Dog in Sprinkler Cute Pet Jack
Summer’s the time for getting outdoors and going places with your dog. But a canine staycation can be just as much fun if you try some new activities at home — and you can do them every day! Here are some tips on how to have fun and stay safe in your own backyard this summer.

Do It Yourself Toys

There are plenty of fun toys and equipment that you can make yourself to use outdoors. Simple jumps can be made with a couple of buckets and a broom handle or just use a hula hoop. Start with it down low, luring your dog to walk through, and then raise it gradually.

Another game that’s fun outdoors is chase, and a great option is a toy on the end of a long line. You can buy one, but it’s easy to take your dog’s favorite soft toy and tie a rope to it.

"You can either toss it out and reel it in, or you can have it behind you as you walk or jog away," trainer Mikkel Becker says. "It’s a fun way to get your dog to follow you."

Cool Ways to Play

For dogs who love water, a kiddie pool is an ideal way to have fun and keep cool — but there are even more creative ways you can use it. Trainer Becker says they’re great for dogs who like to dig. You might be surprised to learn that one reason dogs dig in the summer is to cool off!

"When they dig, they get down to the cool earth down beneath," she says. "A lot of the time, you’ll see dogs who dig and lie down where they were digging."

A kiddie pool can give your dog a place to indulge that instinct without messing up your yard. Fill it with dirt or sand, she says, then hide toys in it. "Make it an enticing area to dig, and then the other area is more boring."

For a less messy option, make a ball pit: Fill the pool with balls and toss in treats and toys for your dog to look for. "It’s a fun adventure to get to explore and see what they can find in there," she says. For safety, supervise if the balls are not made as dog toys. And make sure you keep your kiddie pool covered when your dog isn’t playing in it — you don’t want outdoor cats or wild animals getting in there.

For the dog who loves water, though, there’s no substitute. One great source of fun can be the sprinklers you use to water your lawn.

"A lot of dogs like running through the sprinklers," she says. "If you have a dog who’s keen on water, play games of chase and fetch through the sprinklers."

You can also have some cool fun with your dog’s food. Becker suggests making a "pupsicle" using a flexible plastic bowl or container. Fill it with some water or low-sodium broth, and add stuffed Kongs, treats and chews. Freeze it, and then if you want, you can pop it out of the container. Your dog will lick through the ice to get to the fun bits.
Dalmatian Sniffing Grass

Keep Your Yard Safe

Keep an eye out for trouble spots in your yard and remember that you need to look at it from the dog’s perspective, veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker says. It’s easy for a dog to run right into something like a wire poking out of a fence, and that can include even a little flower-bed border that’s down near the ground. "I really advise you to walk all the perimeters and look at all the things down at their height," he says.

Be cautious about garden products. He says to be especially careful with certain fertilizer/insecticide combos and slug baits. You don’t want your dog ingesting garden products. "Make sure when they spray your yard for insects or fertilizer, wait till it’s dry (to let your dog out)," Dr. Becker says. "If it’s granular, wait till it’s watered in."

Remember, "natural" doesn’t always mean safe for your dog. Cocoa shell mulch, for example, can cause the same kind of poisoning as chocolate if your dog ingests it. Some dogs are also likely to eat natural fertilizers like blood meal and fish meal, so you may want to avoid those.

And even if your yard care is 100 percent pet safe, there are going to be bugs, so be prepared.

"Dogs lead with their nose, and there’re lots of things that nose can find in the wrong spot, like biting insects," explains Dr. Becker.  Vets see a lot of insect bites in the summer, "and some dogs can have an anaphylactic reaction and get in trouble in a big hurry." 

Know When to Stop

When you are outdoors in the summer, It’s important to remember that hot weather can be dangerous for pets.

"Dogs overheat a lot more easily than we do," Trainer Mikkel Becker says. "They’re wearing a fur coat outside, and they don’t have the ability to sweat it out like we do. They primarily release heat through panting and a little bit through their paws."

They also often don’t know when to stop. "We really have to watch our one Pug, Bruce," she says. "He will fetch till he collapses."

So you have to decide when to call it quits. A little panting is usually normal when it’s warm, but fast panting means it’s time for a break in a cool place. "Watch when they’re running and they try and veer over toward the shade, or a lot of times you’ll see they may lie down between throws of the ball," she says. Panting that doesn’t resolve quickly with rest, some water and a cool area warrants a call to your vet. And contact your vet immediately if your dog seems to be having trouble breathing. 

Also remember that pets’ paws are sensitive to heat, and pavement can get way too hot for them — on walks and if you have a paved patio at home.

Enjoy Just Hanging Out

Of course, the least strenuous summer fun of all is just lazing around in the yard. Remember that even if your dog isn’t capable of vigorous games, it’s still good to get outdoors.

"If you have a senior pet or one who’s blind, they still like to experience the world, and they still experience the world through their nose," Becker says. "The sniffing part is often even more important than the distance you walk or how much exercise you get. They can hear things; they can smell things. So give them the opportunity to go outside and just sit with you."

A lot of dogs enjoy basking in the sun, so it’s great to hang out when it’s not too hot or bright in the early morning or evening. And don’t forget that most canines like nothing more than your company, she says: "Sometimes the best thing is just sitting outside with your favorite drink and your book and spending time with your dog."

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