While warmer weather usually conjures up images of enjoying the great outdoors with your human and canine family, summertime in Virginia means heat, humidity, mosquitoes, and thunderstorms. If you’re a pet owner, here are some strategies to help you and your dog manage these challenges and start the season on the right paw!
Practice with Your Pup
While humans prefer to jump into the fun stuff and practice on the go, your dog will need some training to prepare for new situations or environments. If the bar is set too high for our dogs, they might fall short, which leads to frustration for humans and dogs alike.
What activities would you like to enjoy with your dog this summer? Do you enjoy outdoor dining at dog-friendly establishments or hitting a local park for a picnic? How about visiting a farmer’s market with your pet?
Start now by praising or rewarding your dog for looking away from exciting things and back at you while you’re on walks. Remember, dogs do what works, and you want your pup to learn that paying attention to you is much more fun than getting distracted by other things when you’re out and about. Try to set up your dog for success by reinforcing good social skills now.
Here are some other skills you might want to reinforce in low-distraction environments – like at home or in your yard – before you need them in the real world:
Recall: Even if your dog is leashed on a long line at the park, beach, or hike, it’s a great thing for your dog to learn that coming back to their human every time rewards well.
Focus: With more people, dogs, and smells on your outings these days than during the last few summers, it’s a great time to start practicing focus skills such as your dog’s name and cues like: watch me, leave it, or touch.
Go to mat: Teach your dog how to settle on a portable mat and take it with you when you go out. Your dog will have a place to relax and de-stress.
Grooming: Bugs are prevalent in warm weather. Work on helping your dog stay calm during grooming so you can take more time to check for ticks.
Get Ready for Hotter Days Now
Preparation for any situation will make you and your dog more confident, but more importantly, it will go a long way toward ensuring a worry-free experience. Here are some tips to prepare for warmer weather ahead:
Temperatures can rise to uncomfortable and dangerous levels in the summer, especially at certain events. Avoid overcrowded events with your dog. When you’re outside, check the ground temperature with your hand, especially if there is asphalt, to avoid injury to paws.
Staying hydrated is important for humans and dogs. Keep a collapsible bowl or water bottle handy. If you are going on walks or hikes, always bring extra water for your dog. You might also bring a long line, which gives your dog more freedom to move about and get more exercise while leashed. Always check leash laws in your area, though, and be considerate of other dogs and humans who might not want your dog coming up to say hello.
On hot days, create pup-sicles or try stuffing and freezing a Kong or Toppl dog toy. It makes treats last longer and can be extra refreshing when temperatures rise.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to discuss heartworm, flea, and tick medication with your vet to help keep your dog and family safe. Your vet will also have insight on helping your dog manage anxiety during the thunderstorms that are likely to come our way in the coming months.
As much as we want our dogs to be with us all the time, not all situations suit them – and that’s okay! We always want to consider their experience, as well as the experience of humans who might not love dogs as much as we do. Even with practice, preparation, and training, some activities or events might be too busy or overwhelming for your dog. Responsible pet owners know when to leave their dogs safely at home.