Talking dogs: How to keep your dog exercised safely in summer’s heat

A kiddie pool with fresh, clean water might be just the thing to not only keep your dog cool, but provide some entertainment as well.

Q. I’m looking for some ways to keep my Boxer, Betty, cool and entertained when it is really hot outside. I’ve been told not to walk her during the heat of the day, but I worry she’s not getting enough exercise. Any ideas? I am on a limited budget.

— Irene

A. You’ve gotten good advice, Irene. Boxers and other short-muzzled breeds are particularly susceptible to the heat, because of the structure of their airways. I appreciate that you are not only interested in keeping Betty cool, but also healthy, and both physical and mental stimulation are important.

As we get into the heat of summer, adjust your schedule if needed, so you can walk Betty during the cooler early morning or evening hours. During the heat of the day, remaining indoors is best, although a cool, covered patio also can  work, with some additional considerations.

If Betty enjoys water, a kiddie pool with fresh, clean water might be just the thing to not only keep her cool, but provide some entertainment as well, and I’m not only talking about the dog! After filling the pool, cut a hot dog or cheese stick into pea-sized pieces. Show Betty those enticing goodies, and then toss them all into the pool; it’s her job to bob, paw and splash as she works to get all of those goodies into her mouth. Keep the camera at the ready — this can be so much fun to watch!

One of my dogs’ favorite water games involves the hose. I turn it on and wave the stream of water around, and they jump and grab at it. If Betty enjoys this, do it on the grass so the water is not wasted.

Fill resealable gallon-sized plastic bags with water and lay them flat to freeze. Once frozen, put a couple of them on the floor and cover with a few towels to offer Betty a nice cool place to lay down.

An empty plastic soda bottle easily can be repurposed into a toy. Fill it 3/4 full of water and freeze upright. You can add a few small pieces of meat for an extra bit of attraction if you wish. Once frozen, offer it to Betty outside, and encourage her to go after it. Treat it like a soccer ball, let her lick and chew on it, and the treats will become available to her as it melts.

Freeze chicken broth in an ice cube tray. Then put three or four broth cubes into Betty’s water bowl to add a little taste, which will encourage her to drink more and keep her well hydrated. She might like to chew on the broth cube itself, so offer one to her on the patio to enjoy. If you have a few toys with ports to stuff goodies into like peanut butter or cream cheese, freeze them before offering to her.

Q. How can I safely let my dog swim in our pool?
— Ed
A. First, I would not force your dog into the water, but if he likes to swim, then absolutely let him! If your dog’s desire to swim is significantly greater than his ability, purchase a life jacket specifically designed for dogs, which can be found online.
It’s very important to teach your dog how to get out of the pool safely on his own. Without some specific training, dogs often will just go to any side of the pool and try to haul themselves out, usually without success. Consider hiring a trainer with experience in working with dogs in a pool setting, or try some basics yourself.
Prior to going into the pool with your dog on leash, place some yummy treats on the deck where the steps are. Allow your dog to swim around a little, and when he goes to the side to get out, gently guide him toward the steps with the leash. As he exits, make sure he gets his food reward, and repeat. Continue with this process on leash, and make sure any attempt he makes at getting out on the side is thwarted by you, while consistently guiding him back toward the steps for success. As he begins to get the idea, let him swim farther away from the steps before allowing him to find his way back. Once he stops trying to exit from the side and figures out that the only route to getting out is the steps, you can remove the leash, but be sure to only allow him to swim with a “lifeguard” on duty.

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