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Panting Through It: Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer

I knew summer was on its way, I guess I just didn’t quite realize that it was already here! Recently, the temperature has spiked into the 100s. For days. Of course, we make sure to turn the air conditioning on before it gets too warm and to keep the house cool, but in my house the air conditioning is not something we like to leave on for a long time. Generally, it’s used to cool the house down and then it’s turned off at night before we all go to bed. Unfortunately, despite the blazing heat, both Rosee and Simon expect their daily walk in the morning, and Simon still requires his afternoon play session. The problem still remains that it is too hot. Now, I don’t mind playing with Simon, but when it’s so warm outside it is not great to play for an hour. The cement is hot which can be dangerous for the dogs’ paws, Simon gets winded easily, and too much time in the sun can mean a longer time to cool down. Therefore, I am going to share a few tricks on how you and your dog can beat the heat this summer.

Trick #1: Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Much like humans, dogs need to stay well hydrated, especially over the summer. Most dogs don’t have any problem drinking water. If they’re thirsty, they’ll drink water. Just like if they’re hungry, they’ll eat. However, during the summer there are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring your dog is well-hydrated. Drinking water, while significant, can be harmful if too much is ingested, particularly at one time. So, in order to avoid this, the best thing to do is to give your dog water breaks over a period of time. For instance, if we take Rosee and Simon on a long hike or something of a similar nature we make sure to bring water for them and every so often we all take a short water break. This way the dogs stay hydrated throughout the whole walk. Also, while I know it can be tempting for your dog if they see a water puddle from a sprinkler or run-off, I don’t recommend letting them drink from these puddles. Rosee always likes to look for a puddle while we’re out on walks, but I can never be sure what’s actually in the water. Maybe there’s soap (if someone was washing their car) or run-off from lawns which could d have things in it such as fertilizer. So, just to be on the safe side, if you don’t know where the water came from and if there’s a chance that there could be something foreign in it, don’t let your dog drink it.

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Trick #2: Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening.

Even when the weather turns warmer, exercise is still a must for most dogs, especially dogs like Simon. Normally, I like to take Rosee and Simon for walks in the morning anyways, but during the summer we sometimes have to go even earlier than usual. Where we live it can get pretty hot (we’re talking in the 100s for multiple weeks). As a result, it gets too hot to go in the afternoon, and by the time it’s cooled down enough in the evening it’s too late (I don’t like walking when it’s dark out). Plus, I enjoy going in the mornings because for me it’s a natural energy boost. Either way, whether you go for a walk or play with your dog it’s important to avoid peak sun hours (I think it’s about 10:30am to 4pm). Along with avoiding the hottest part of the day, because it’s just not good for anyone to be outside when it gets that warm, it’s also important to watch out for your dog’s feet. While the pads of their paws are usually pretty sturdy, they can still be vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. The general rule (as far as I know) is that if the ground is too hot for you to walk on it barefoot, then your dog shouldn’t be walking on it for prolonged periods either. That’s why it’s best to exercise in the mornings before it gets too warm, or later in the evening after the sun has gone down.

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Trick#3: Find ways to engage your dog inside.

While daily walks can be rescheduled to more accommodating parts of the day, the same can’t be said for Simon and Rosee’s playtime. Every day around 5pm Rosee and Simon awake from their afternoon naps and decide that it’s time to play. The problem still remains that the sun hasn’t quite set and it’s still pretty warm outside. Yet, both dogs still expect to play.  Consequently, I’ve had to come up with ways to entertain them inside. Unfortunately, playing fetch inside the house is out because there’s not really enough room and Simon’s not great at paying attention to what he might run into. Although, if Simon and Rosee don’t get any playtime, they start to wrestle, and being part Boxers that can involve a lot of jumping up, which again, there’s really not enough room for. Ultimately, I’ve found the best ways to entertain the dogs while inside include giving them bones they can chew on, rope toys because they can both pull on an end (and they tend to tire out quickly) and it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and training practice. Besides the bones and rope toys, training practice is helpful in keeping Rosee and Simon entertained as it’s mentally stimulating and helps build good habits (since, you know, training your dog is really never ending).

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Trick #4: Rethink treats.

Most dogs love treats, mainly the edible kind. Simon will eat just about anything he’s given or stolen. He especially prefers tortillas, particularly the homemade kind (he’s weird like that), and while Rosee loves special treats as well she can be somewhat pickier about what she puts in her mouth. Nevertheless, treats during the summertime can take on a whole new meaning.  Ice is always a good treat during the summer, especially if you’re trying to keep your dog hydrated. Sometimes after their morning walks I’ll set out a bowl of ice for them to help them cool down more easily. Other times I just put ice in their water trough, although it’s mostly for my own amusement as Simon likes to bob for each piece of ice.  Also, during this time of year seasonal produce can make excellent treats. For instance, try a nice dog-friendly fruit salad. Rosee and Simon particularly love strawberries and bananas, and recently tried blueberries for the first time. Simon wasn’t too sure about the blueberry and actually spit it out a couple of times before deciding to eat it. You could even freeze bananas and strawberries to serve as a cold treat. Point is: get creative. Dog treats can be more than milkbones.

Trick #5: Take shelter.

Besides water, another summertime essential for a dog is some type of shelter. Particularly, if your dog is left outside when you’re not home it’s important to provide them with some type of shade or dog house. Personally, I prefer the igloo-type dog houses because they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, we have a covered patio so there is ample shade in our backyard. Still, when it gets to the days where the temperature reaches the 100s it’s best to stay inside. Originally, Rosee and Simon were outside dogs, meaning that when we weren’t home we left them outside in the backyard. However, due to circumstances (i.e. neighbors, and weather) we now leave the dogs inside when we aren’t home. Frankly, over the summer it’s just too hot outside to leave them there during the afternoons. I know leaving your dog inside isn’t for everyone. Some dogs aren’t used to holding “it” for long periods of time or maybe you’re afraid they’ll get into too much mischief. I would probably recommend then kenneling your dog while you’re gone. Otherwise, make sure that if your dog is left outside when it’s hot they have shade, shelter, and plenty of water.

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Trick #6: Throw a pool party.

Of course, when it gets too hot outside and the air conditioning just isn’t doing enough the best thing to do is have a pool party of course. Whether it’s a kiddie pool or an actual full-sized pool, taking your dog swimming or splashing through it can be fun, and a good form of exercise. Rosee and Simon absolutely love water, just not when they’re getting bathed. They love splashing around in the waves when we go to the beach, swimming in the river when we visit the local park next to the Sacramento River, and will not stay out of the pools at the local dog park we sometimes visit. Simon is a natural born swimmer. The first time we took him to the Sacramento River he went right into the water and took off. He couldn’t get very far since he was on a (very long) leash, but he swam around for about an hour before coming back in to the shore. Rosee, on the other hand, is a splasher. She’ll only go as far as she can touch the bottom, and loves chasing the waves at the beach. Overall, it’s just another way to have fun with your dogs, and it’s most fun when it’s warmer outside.

Rosee and Waves

Trick #7: Wet your dog down.

I know this may sound strange (or maybe not), but stick with me on this one. Due to the fact that dogs do not sweat they have to cool down in a different way, hence why they pant. Another way to cool them down though, is to get their paws and bellies wet. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, dogs are similar to pigs in this way. However, instead of rolling around in mud (even though Simon would probably do this if he could), dogs typically will roll around on grass (since it’s usually cooler) or step through puddles of water. Or some dogs may be like Simon who just puts his front paws in his water trough, and if he’s really warm he will paw at the water in order to splash it on his stomach. Basically, getting your dog’s stomach and paws wet can help them cool down or at least keep them cool for a little while.

Rosee Bath

So there are my tips for beating the heat this summer.

It may be hot outside, but there are still ways to have fun with your dog(s).

Tethering: Simon Dos and Don’ts

Simon knows no boundaries, and it’s not for a lack of trying. Really. My family and I tried and try and will try to always give Simon limits, borders, and edges. However, he is a very willful boy. Apparently, that has meant just being calm and assertive when telling him what to do is not only harder than it looks, but needs to last through every minute of every day. Simon needs his people to constantly and consistently be calm and firm. Turns out, Simon is extremely sensitive to everyone’s wayward emotions. When I’m upset, he’s upset. When I’m excited, he’s excited. When I’m tired, he’s not tired (have I mentioned he could play for 23 hours a day before?). Anyway, learning to be Simon’s point persons and taking control of his defiant ways has been a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride, one that probably won’t reach its end until Simon does, but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. This doesn’t change the fact that Simon needs boundaries.

His love for butter knows no limits.
His love for butter knows no limits.

When Simon was a puppy my mother stumbled across the idea of tethering. Tethering usually consists of setting up a slightly long, slightly short leash somewhere within the house, and when he is attached to that tether Simon would be forced to stay in one spot instead of being allowed the free reign of the house. Ultimately, tethering would provide a way of teaching him boundaries and limits because he would be unable to just do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Simple idea with a simple action.

So, armed with new knowledge and fledging optimism my mother purchased a rubber-coated leash to attach to the leg of something in our living room that could act as a tether for a puppy Simon.

IMG_1737Now, the tether is useful for many reasons, the main one being it ties Simon down to his bed. When both Simon and Rosee (who received her own tether when she joined the family) are left alone they cannot be left to their own devices. My family tried to leave them outside in the backyard, but unfortunately that caused more problems what with Rosee barking at the fence with the neighbor dogs, so that idea was quickly squashed. Instead, it became much safer and quieter to tether the pups to their beds and leave them waiting comfortably inside the house. And since they each had a tether of their own it worked out perfectly. Scoreboard standing—tether: 1, free reign: 0.

IMG_1738However, as much as tethering was winning the battle, it had (and still has) yet to win the war.

You see, Simon never “got” the tether and whatever it was trying to teach him. This being the same dog that even when buckled up in the car will pull on his seatbelt and collar until he’s practically choking himself, so clearly the tether was yet another object for him to just pull, and pull, and pull. . .

Where Rosee will give up and give in, though not when it comes to giving up her favorite rubber football, Simon’s brain just does not have this function. He would steal food from the kitchen counters while I was making dinner or jump on people walking through the front door, so he would promptly be tethered in order to show him some restraint and his place when certain exciting activities were happening. However, Simon never seemed to understand the connection. Anytime I walked into the kitchen to cook he would be there. No matter how many treats he received for being good while tethered to his bed, the lightbulb never went off signaling the fact that he realized when I go into the kitchen to cook he goes to his bed. Now, my mother might disagree with me, but I believe that tethering Simon wasn’t actually making him learn anything. Tethering just forced him to stay in one place, it did not actually teach him to do so.

IMG_1743After more than a year of fighting with Simon and the tether, and him not actually learning from it, I stopped. My sister Theresa and I decided, a little more implicitly than explicitly, to just stop tethering Simon and at this point Rosee too unless we were leaving and they needed to be left on their beds. No more having to deal with Simon’s whining howl voicing his displeasure with his tether. No more having him endlessly gnaw on the tether as if he could try break through the wire one day. Instead, Theresa and I just told Simon what to do. When I started to cook in the kitchen we would make him sit in “his spot” right off to the side, so he could see what I was doing, but he was far enough away to not be a nuisance. Anytime people come through the front door both Simon and Rosee have to go “park it” on their beds. Sure, their commands didn’t work overnight and once in a while Simon doesn’t want to stay in his kitchen corner, but for the most part it does work. Simon, when he’s feeling cooperative, will put himself in his spot while I cook. The first time he did it I was amazed! I couldn’t believe that this was my dog deciding to actually give himself boundaries!

Of course, I had to be frank with myself. Simon was learning what behaviors were expected of him. He was learning what was considered good and acceptable. Case in point: he was learning!

Simon resigning himself to "his spot."
Simon resigning himself to “his spot.”

Now, I say he because Rosee has never exactly been the chowhound that Simon is. Sure, she loves her food and any treats she can get, but she’s never been as pushy or audacious as Simon. Where he has jumped up on the kitchen counters to steal food since the time his tongue was long enough to reach (his legs hadn’t quite grown tall enough yet), Rosee is content with just sitting and waiting for food scraps to be given to her. Rosee has always had a better sense of boundaries and limits than Simon. She just has a more people-pleasing personality whereas Simon is a little more self-centered. I believe this personality difference is mostly due to Simon being an only child for the first year and a half of his life with four people constantly doting on him (yes, I take one-fourth responsibility for his rascally ways). However, a slightly older dog can certainly learn new tricks and Simon did wonderfully.

Don’t take my split from tethering as any indication that it doesn’t work for other dogs. It just isn’t a useful technique for Simon. Tethering has really only shown itself to be beneficial for both pups when all adults are gone from the house and they cannot be left in the backyard or to wander the house unsupervised. The fact is Rosee steals pretty much anything she can find around the house (socks and tissues being her favorite) so she can chew, and Simon would just break everything left on countertops because he loves to surf on them without any regard. At least when they are tethered to their beds while we are all gone they do have to stay in one place, but they still have enough length to move around and be comfortable. However, for my guy Simon it is more important for him to learn commands by way of his people directly teaching it to him, rather than the more indirect way of tethering forcing him to exist only in one place. So, learning boundaries and limits is certainly still a work-in-progress, but it is actually progressing.

She thinks she's so sneaky.
She thinks she’s so sneaky.

In fact, it seems this whole foray into tethering was a way for me as a human to recognize the ways in which my dogs learn. I had to distinguish between making Simon do something and teaching him good behavior that he will know for the rest of his doggy life. And it seems that Simon’s brain is particular in that forcing him to do certain actions, making him stay in one place for instance, had absolutely no effect on him whatsoever. He needed to go through the process of sit, stay, good boy. It may take longer, it may be more frustrating, but it is also very gratifying.

As for Rosee, well she’s always a good girl compared to her crazy brother Simon!

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Compilation of Tips: Loose Leash Walking (Part 3)

I know, at this point you’re probably wondering how much really goes into teaching a dog to walk on a leash without pulling, right?

All I can say is some dogs are natural born walkers, and some need more help learning. Simon and Rosee fall into the latter category here, and even then they both respond to techniques differently. The most important thing is to find what works for your own dog. However, sometimes you have to go through what doesn’t work to find what does, which is how I have come to know of so many tips.

Again, my disclaimer: The tips I will present, explain, and discuss throughout this series of posts are ones that I’ve gathered from training books I’ve read, training classes I’ve attended with Simon and Rosee, and from trainers I’ve talked to. I want to be clear that I am not a dog trainer in any way, shape or form, and my knowledge of dog training comes from the aforementioned sources while training my own dogs. I can assure you however, that all these tips have been tried and tested by everyone here at Play Hard, Bark Often.

Tip #7: Try a shorter leash. The length of a dog’s leash may not seem all that significant. However, if the goal is to have your dog walk next to you without pulling then trying a shortened leash may be a good idea. To be honest, I had never considered trying a shorter leash. Of course, while walking with either Rosee or Simon I would try and shorten the leash they were on by looping some of the excess. Yet, it never seemed to work as I would get frustrated with their pulling or holding so much of the leash and eventually let it go and just hold on to the leash handle. It was only when me and Monica had ordered Rosee her Ilusion collar that realization hit. You see, when you order an Ilusion collar it also comes with an accompanying leash.

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Leash that comes with a Large size Ilusion collar.

The leash length varies depending on what size of collar is ordered. For instance, Rosee has a large and the leash is about a foot long.

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Simon has a medium size collar and the leash is a little longer than Rosee’s and not quite as wide. (Personally, I don’t like the leash that came with Simon’s Ilusion collar and do not use it because it’s not wide enough and difficult for me to hold on to.)

Simon Leash
Leash that comes with a Medium sized Ilusion collar.

Really, it was a “Eureka” moment because the first time I put Rosee’s Ilusion collar on with the shorter leash it all became clear. I found that with a shorter leash not only could I keep her next to me, but I was much more consistent in my efforts. I couldn’t backslide and let go of the excess leash as I had before when things became too much. In turn, I was much less stressed and could focus more on Rosee instead of on keeping the leash a certain length. Now, practically, I know it may not be so easy to find a short leash at a regular pet store. Still, it can be worth looking for one on the internet if you’re working on your dog walking next to you without pulling and not just loosely on a leash.

Tip #8: Try a longer leash. For some dogs a shorter leash might be all that’s needed to get them to walk beside you without pulling. For other dogs, such as those similar to Simon, more work and a whole lotta patience might be required. Simon, you see, is a “horse of a different color” (figuratively, of course). He can pick up tricks like shake, roll over, high five, etc. in a day, but learning to walk without pulling has not come as easily. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to do it either. It’s just that he’s not usually consistently successful at it. Now, I’ve done my best to keep myself consistent in feeling and technique when I walk him, which has helped a lot. (Think Cesar here) Unlike Rosee though, using a shorter leash has never worked well for Simon. He’s a dog that has needed to learn to walk next to me by himself. I mentioned in the beginning of Part 2 that I’m not necessarily too strict about leash length with Simon. I use a standard length leash to walk him and for most of the walk I give him the whole length of it. Originally, I decided to change my tactics with Simon because I was getting nowhere otherwise. Then I visited positively.com and read that dogs typically walk faster than us slow humans and for them to learn to walk next to you can be very difficult. It’s certainly not impossible, but sometimes their walking ahead of us isn’t about dominance or over excitement. Sometimes it’s just because we walk too slow. The suggested training technique I found was to give your dog the full length of the leash and any time they walk next to you you give them a treat. This teaches them that good things happen when they stay beside you and eventually they’ll learn not to pull while staying closer. I like to also use the turnaround method if Simon starts to pull too much. Overall, I love this method for Simon because I don’t get frustrated and he has actually learned to walk calmly beside me. Also I like to use this method when I put Simon on a really long (10-15 ft.) leash. He can go out and roam (safely), but then when he comes next to me and watches me for direction he gets a treat.

Tip #9: Strap on a backpack. Lastly, a useful tool can be a doggie backpack. Backpacks are typically available at almost any pet store and come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Although, the basic principle of a backpack remains the same. It goes over a dog’s back, clips around their neck and underneath their stomach, and has a pocket on each side. Originally, Simon got a backpack when he was a puppy, but still old enough to venture outside, because we had hoped it would help slow him down. Personally, to weigh the backpack down I like to use bags of rice because rice conforms better to Simon and isn’t as oddly shaped as bottles of water. Unfortunately, the backpack never quite worked out for Simon. It did help him slow down, but it never really taught him to walk without pulling as he would still pull if he wasn’t wearing it. Also, we overestimated his size when he was a puppy and now the backpack is a little too big for him. (He didn’t grow into it like we thought.) For this reason it never seems to sit quite right on him. Still, it’s a nice tool to have around when we go down the street to a nearby park and we work on training because I can pack his extra-long leash, treats, and (for hot, hot days) bottles of water and collapsible bowls.