Alexandria, VA – July has been a hot one for sure! August is here, and the heat is on. Even a walk in the early morning or evening can be draining when it’s dangerously hot outside. Although the summer can provide more outside time with our pups, staying out for too long can be tough when a heat wave hits.
Although you may want to sit around the shanty and relax, read a good book, watch TV, or take a Zoom Pilates class, your dog will likely find these activities boring. When boredom sets in, dogs often display normal but “naughty” behaviors to get our attention. They’re not bad dogs; they’re just going a little stir-crazy. Engage your pup in fun indoor activities and training games that work their brains and provide mental stimulation needed to tire them out.
What can you do to set your dog up for success and keep him mentally active even when it is 100 degrees outside? Here are a few activities to keep you and your pup happy and cool in the summer heat.
- Ditch the Bowl. Serve some of your dog’s meals in a food puzzle, a treat dispensing toy or snufflemat. Stuff a Kong with all or part of their breakfast or dinner and then freeze it for added enjoyment, time, and coolness. com has great recipes on its website.
- Get in the Pool. If you like being outside, what better way to spend a sweltering day than to splash around with your canine companion. If you don’t have a full-size pool, try a kiddie pool. They are an inexpensive and fun solution to any hot day. Fill the pool with just a few inches of water and toss your dog’s favorite water toys in to see if your pup wants to follow. Of course, you can also get in the pool to entice Fido to join you.
- Indoor Fun and Games. The safest games for you and your dog on a hot day are often indoors. Crank up the a/c and go to it. But don’t think being stuck inside limits your options for fun. Here are some great ideas for indoor fun and even some training time:
- Indoor Fitness and Agility. Set up an indoor fitness course using broomsticks, boxes, and step stools. Have fun luring your dog through the course with yummy treats and encouragement. Get a kid’s tunnel and teach your pup to go through it.
- Up and Down. Walking or running up and down stairs is tremendous exercise. Sit at the top and toss a tiny treat to the bottom. Once they get it, call them back to the top and toss another tiny Repeat until your pup is ready to take a nice break!
- Puppy Push-ups. Playing puppy push-ups: sit, down, sit, stand, and down burns some energy, while improving reliability. If this is new for your dog, start with one rep: sit, treat, down, treat, sit back up, treat. Then start chaining the behaviors together before rewarding them. For example, start luring them with a treat, then fade the lure and use a hand signal. Once they are reliable with just the hand signal, add the verbal cue before you give the hand signal without a treat in your hand.
- Play Scent Games. You can relax and tire your dog with low-energy doggy brain games. Human noses have a puny five million olfactory receptors while dogs have upward of 125 million. Ever wonder why our dogs sometimes seem distracted when we think there’s nothing of interest around? An easy one to teach is “Search for the Treat.” First, work on teaching your dog to stay on a mat. Next, hide the treat where he can barely see it. Release him with “go search.” Gradually increase the challenge – hide it where he can’t see it, have him wait in another room, switch from a smelly treat to his favorite toy, and so on.
- Proximity Zone Game. You don’t have to be outdoors to practice leash walking skills. Practice walking around inside your house. Reward your dog for showing up next to you while building focus and attention on you. Proximity and connection to you have value! Be exuberant with your praise; your dog will think this is a blast. Try this both off and on the leash.
Reward-based training stimulates dogs’ brains and leaves them pleasantly tired and less inclined to find their own fun. Make training fun by teaching your dog a few tricks like roll over or spin. Mental stimulation is as important as physical. Try some cool training games, and remember to save time for cuddling and chilling with your dog.
Sandy Modell, CPDT-KA, is the Founder, Owner, and Head Trainer of Wholistic Hound Academy, Alexandria’s award-winning, premier canine training and learning center — offering classes and private lessons in puppy training, adolescent and adult foundation and life skills, behavior modification, agility, dog sports, and canine fitness and conditioning, kids and dogs, pre-pet planning and pet selection. Classes are starting soon! Visit www.wholistichound.com to enroll in our programs, like us on Facebook.com/wholistichound, and follow us on Instagram at Instagram.com/wholistichound.