the Heat: Ideas for engaging with your dog during the summer

The Dog Days of Summer are here … long stretches of time where the heat and humidity are just too much for most dogs. The good news is you can cut down on extended walks, but the bad news is once your dog recovers from the heat, he’s still going to have energy to burn.  If you can’t drop him into air-conditioned daycare or go for a swim every day, here are some ideas to keep the hounds happy that don’t take a lot of time or money.

1. The work-to-eat toy. I mention these a lot because they are such an incredibly easy way to give your dog physical and mental exercise using something they need anyway: their meals! Stuff a Kong or hollow marrow bone with a mix of wet and dry food, freeze it and serve for dinner while your family sits and enjoys supper without a begging dog under the table. Buy or make your own “snuffle mat” and hide food in the pieces of fabric for the dog to sniff out. Cut a slit in a tennis ball and stuff it with dry kibble. There are hundreds of ideas on the internet for easy toys for this purpose.
2. Simple tricks. At the end of July, America’s Got Talent contestant Sara Carson and her “Super Collies” came to town for a workshop on tricks that most average dogs and humans can master in a few sessions. She has an app called Puppr that is free to download with a few complimentary tricks plus packages to purchase if you want to learn advanced moves. Showing dog’s new ways to use their brains and bodies is an excellent way to keep them occupied.
3. Indoor agility. It doesn’t take much to set up a challenging yet fun agility course in your own home. A broomstick between two chairs for jumping. Ottomans or crates for dogs to jump on or into. A blanket hanging over the side of a coffee table makes a tunnel effect. Make sure to practice jumps and landings on surfaces that aren’t slippery, so put down a yoga mat on wood or tile floors.
4. Training games. It never hurts to rehearse the basics. You can make this fun by using Hide and Seek games as a stay and recall exercise. Teach tug as a give and take lesson. I like to practice “doggie push-ups” using a series of sits and downs. Pick one thing per week to work on with your dog and you will not only tire him out, but you will have a well-trained dog by October!

Remember that dogs can get bored easily so make sure to switch things up as often as possible. Put the toys and chews in rotation, take your dog for those short summer walks in new neighborhoods for new sights and smells, and find some new tricks to train!