By Tails Staff
With the summer solstice approaching, there really is no excuse for you and your canine companion to sit indoors any longer. Summer’s bounty is plentiful, including warmer temps, longer days, and for the lucky ones, extra time away from work. C’mon, grab the leash, a Frisbee, and Tails’ tips for getting the most out of the season.
Don’t just give your dog a bone this summer, make him fetch it. Exercise is the best way to keep both you and your pet trim. Check out these fun ways to turn the lazy days of summer into active ones.
If Fido and Frisbee go together like PB & J, and you’ve got some passing skills, then the two of you might consider taking your Saturday afternoon play sessions to a whole new level. Disc dog is a sport in which canines and their humans compete in events such as distance catching and choreographed freestyle catching. “Disc dogging is just a modified game of fetch,” says Adrian Custer, co-founder of Southern Ohio Flying K9s disc-dog club. “Most any dog that fetches things you throw can be trained into a disc dog.” Custer refers beginners to his website, FlyingK9s.com, for tips on training, gear, discs, and competition, which he likens to a big party. “Disc dogging is an all-around great sport, fun to play at all levels, and entertaining to watch,” he adds.
Dog agility is a sport in which a handler directs her dog (off-leash) through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. The handler can only use voice and body signals to coach her dog through the course. That means it takes a fairly well-disciplined pooch to master the game. Almost any dog can do agility, including mixed breeds, but Aliss South, president of Windy City Agility Club in Chicago, suggests some basic obedience training for you and Rover before beginning. “Most dogs seem to really enjoy doing agility. It isn’t age-specific. At trials you’ll see teenagers to people in their 70s running with their dogs,” South says. “If you want to compete—and many people don’t, preferring to just enjoy the training and time spent with their dogs—there are different venues for teams with different abilities. Something for everyone.”
High-energy pups, this sport is for you. Flyball is a relay race consisting of a team of four dogs where each dog runs through a set of hurdles to get to a box that shoots a ball into the air when the dog presses its spring-loaded pad. The dog catches the ball and then races back to the start/finish line where the next dog takes over. “I love to see [the dogs] run down the lane and back as fast as they can,” says Dona Dwyer, captain of Capital Flyers Flyball Team in Silver Spring, Maryland. All kinds of dogs can play the sport—it is open to any breed or mixed breed of dog. And don’t worry if Fluffy isn’t as quick as Speedy Gonzales, some dogs are faster than others, Dwyer says, but that doesn’t stop anyone. One prerequisite: “It helps if [your dog] likes tennis balls.”
Hello mother, hello father, here I am at…camp canine? Retro jingles aside, dog camps—summer camps aimed at pleasing our canine companions—are quickly becoming a popular getaway for dogs and their caretakers. With locations sprouting up all over the country and even in Canada, these pet-friendly “overnight camps” provide animals with a chance to explore the outdoors and participate in a series of fun games and activities.
Offering weekend retreats to full week sessions, these camps are the perfect escape for animal lovers and their canine comrades. Many offer a variety of different programs and recreational activities, including basic obedience classes, disc-toss games, flyball, agility courses, lure coursing, canine water sports, hiking, and even campfires, fully equipped with dog-friendly s’mores. Above all, these dog resorts allow for constant frolicking in the great outdoors. Some camps even have accommodations for older dogs featuring pet therapy programs and educational sessions from veterinarians and trainers.
One of the largest and oldest functional retreats, Camp Gone to the Dogs, in Southern Vermont, offers week-long camp sessions in both the summer and fall and features 40 to 50 unique activities per day for dogs and their caregivers. Programs include sheep herding and breed handling, along with various workshops and lectures on all things dogs.
“Camp provides the dogs a huge amount of activities to try,” says Jeanne Richter, the director and owner of Camp Gone to the Dogs. “It is the perfect place to find out what your dog enjoys doing. Then during the year you can continue the activities. It truly is Doggie Disney World.” Stacey Hawk, owner of Hawk City K-9 in Chicago agrees. “It’s the granddaddy of all dog camps. I wish I could keep doing it time after time. It really is a destination.”
The camp is on a 250-acre campus, has a nearby pond for swimming or doggie paddling, and like other camps houses guests in dorms or cabins in the woods.
Most camps vary in price depending on length of stay and number of guests, and while there are camps nationwide, they tend to predominate in Midwestern states like Michigan and Wisconsin, along the East Coast, and in the West in places like Washington and California.
Then again, maybe you don’t want to follow somebody else’s rules. Maybe you want all of the benefits of the outdoors sans the regimen. As long as your dog is well-behaved, you’re a responsible guardian who picks up after your pet, and you can physically restrain him or her from potentially harmful nuisances in the wilderness, there’s no reason not to hit the trails.
It’s necessary that you have a well-behaved dog that understands the basics of obedience training, according to Gary Hoffman, author of Dogs on the Trail. Before you go for your first hike, get your dog used to walking in different environments with different terrains, such as grass, dirt, rocks, and hills. Start with short day trips for at least a month before you go on your first overnight trip to get him or her used to the routine and to avoid a stressful situation for the dog. When you and your dog hike for the first time, Hoffman recommends keeping your dog on a leash right behind you or immediately at your side, allowing him to feel secure as he encounters other hikers, other dogs, and wild animals. If you camp in an area that may have extremely rocky terrain or fire ants, you may consider getting a pair of booties for your dog to protect his paws. When hiking in the summer, make sure to provide plenty of water for your pooch, and keep a first-aid kit on hand for potential emergencies.
Dogs are perfectly suited for overnight camping trips in RVs or tents. If your dog travels with you in an RV, make sure he can get in and out of the vehicle easily. Older dogs may need a portable staircase, step stool, or ramp to get in and out. If you stay overnight at a campsite, it is important to make sure your dog is secured or contained, according to Jack and Julee Meltzer, authors of Camping and RVing with Dogs. There are a number of portable and expandable dog pens and crates on the market. RV owners may want to invest in an attachable screen room to contain their canine. Never let your dog wander around the campsite alone.
When determining if your selected destination is suitable for dogs, here are some tips to keep in mind:
• Avoid crowded campgrounds. They can add extra stress for your dog.
• Ask about isolated campsites. If you and your dog are in a more isolated area, he will have more space to run around.
• Be cautious of campgrounds that charge extra fees for pets or have breed-specific restrictions. Most pet-friendly campgrounds do not have these guidelines.
• Even if a campground advertises it is dog-friendly, call before you go to make sure that your dog is accepted.
Many people wisely opt to keep their kitties indoors, but that doesn’t mean our felines don’t feel the warm-weather itch. Keeping kitty content should be as easy having access to screened windows.
Perhaps the ultimate way to satisfy your feline’s craving for sunshine is to install a Kittywalk System (Kittywalk.com) in your backyard or on your patio or balcony. Kittywalk offers netted enclosures in various shapes and sizes to accommodate any outdoor situation. The Kittywalk Deck and Patio for example, stretches six feet, making it an ideal outdoor furnishing for urban dwellers. The Grand Prix on the other hand, is a circular system that allows your cat the opportunity to run in circles. It’s perfect for large backyards. FYI, the company also sells netted strollers, should you decide to take kitty with you to town.
But offering the great outdoors need to not be an expensive endeavor. Nor does it mean taking your cat outside at all. Abby Smith, the executive director at Feline’s Inc., a Chicago-based shelter offers the following advice: “In the summer, we put a bird feeder near a window so the cats can watch them and chirp at them,” she says. “We also feed the squirrels on our deck and call it cat TV.” Rosemary Mirko, the director at Town Cats, a shelter based in Morgan Hill, California, offers her felines similar treatment. “We try to bring the outside in [and] since we don’t have windows, we use the doors. We have screen doors, cat-proofed, heavy metal screen material that they can’t tear up but they love to sit on the tables/chairs/scratch posts and feel the fresh air and watch the birds.”
Smith also advocates bringing summer inside. “We keep cat grass on the counter tops and add ice cubes to their water dishes. They love to flick the ice around the dish and floor.” Mirko offers other suggestions. “We put out wheatgrass for them to nibble on and catnip our volunteers grow and bring in from time to time,” she says. “We sprinkle dried catnip on the floor and they eat it up, too.”