It’s official!—Summertime is here! A time when Alaskans rejoice, and when Arizonans hide in their air-conditioned homes. But what of dogs?—what do they like to do in the summer? The reality for most dogs is that their existence is pretty closely tied to the realities of their owner’s lifestyle. Case in point, in many households the family doggo only gets to enjoy the summertime when either the kids are home from school or the adults are home from work. What this means is that proper pet care during the (sigh!) Dog Days of Summer requires proper self-care. Here are some ways you can be good to yourself and—by association—to your pet.
The need for time off work has perhaps been mitigated by the explosion of remote work in the last couple of years. Nonetheless, time in a Zoom meeting is NOT time off. Vacation time allows you to redirect all of your bandwidth to self-care which your dog will also benefit from: More time to exercise means more time to exercise with your dog; more time to binge Netflix means more time bonding on the couch with Rover…even if you both overdo it on the snacks. The bottom line is this: Take time for yourself and your dog will thank you.
There was once a hostel dog—a Schnauzer—named Chester, whom all the hostel’s volunteers and guests lavished with attention. Chester liked one volunteer more than the others though because said volunteer—an adventurer in his own right—recognized that Chester needed some adventure in his life too. Together they would stroll the barrios and navigate through crowded markets full of interesting smells and lots of footsteps which could at any moment come down painfully on a small dog. Yet both Chester and the volunteer kept vigilant and calm and came through the ordeals successfully. There are few things that will bond you and your dog more than shared adversity, so pick an appropriate challenge for the two of you and get after it!
With regard to Chester, the volunteer also realized that courage should be rewarded, and so he was generous with the treats, even feeding Chester off of his own plate. Now, this is obviously a no-no in traditional training regimens, but still the underlying principles of high-risk, high-reward and breaking bread together are still valid. If you and your pooch go out for an all-day hike and you decide to treat yourself afterward, then treat your dog as well. Its possible, even desirable, to maintain the owner-pet dynamic while still blurring the lines from time to time in the interest of deepening a bond.
This point obviously covers a lot of different ideas, from you and your dog getting matching haircuts, to staying hydrated with cold beverages, to going for a swim together. At this point, most people know not to leave their dogs in poorly ventilated areas while it's hot, but for some dogs—especially those with ‘summer haircuts’—sunburns can also be a danger, as they can for you. On a similar note, unless you’re one of those barefoot-walking types, you probably don’t understand just how hot pavement and asphalt can be in the summer, but your dog does. Since your dog is essentially naked, you must plan your summertime activities as if you were both in that, um…natural state, and then take the proper precautions.
We all intuitively know that dogs and their owners are reflections of each other, so include your dog as much as possible in the activities that make you happy and healthy, and you two will be just fine. Happy Solstice!