Hot-Weather Fun With Your Dog

What to do with your dog when it’s too hot to play fetch or go jogging.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
4-minute read
Episode #109

All right, you probably already know most of the important summer safety pointers for your dog. Don’t leave him in the car alone, even with the AC running. Save the aerobic exercise for early morning or late evening. If your dog belongs to one of the flat-faced breeds, such as Bulldogs, she can’t cool herself efficiently by panting. So she’ll likely need to spend the hot season in 24/7 air conditioning. Dogs with heavy coats also need extra help keeping cool. Since you know all that, let’s talk about fun you can have with your dog when it’s Too. Darn. Hot.

“Bobbing for Hot Dogs”

Even when your bones are melting, you can get bored. This goes for Dogalini, too. So engage her brain in the lowest-key way possible. Start with that cheap plastic wading pool. Dogalini might like to lounge in it on a sweltering day. Since scoring food ranks high among Favorite Canine Activities, Dogalini might also enjoy bobbing for hot dogs. Cut very thin slices off a hot dog and toss them into the wading pool one by one for her to fish out. Also cut her dinner ration by an amount equal to the junk food, and please hose the slimy hot-dog residue out of the pool when the game is done.

Play Nose Games With Your Dog

You can tire and relax your dog with low-energy doggy brain games.

Humans have a puny 5 million olfactory receptors in our noses, while dogs have upwards of 125 million. This is why our dogs sometimes seem distracted when we think there’s nothing of interest around, and it’s also great for low-energy doggy brain games. An easy one to teach is “Find the Treat.” For this game, your dog needs to know how to stay while you walk around.

Ask your Dogalini to stay. Show her a small, savory treat—a fingernail-size piece of cheese or freeze-dried liver is perfect. Tell her, “Find it,” and put the treat on the ground near her. Obviously, she’ll find it pronto. Do several reps, but each time set the treat down farther away. Come back to Dogalini and give her the “Find it” cue to release her from the stay. After a few more reps, put the treat down just out of sight—around the corner of the sofa, for instance, or behind a table leg. Remember to show her the treat in advance, so she knows what scent she’s hunting for.

Hide the Treat and Let Your Dog Hunt for It by Smell

When Dogalini’s gotten slick at finding a treat just out of sight, up the ante. Park her in a stay and hide the treat in the next room. Put the treat in the same room but cover it under an empty shoe box. Put out three empty shoe boxes with a treat in just one of them. Take the game out to your backyard.  Hide the treat above ground level – on a chair, maybe.

If you want to get fancy, you can hide the treat out of your dog’s reach. When she finds it, ask her to sit and then feed her the treat. After a few reps, wait to see whether she’ll sit without your cue. If not, go back and practice a bit more. Once she sits without your cue, you’re on your way to teaching her to be alert to found scents, the way a bomb-sniffing dog or drug-sniffing dog would do. What this does for your fantasy life as a crime-fighting superhero is between you and your dog.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).