Updated: Jan 13
This weekend in New Jersey we're enduring a heat wave. It's been far too hot for walkies, even after the sun goes down. Going out in this weather isn't just tiring for our dogs, it's also dangerous.
So how are we supposed to keep our dogs (and ourselves) entertained when we're all cooped up in the air conditioning? We've got a few ideas to share with you!
1) Make plans for when cooler weather arrives
If you're avid hikers like us, do some online research about new places you can visit when the weather is appropriate. You may discover some different parks to visit beyond your usual rotation. Take the extra time that the heat has granted you to read reviews, decide on trails you'd like to try and maybe even ask for that extra day off work to go check them out when the time comes.
If you plan on doing some overnight backpacking, all this planning ahead will give you time to request any permits you may need. My favorite part of all of this planning, however, is the gear! Since it's too hot out to actually hike, I've spent some time deciding on a new pack for my dog.
I decided on the Ruffwear Singletrak Pack. It has a decent amount of carrying capacity, comes with 2 water reservoirs and is streamlined enough that it isn't super bulky like a lot of packs. I ended up having to send the first one back because it was too small and order a size up. Doing this now meant I didn't have to miss using it on any of our outings, even though the whole process took about 2 weeks. Today I took the time to adjust all the straps, so that's time I'll save later on at the trailhead.
2) Try trick training
Trick training isn't just about frivolity, though that's part of why it's so fun. Training tricks is mentally and physically engaging for your dog, improves your relationship and can help your dog feel better about potentially scary new objects.
Any sort of positive reinforcement based training is good for your dog's quality of life. It helps make you the source of good things and increases your dog's confidence. Positive reinforcement methods make learning safe and fun, which is all it ever should be.
For instance, I just bought a hula hoop to use for trick training with my own dog. It's just a silly thing I wanted to try for fun. But using it gave us something to do together (safely inside) on this sweltering day.
She was initially unsure of the hula hoop, having never seen one before. But within a few minutes she was gladly stepping through it!
3) Try out some physical conditioning exercises
If you can't get out and walk, you can still keep your dog physically fit by trying out new strength and balance exercises. I got some new fitness equipment to use with my dog as we work through Kyra Sundance's Canine Conditioning book.
This is our first time doing anything like this, so it's going to be a fun new adventure! The first step is getting your dog comfortable with the equipment and showing them it's not scary. These sort of exercises can prevent future injury, while providing your dog with physical and mental enrichment in the moment.
Remember to always consult with your veterinarian before starting your dog on any new exercise plan.
4) Brush up on the basics
There are a few obedience basics that really serve you and your dog when you're out in the world together. Taking the time to put in some extra practice now can lead to big pay offs later. These are especially helpful if you take your dog to the beach, your local farmer's market, dog parks, etc.
Try investing some extra time on this handful of basic skills:
Sit with distractions - ramp up your distraction game by tossing balls, having friends come in the door, anything you can think of that may cause your dog to want to get up
Recall - the ultimate safety tool, taking the time now to strengthen your dog's recall is one of the best ways to spend your time indoors. Call her to you from the other side of the house, call her out of playing with her favorite toy, anytime she seems distracted. Don't forget to reward her liberally when she comes to you!
Leave It - handy for a variety of situations, Leave It is especially great if your dog comes upon something potentially dangerous, whether it's food or a wild animal. In the photo below, we're practicing Leave It with doggie ice cream. Don't worry, she was able to enjoy her ice cream after the photo was snapped!
Brushing up on your obedience now will be a boon to when you are able to start practicing outside again. Is there anything you remember wishing you had taught your dog on one of your outings together? Take the time now! Think of it as an investment for the future.
We hope we've given you some fun ideas on things you can do with your dog while you wait for the heatwave to pass. Keep yourselves cool, hydrated and entertained. You'll be back out there in no time!