Arizona summers are one of the most difficult times to be a resident of this beautiful state, but also one of the most difficult times to be a pet owner! The heat is stifling, the ground is lava, and your energy is sapped from even a few moments outside. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor or cool exercises and play tips to turn summer into a fun time of the year with your pet!
If you love to explore your neighborhood, and your dog has grown accustomed to their long walks, start as early in the day as you can. It can be tough to set an alarm for 4 or 5 a.m., but a “sniffari” at a nearby park before sunrise is a great way to stay cool and play with your pup. Buy a long lead (Basically a really long leash!) to let your dog explore more than usual at the park to help engage them mentally. A quick walk around the neighborhood path they walk every day is not as exciting as a park adventure where they can roam and explore, while still following local leash laws.
Do you have a food hound that will finds every morsel you drop during dinner? Ditch that bowl and get creative with their meals! From simply scattering their food across the floor to intricate homemade puzzles, that mental stimulation is a great way to substitute physical exercise in the heat of the day. Ditching the bowl extends mealtime and engages dogs in natural foraging behavior, making for a more satisfying meal. For dogs new to puzzles, start off easy to keep your dog successful and slowly build up the difficulty.
Old dogs can learn new tricks, and this is the perfect time to teach them! Trick training is a great way to tire out a busy brain. Sit, stay and high five are fun and easy, so try your hand at take a bow, weaving between your legs, and middle. Middle, or having your dog sit between your legs, is adorable for Instagram photos, but also great when hiking on a busy trail or walking near other excited dogs.
So you’ve hit the park early, built a Rube Goldberg machine for dinner, and taught them every trick in the book, but when was the last time they really stopped to smell the kibble? Teaching relaxation is a very important skill for energetic or active dogs, and great to develop when trapped inside during a heat wave. Training your dog to have an “off switch” through mat training, “place” training, or even “settle” will help them wind down when they get excited or relax during your important Zoom meeting. Maybe you’ll learn to stop, take a deep breath, and calm down as well.
The heat can be a wall that holds you and your dog back on enjoying life, but with these tips and tricks to beat the heat, you can turn Summertime into the ultimate bonding session with your pet.
Brie Kuna is the behavior team lead and a dog trainer at Arizona Animal Welfare League, the state’s oldest and largest no-kill shelter.