The phrase “dog days of summer” has origins that trace back to the ancient Greeks who noticed that the bright star, Sirius (in the canine constellation Canis Major), was present in the sky during the hottest part of the year. Over time, this phrase has evolved and is now more commonly used to refer to the sweltering temperatures that occur at the peak of summer months. While much of the United States averages three-or-so months of summer annually, the intense (and often dangerous) heat is a reality for those of us in Central Texas for about five or six months out of the year. In Austin, the oppressive heat often presents challenges for its dog-loving residents who want to safely spend time with, exercise, and enrich the lives of their canine companions. While there is a plethora of online articles that provide similar ideas, we wanted to create a list that highlights some of our personal favorite tips and activities.
Just because the heat has arrived, it doesn’t mean you must wait until October to take your pup for his daily walks again. With a few modifications, you can continue this important activity while keeping Fido safe from the blazing temperatures:
- Take your walks in the early morning (before 10:00am) or late evening (after 8:00pm) when temperatures are lower.
- Bring water for yourself and your dog and take frequent breaks to prevent dehydration from sneaking up on you. There are many nifty bottle/bowl sets that make it convenient to carry water for the both of you.
- Plan your route on a shady path and carry an umbrella to provide extra protection for your pet and you when shade is not available.
- Allow / encourage your dog to walk on the grass instead of hot surfaces that can burn her feet. Consider using a protecting wax like Musher’s Secret to prevent burns to your pup’s paws.
- Wet and freeze bandanas the night before and then tie them around your dog’s and your necks to keep you cool. Or, purchase a cooling vest for your dog to help keep him cool on your outing.
- Keep your walks short; don’t overdo it! It takes far less time to become tired and dehydrated when it is very hot out so taking shorter walks during the summer are just as effective as longer walks when it is cooler.
- Watch for signs of overheating in your dog and in yourself! Carry a cell phone so if you find yourself or your dog in trouble, you can call for help.
Hit The Road
Use that climate-controlled set of wheels to get out of your house without being in the heat! If your dog likes going for car rides, pick a destination, crank up the A/C, and put the pedal to the metal. Give your pup the opportunity to put his head out the window and absorb all the smells. Swing through a drive-thru for an icy treat. Stop at a shady rest area and have a picnic. Or just go for a drive in the country, stopping periodically for quick potty breaks and a chance to sniff a new area for a few minutes. Dogs “see” the world through their noses and letting them sniff out the car window or around a new place is fascinating and stimulating. These experiences provide mental stimulation and a change of pace for your dog and will help keep the summertime cabin fever at bay.
*IMPORTANT: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave your dog in the car when outside temperatures are over 70 degrees. It literally only takes minutes for a previously air-conditioned car to become an oven, putting your dog in life-threatening danger!
Go Shopping / Run Some (Dog-Friendly) Errands
Austin loves its dogs and there are numerous businesses that will welcome your furry friend. If your dog is one who enjoys getting out and about to meet new people, let her tag along and help you check off your to-do list! Remember to take high-value treats and reward her for good behavior, appropriate choices, and polite interactions! Here are some of our favorite local spots that allow dogs to accompany you inside:
- Academy Sports & Outdoors
- At Home
- Barnes and Noble
- Discount Tire
- Half Price Books
- Home Depot
- Home Goods
- Live Oak Pharmacy
- Luxe Apothetique
- Oil Change Shops
- Pet Supply Stores (i.e. Tomlinson’s, Healthy Pet, Bark ‘n Purr, Petco, Petsmart, Lofty Dog, Phydeaux and Friends, Great Outdogs, etc.)
- Total Wine and More
- Tractor Supply Company
- Urban Outfitters
- Vulcan Video
- Waterloo Records
- Whole Earth Provisions
Go On A Date With Your Dog
Did you know that Austin has a drive-in movie theater? Yes, really! So grab a blanket, some popcorn, a couple of hot (or veggie) dogs, and treat your best friend to dinner and a movie! And afterwards, stick around for some star gazing. Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to pick out Canis Major and Canis Minor!
Schedule A Doggie Play Date
Does your pup have a friend (or several)? Why not set up a play date for his doggie friend(s) to come over? Allowing appropriate play indoors lets dogs burn off energy without overheating. You can even coordinate with your friends to rotate play dates through the dogs’ different houses to keep things interesting. Think of it as a “Mom’s Day Out” for your furkids.
Take A Training Class
Austin has some amazing, force-free training facilities and some offer early morning classes in shady spots or indoor facilities. Taking a class together is a great way to build or enrich your relationship with your dog, beat the heat, and have fun! Some of our recommended facilities are The Canine Center for Training and Behavior, Zoom Room, Austin Dog Alliance, and Train My Dogs Austin. In addition to obedience courses, there are lots of interesting classes like agility, dock diving, luring, scenting, and treiball. Use this as an opportunity to try something new. You may find you have a budding agility star on your hands!
Play Indoor Games With Your Dog(s)
Set aside a few minutes a day to play some fun, interactive games with your pup. Some of our favorites are:
- Nose Work – This is a great way to engage your dog’s sense of smell and get that cranium working! You can hide treats or toys (whichever motivates your pup more) and let them sniff them out. Here’s a great video to show you how to do it.
- Puzzle Toys – Break out those puzzle toys or make your own! We love Nina Ottosson’s interactive puzzle toys because they come in a variety of skill levels. You can also make your own toys with items you probably already have around the house. Check out the Muffin Tin game, the Egg Carton game, and the Shell game for inexpensive ideas!
- Hide ‘n Seek – Get the whole family involved in this one. Have someone sit with Spot while you run off an hide in another room, under blankets, behind a door, etc. When you’re ready, have the other family member help your dog find you! When they do, make it a party with lots of love and/or treats! It gets them thinking.
- Hide ‘n Seek 2.0 – Get a large towel, sheet, or blanket and lay it out on the floor. Take a handful or two of treats and sprinkle them all over the fabric. Bunch the fabric up to “hide” all the treats and then let your dog use their nose and paws to uncover the treats! Once she gets the game, make it a little more challenging by folding the fabric over or roll it up so they have to figure out how to get to the goodies.
Set Up An Agility Course In Your Backyard
Want to make your backyard more fun? Set up some fun agility-like activities to create a fun environment that can easily be used in the cooler parts of the day. Don’t be intimidated! We’ve built our own agility equipment and it’s easier than you may think! Here is a nice little post on how you can use items around your home to set up some quick obstacles. If you are feeling a little more creative, you can make your own versions of professional agility equipment for about $100-$200 (depending on how far you want to go). And don’t forget to pick up a baby pool to fill with water and/or ice cubes to let your pup dip in and drink to stay hydrated.
(*Tip: You can also drop toys or treats in the baby pool and see if your dog wants to bob for goodies!)
Make Frozen Treats For Your Dog
Just like us, most dogs love frozen treats and in the summertime, they can be a tasty way to cool your best friend down and provide them with enrichment!
Here are some of our favorite tips and recipes:
- Stuff your dog’s Kong, an empty marrow bone, or other food puzzle with nutritious foods like almond or peanut butter (watch out for canine-toxic xylitol!), plain yogurt, canned pumpkin or sweet potato, baby food, or quality canned food and pop it into the freezer. Once frozen, give it to Fido to enjoy!
- Put toys and/or frozen watermelon chunks in a small bowl or pail and fill with low-sodium broth or water. Freeze and let your dog work out how to get the goodies out of the giant ice cube!
- Use your imagination to create your own pupsicles or check out some of our favorites below! They are super delicious, nutritious, and entertaining!
- Recipe from Dr. Karen Becker
- Modern Dog Magazine’s Recipes
- Peanut Butter Pupsicles from the HSUS
- Peanut Butter Pupsicles with Coconut Oil
In short, there are a gazillion ways to help keep your pooch entertained, happy, and cool in the summer! While some of our suggestions are specific to Austin, we are pretty sure there are similar options in your town. Get creative, have fun, and love your dog! Don’t let cabin fever precipitate frustration and depression in your fluffies!