With longer days and lighter evenings, there are plenty of fun things to do with your dog during the summer months. Here are a few suggestions:
Most dogs, young or old, on or off lead, in the garden, the park or the countryside will love a game of search. It could be treats hidden in the bushes or a person hiding behind a tree. The first few times, let your dog watch as you throw some treats and introduce your new cue, eg ‘find it’. In time, you can build on this to hide other items and then ask your dog to ‘find it’.
Getting started with fun agility training in the garden is simple. You can either buy agility kit or create your own. It’s a great way to bond with your dog and to give them some additional exercise. And, if you have kids at home, they may well enjoy helping with ideas for building a fun DIY course. For example, an easy way to create a safe jump is to put a light bamboo stick across two cardboard boxes, flowerpots spread out in a line are great for beginning to teach your dog to weave in and out of obstacles and, if you have a small dog or a very large cardboard box, just cut off both ends, and you have a tunnel to practise with!
Urban agility is making use of whatever’s available out and about. This involves teaching your dog to interact with obstacles in the environment. For example, you could teach them to put their paws up on different surfaces, jump onto or walk along a log, walk underneath, or jump over obstacles, or weave in and out of them.
Start by teaching your dog to jump onto or go under obstacles at home, and then practice their new skills out and about on walks. The more you try this, the easier and more fun it will become to turn an urban or country walk into a great parkour course.
If the weather gets very hot, you’ll need to think about going for a walk very early in the morning or in the evening, and plan other activities that will help your dog keep cool during the day. What could be better than games involving water: from paddling in a pool in the garden or chasing water from a sprinkler hose to energetic games of fetch in a pond or splashing in and out of the waves on a beach. Many dogs will enjoy some form of water play but if they’re a little nervous to start with, take it slowly – for example, let them get accustomed to a slightly dribbling hose before you douse them in full on sprinkler jet.
Teaching your dog to relax anywhere takes practice, so that they learn to settle without becoming nervous or over-excited by passers-by or other dogs racing around. Maybe start at home with picnics in the garden. Find a blanket for your dog to lie on, calmly stroke them or give them a tasty and long-lasting chew to enjoy. Reward calm behaviour. When they’re used to being settled at home, try this out and about. The more you practice with your dog, the easier it will be to take your dog anywhere for days out or longer trips.
And finally, for a simple and enjoyable way to help keep your dog cool, just offer them an ice cube. You can make this a little more interesting by filling an ice cube tray with water plus a little kibble or carrot or other dog-appropriate food. If you have a large dog, use a muffin tray or similar for the same purpose. Or simply freeze bananas, carrots or slices of apple for healthy and cooling treats.
Whatever fun activities you’re planning with your dog this summer, if you’re going to be outside for a long time, make sure there’s a nice shady spot where they can rest, and that they have access to plenty of water.
For more training advice, please visit our dog coach Vicky Carne's website.