6 dog-friendly summer activities

Tips for making your favorite summer activities safe and fun so you and your dog can enjoy all these great outdoor getaways.

Now that summer is here, you’re probably planning some outdoor fun for yourself and your canine companion. Spending your days outside together, whether you’re sticking close to home or going on a two week camping trip, getaways are a fantastic way to strengthen your bond and keep the both of you fit and healthy. And what could be better than that?

Here’s a look at the top five activities you can do with your dog this summer, and how to ensure you both have fun while staying safe and healthy.

1. Hiking

Dogs love exploring woods, parks, fields and other wild areas. There are new smells to follow, birds and squirrels to chase, and streams to wade in. Just make sure you’re properly prepared, whether you’re going for a short stroll in the woods, or are planning an all-day hike.

• Keep your dog on leash, unless you’re in a designated offleash area – otherwise he could get lost or run into a skunk or porcupine. Invest in a quality collar or harness and leash so you’ll both be comfortable during the hike, and check his gear prior to each outing to ensure they’re in good condition, with no breakages, fraying or weak spots.

• Keep in mind that many smaller and/or older dogs, or breeds prone to respiratory problems, aren’t able to handle day-long hike getaways. Always be aware of your dog’s physical limits and tailor your hike to suit them. You want him to be pleasantly tired at the end of the outing, not dangerously fatigued.

• Bring along water and natural bug repellent for both of you. Avoid hiking on extremely hot or humid days, and take frequent rest breaks in a shady spot. Pick up your dog’s poop, even if you’re in a wilderness area, and take it back home to dispose of properly.

2. Camping

What’s more relaxing than sitting around a glowing campfire at night, roasting marshmallows, watching the stars and listening to the crickets? Most dogs love to go on camping getaways with their people, but you need to keep his safety – and the convenience of other campers – in mind.

• Don’t let your dog bark or roam the campground at large, and be sure to clean up his waste. Never leave him alone at the campsite.

• Keep your dog away from the campfire, or any other open flame.

• Bring his own food and water from home. The last thing you want to deal with at a campsite is an episode of diarrhea.

3. Swimming

It’s excellent exercise and many dogs (though not all) love the water. When first introducing your pooch to swimming, keep him in the shallows at first. Try throwing a ball a short distance into the water to encourage him to wade in after it. If your dog is reluctant, don’t force him.

• Choose your dog’s swimming spot carefully. Avoid stagnant ponds or any body of water that has blue-green algae in it.

A swimming pool is a good option, but watch that your dog doesn’t drink the water. Other options are large lakes and streams, as long as the current isn’t too strong. Pooches also love pottering along beaches, but not all beach getaways are dog-friendly so you’ll have to check the regulations first.

• Always supervise your dog when he’s in the water. Don’t allow him to swim too far out. Attaching his harness to a long lead, such a length of lightweight nylon rope, can help keep him within a safe distance. Keep hold to the other end – don’t just tie it to a rock or stump and leave him.

• Take along some natural sunscreen for both of you. Skin cancer can be an issue with dogs as well as people. White or light-colored dogs are especially susceptible. Pay special attention to the top of his nose and his ears.

4. Boating

If your dog enjoys car rides, he’s sure to love boat rides. Whether you own a yacht, a motorboat or a canoe, there’s no reason why your canine companion can’t accompany you out on the water.

• Get your dog a life jacket. Even if he’s a good swimmer, it’s a wise safety precaution. You can buy life jackets made especially for dogs – many pet supply and sporting stores now carry them. Make sure the product you choose is the right size and fit for your pooch.

• Your dog should be on a leash to help prevent him from jumping overboard. Take special care if you’re canoeing. A large rambunctious dog can capsize a small watercraft if he doesn’t stay still. Train your dog to sit or lie down when in the canoe; if he won’t comply, don’t risk it.

• When getaways include the open water, protection from the sun is a must. Rig up some kind of shade for your dog, and take along the natural sunscreen. Make sure he has access to fresh water at all times.

5. Dog sports

Agility, flyball, disc dog…canine sports are becoming increasingly varied and popular. They aren’t just for those who want to compete professionally, so if you have an active dog that needs lots of physical and mental stimulation, this might be the way to go. Dog sports require optimum fitness, however, so have your canine checked by a veterinarian to ensure he’s capable of this level of exercise. Many breeds can participate and excel at these activities, although border collies, shepherds and other working dogs seem especially good at them.

• Agility involves directing your dog through an obstacle course that can include hurdles and jumps, tunnels, ramps, teeter-totters, weave poles and more. You can set up your own simple obstacle course in your backyard, or participate in a community agility event.

• Disc dog is fantastic exercise for you as well as your dog. You can throw a disc or Frisbee for your canine in a variety of events such as toss and fetch and distance/accuracy. Freestyle disc dog is more choreographed and can include flips, vaults and other feats of athleticism.

• Flyball requires several dogs. According to the North American Flyball Association: “Flyball races match two teams of four dogs each, racing side-by-side over a 51’ course. Each dog must run in relay fashion down the jumps, trigger a flyball box, releasing the ball, retrieve the ball, and return over the jumps. The next dog is released to run the course but can’t cross the start/finish line until the previous dog has returned over all four jumps and reached the start/finish line. The first team to have all four dogs finish the course without error wins the heat.”

With so many activities to choose from, there’s no reason for you and your dog to be couch potatoes. Get up, get out and have some fun!