Summer’s rolling in, along with its energy-draining heat. If you’re a dog lover like me, you’re always on the look out for creative ways to keep dogs—and especially young puppies—entertained on sweltering days.
First, let's get a few juicy tidbits out of the way:
We All Suffer!
Dogs don’t like the heat any more than you do.
Dogs are most active in the early morning, before the sun crests the horizon, and in the evening: in science speak, they are crepuscular.
AC Cools and Confuses
Air conditioning confuses dogs’ body rhythms—good for them, not always for you, if you don’t want to walk in the middle of the day!
Water, Water, Water
Dogs need a ton of water to regulate their body temperature. Since most of their pores are plugged with hair, water helps them stay hydrated. Place dishes of fresh, clean water indoors and out, upstairs and down. On walks, hikes, or other trips, bring a collapsible bowl or dog water bottle to keep your pal hydrated.
If you’re lucky enough to have central air, your pet may not notice the change of season until she steps outside. This is a both a blessing and a curse. Comfort is truly a blessing, but you know the real temperature and may not want to race outside in 90-degree heat. And once your fur-baby gets a lung full, she won’t want to either.
Here are my top five favorite ways to entertain your dog in the summertime without leaving the house:
Since your dog or puppy will be most active around mealtimes—morning, evening, and mid-day for pups under 6 months—hand feed some or all of their meal to initiate the excitement.
- Fast-action Fun! The focus of this game is to keep your pet moving! Consider her obsession—her go-to toy, bone, or ball—and buy a few. Toss one, labeling it “ball,” “toy,” or “bone,” so she’ll identify object and word. As she races to get the object, encourage her enthusiastically. Now here’s the fun part: After she's fetched the object, when she turns around to face you, extend the replica and run away from her. Break all eye contact as you say “I’ve got the better one!” When she catches up to you, toss yours. Play this back and forth game around your home or in the hallway or on the stairs if they’re carpeted and your dog has good footing. The only goal here is to keep them moving and focused on you!
- Back and Forth: Although you can play this one on your own, it’s more fun with a partner. Fill a cup or canister with treats—I call this a treat cup. Help your dog link the sound of it shaking with the reward of a goody! Either catch your dog by surprise if you’re by yourself, or stand at a distance from your partner and send your dog back and forth. This is a great opportunity to teach your dog to come to you when you call her name and even to teach her the name of various people in your home. Once your dog catches on, move farther away from your partner, or hide in between shuttles!
- Follow me: For this one, think of yourself as an animated Pez dispenser. Fill your pockets with treats or wave a toy as you encourage your dog to follow you from room to room. Since her cooperation will lead to better leash skills, you can attach a leash while you play to get her used to the routine of walking at your side both on and off leash. Treat cups work great here too, as does a clicker. Check it out!
- Pony Show: Most dogs love to jump. It gives them a sense of accomplishment. Did you know that you can create a fun-loving agility course out of broomsticks and soup cans? Dogs love to play this silly game, and kids love it too. Gather a few brooms and twice the number of soup cans or cereal boxes. Balance the broomsticks on the cans or boxes to create a hurdle. Measure your dog’s height from the floor to her shoulder to ensure you aren't expectingh her to leap too high. Start with the jump elevated on only one side. Let her sniff and then walk over the obstacles together until she shows no fear. Now send him “over” by tossing a toy or a treat, or by taking the jump before her. You can create a pony show with as many jumps as your dog feels happy to leap over. Warning: Make sure that the broomsticks will fall off easily if he knocks them, otherwise he’ll be in for an unpleasant startle that might ruin his jumping career!
- Can’t Catch Me! Dogs don’t always like to play your way, and puppies especially like to steal and scamper and win! Let your puppy play with a toy. Turn this into a drama, tugging back and forth on the toy, before calmly asserting, “Sit!” to cue that the game is over. Play this right and you can teach your puppy to hand over anything from a sock to a cell phone.
The prerequisite for this one is the Automatic Sit, which I wrote about last week.
- Choose a few of your dog’s favorite toys.
- Place some treats on a shelf nearby.
- Hold a treat in one hand as you shake a toy and say, “Can’t catch me!”
- Run away and dodge about.
- As you turn to face your dog, hide the toy behind your back, extend the treat, and say “Sit.”
- Toss the treat and run playfully next to or with your dog—but not at him, as that can be scary.
- Grab another treat and encourage her to sit; exchange treat for toy.
- When she gives, start over.
- If she won’t give, walk away and try again with a tastier treat.
Now that I’ve listed some ways to keep your dog’s tail up this summer, give them a try! And if you have any games to add to the list, please comment below or on the Dog Trainer Facebook page!
Having trouble communicating with your dog or puppy? Sarah Hodgson, aka the Happy Dog Mom, is here to help. She's written multiple best-selling books on dog training, and her next book, Modern Dog Parenting, will be out Fall 2016. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website whendogstalk.com.