We spend all winter and spring saying we can't wait for the summer. But let's be honest when it's a particularly hot summer, we find ourselves wishing it was cooler. Although most of us love the summer months, the heat can be quite uncomfortable and even dangerous for our dogs.
Sadly, every summer hundreds of dogs die of heat stroke in the UK and this is mainly due to exercise in hot weather. Its understandable that people want to go for walks and enjoy the weather. They may even argue that their dog is an energetic breed and can't miss a single walk. While it's certainly difficult for some breeds to miss their walks, no dog has ever died from missing one.
Heat stroke is preventable and choosing to keep your dog at home can save their lives. With this in mind, this blog is going to consider 5 activities that you can do with your dog to keep them entertained in the summer months.
1) Snuffle mats and snuffle boxes
Snuffle mats are definitely a god send. They help your dog to relax and can even reduce your dog's heart rate. Simply hide smelly treats in the folds of the fabric and watch as your dog has fun finding them. There are loads of dog professionals on Facebook that handmake these, in whatever colour or size you want. You can even make them yourself by purchasing sink mats and cutting up pieces of fleece. There's also loads of YouTube tutorials such as this one: DIY Snuffle Mat: Make Your Own Dog Snuffle Mat! - YouTube
If you don't have a snuffle mat, you can create a snuffle box. This can be a plastic box, a basket or even a cardboard box, as long as its shallow enough for your dog to safely rummage in. Once you have your box, you can fill it with lots of random items, such as rolled up newspaper, pieces of fabric, toilet rolls, balls and toys. Once the box is full, scatter some treats in the box, so they fall between the gaps around the objects/fabric and then watch your dog have a blast. If you do make a DIY version, it's recommended that you supervise the activity, to ensure your dog doesn't ingest anything toxic or that can could be a choking hazard.
2) Puzzle feeders and Mats
These days, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to puzzle feeders and mats. Puzzle feeders are great for problem solving, especially for dogs that need a challenge. Each puzzle will be assigned a level of difficulty and its more beneficial to start at your dog's skill level, so they don't become frustrated. The better they get at problem solving, the more difficult the puzzles can become.
Unfortunately, my dog Mando loves the plastic parts more than finding the treats, so we tend to use puzzle mats instead. This involves hiding smelly treats in the pockets and under the folds of the fabric. For this activity, I have taught him to sit and wait, while I fill the mat and then I tell him to go "find it". This activity can keep your dog busy for ages!
If you don't have a puzzle feeder or mat on hand, you can make a DIY version. We all have a cupcake tin knocking about somewhere in our kitchen, which you can use to create a similar activity. To do this, place a variety of smelly treats in each cupcake hole and then place a tennis ball over each one. Place the tray on the floor and allow your dog to solve how to get the treats.
3) Ball pit.
Ball pits have so many benefits because they can provide lots of sensory enrichment for your dog. Filling the pit with balls and scattering treats inside, is an exciting activity for dogs and it provides a positive outlet for dogs that love to dig. If your dog is a little nervous of ball pits, please don't force them to get in. Reduce the amount of balls so all the treats are visible and allow your dog to get in when they feel comfortable to do so. As their confidence grows, you can gradually add more balls.
Most ball pits double as a dog paddling pool. Filling the pool with cold water and throwing a couple of balls inside is a fun way to cool them down whilst giving them some safe exercise. Please don't force your dog into the water if they are scared, rather start with the water very shallow and gradually add more as your dog becomes more confident. If you do fill your paddling pool, make sure you always supervise your dog when they are playing in it. Dogs can drink excessive amounts of water, during the hot weather and this can cause water intoxication. This occurs when a dog consumes too much water too fast and it can be fatal. For the same reason, we do not recommend that you provide a water hose or sprinklers for your dog to play with at any time, but if you do please supervise them.
4) Find it.
Find it is a great game to play in the garden during the summer months, provided your garden has some shade. This game allows your dog to exhibit natural behaviours, such as sniffing, hunting and scavenging. It requires very little thought or preparation, except preparing some smelly treats to hide.
If you've never played this game with your dog before, simply allow your dog to watch you behind a barrier or ask someone to hold their lead, while you scatter treats in your garden. Try to scatter them in obvious places at first, to make the game easier. When you are ready, tell your dog to "find it" and release them. If it's your dog's first attempt, they will likely need help and encouragement to keep looking.
If your dog has learnt this game already, you can make it more challenging for them by applying some impulse control training and hiding the treats more thoroughly. For example, you can ask your dog for a sit and a wait, as you scatter a couple of treats and then say "find it", when you are ready to release them. You may have to practice a couple of treats at a time, until you gradually build duration, so that you can eventually scatter the treats all over the garden whilst your dog waits patiently.
5) Trick training
Did you know that 20 minutes of mental stimulation is the equivalent of a 1 hour walk? Every dog needs mental stimulation and it can be just as tiring and beneficial as physical exercise.
Teaching your dog new tricks is a fun way to provide your dog with opportunities to problem solve and enjoy gentle exercise. Your dog will love working for treats and will relish the attention and interaction this activity involves. Why not look for ideas on YouTube (make sure training is reward based) or buy a book with all the training steps. Me and my dog Mando are working through a great book called
The Big Book Of Tricks For The Best Dog Ever: A Step-By-Step Guide To 118 Amazing Tricks And Stunts. Here's the link.
You could make a list of tricks you'd love to teach your dog and set yourself a goal of choosing 1-2 tricks to teach and practice each week. If you do this, be sure to practice cues your dog can already do at the beginning and end of your training session, to keep your dog motivated and optimistic. Also remember to keep training sessions short, so that your dog doesn't become bored or frustrated. Between 5 and 15 minutes per day is plenty. I promise once you and your dog start trick work, you'll learn to work as a team and become addicted to training.
Although its a pain to be unable to walk your dog, there are lots of safe and super fun activities to keep them entertained during these summer months. Whether you purchase enrichment activities or DIY, the important thing is to give them a variety, to keep them interested. Your dog will definitely love you for it!
Remember, a dog has never died from missing a walk.
Paw Chores offers 5 star pet care services, including Dog Visits, which are perfect for those days when its too hot to walk. Visits include; let outs, enrichment activities, treats, fresh water, games and fuss. We also use our App 'Time to Pet' to provide regular updates and photos and to provide booking ease for clients. For more info, feel free to contact me on 07720645558 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org