Many dog owners believe that their dogs need two walks a day and will continue to honour this duty in all weathers. While we can put on sun cream and wear fewer, lighter clothes to enjoy the heatwave, your dog can’t take off its fur coat and can only cool down through panting and her paws. So when the weather warms up, we need to get out of the mind-set of two walks a day and find other ways to stimulate, entertain and exercise our dog.
First and Last
If you don’t have a garden, or have a dog who won’t go to the toilet in your garden, then it’s fair to say that you will probably need to take your dog out for her ablutions. When the weather is hot like it is currently, make sure you set the alarm early and take your dog out before it starts warming up, preferably before 8am. Anything after that and the sun starts to burn through and very quickly heats up the ground. For that reason, try to walk in shaded areas and on cool natural surfaces rather than concrete. As for the late night wee before bed, leave it as late as possible and if it’s still warm by 9pm or 10pm, make it a short walk on a cool surface and consider using a cool coat or bandana to prevent your dog from overheating.
Like humans, dogs need their brains to be busy just as much as physical exercise – if you enjoy sitting down to read a book, play a game, watch a film or browse the internet, so your dog also needs something to occupy his mind. Mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical exercise and is a great alternate to walks when it’s too hot. The following suggestions not only act as a brain drain for your dog, they will also strengthen your bond and improve his response to your commands.
There are lots of different dog brain games designed to reward your dog with a treat for unlocking a box, pulling open a drawer or sliding a block. If you have exhausted all these options or can’t afford these bespoke toys, why not create your own enrichment games? Save and wash out old yoghurt pots, margarine tubs or similar. For a simple level 1, hide a treat under each one and watch your dog uncover them. To challenge him more, only hide treats under a couple of pots and make him sniff out the loaded ones. To raise the bar further, stack the pots on top of each other, with treats in between each layer.
Hide and Seek
Not all dogs are food oriented, so a simple scavenger hunt can be played with treats or toys, in any room of the house. First show your dog the toy or treat and let them watch you hide it before you releasing her to find it. Once she has mastered the idea, start hiding the reward without her seeing and get more creative with your deception – behind curtains, under a chair, in a box, but just be careful not to encourage her to destroy your best sofa looking for the treasure! Change rooms to explore more options and keep her guessing.
The possibilities here are endless, but the key is that your dog doesn’t know it’s a trick – all she knows is that you are asking her to do something, which you deem to be worthy of a treat if she gets it right. You can start with reinforcing some basic commands, such as sit, lie, down, wait etc, then move on to some fun things such as paw, high five, weave between legs, balancing a biscuit on her nose, rolling over or chasing her tail, the point is that you are making her think about what you are asking her to do and praising her when she succeeds.
If your dog really likes his food, then you can also make him think before he eats. Kibble can be loaded into a treat dispenser, snuffle mat or scattered on the floor to make him work for his dinner. Wet or raw food can be used in a Kong, or Lickimat, or mix it up with some high value treats such as peanut butter, liver or salmon paste depending on your dog’s palette. Just be careful that you don’t overfeed your dog and cut back on their normal daily allowance if you are regularly loading a treat dispenser for him. Check out our Unique Grab & Go deals on Lickimats and Forthglade to grab a treat bargain.
Make sure that you always provide plenty of fresh water, particularly in the hot weather. Use a cool mat, cool coat or cooling bandana to help your dog regulate his heat during these games. Keep the sessions short and sweet, ending on a positive note to keep your dog wanting more. Mix up the ideas so that he doesn’t know what to expect when, and remember that variety is the key to contentment in lieu of a walk. Dogs won’t die from a missed walk, but can die from a walk in the heat.