Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Have Safe Summer Fun with Your Dog

By Julia Williams

Warm, sunny days are here at last! Though many dogs do enjoy romping in the snow, the pleasures of summer are hard to beat. Canines and humans alike shed their heavy winter coats and head outdoors, unencumbered and ready to play. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some ways to have safe summer fun with your dog.

Sports for the Four Legged

Whether your dog is endowed with natural athletic prowess or doesn’t seem to have a competitive bone in his body, you can both still enjoy participating in sports created just for dogs. They will have a good time regardless, because dogs simply don’t worry about such things like winning or losing – they just enjoy the activity for what it is, and they’ll get much-needed exercise too. CANIDAE sponsors many fine canine athletes, in disc dog, dock diving and other fun dog sports.

Disc Dog is an exciting sport that’s been around since the mid-1970s and continues to be popular today, for participants as well as spectators. Using flying discs, teams comprised of dogs and their human handlers participate in “toss and fetch” events or choreographed freestyle routines. Although sometimes referred to as Frisbee Dog, the preferred name is Disc Dog since Frisbee is a trademarked brand. If organized sports aren’t your thing, you and your dog can still have fun with flying discs at the park. Dogs love chasing the discs, and you can try teaching them a few tricks too.

Dock Diving is one of the most beginner friendly dog sports there is. Dogs jump from a dock that is usually 40 feet long into a pool with distance markers that is also 40 feet long. The dogs run down the dock and into the pool to retrieve a toy tossed by the handler. To learn more about this sport, read Getting Started in Dock Diving by Dan Jacobs of the CANIDAE-sponsored “Team Missy.”

Flyball is an international sport that features teams of four dogs competing against each other in relay races. Two teams compete at a time – the first dog jumps over four hurdles and then steps on a spring-loaded box to release a tennis ball. The dog catches the ball in his mouth and races back over the 51-foot-course to the starting point. The second dog then begins the course. The dog team who finishes first without any errors is the winner.

The sport of Dog Agility involves directing your pooch through an obstacle course in a timed race. As they run up ramps, snake through tunnels and race across balance beams, you’ll need to be guiding them every step of the way, which means that you both get lots of exercise in the process.

Water Fun

Most dogs love getting wet, and many are natural born swimmers. If you have your own backyard pool, let Fido practice his dog paddle, or throw floating toys into the water for him to fetch. If your dog doesn’t like to swim, he can still have fun in the water. Buy a kid’s wading pool and designate it a “doggie pool” that your four-legged friend can splash around in to cool off on hot summer days.

When the weather heats up, a dog-friendly beach is a great place to go for a family picnic. Or, teach your dog to surf so they can “hang twenty” in the ocean like the famous surfing-for-charity canine Ricochet, or CANIDAE employee Diane Matsuura’s dog Hailey, who recently competed in the Loews Coronado Resort 5th Annual Surf Dog Competition with 65 other canine surfers.

Vacations and day trips

Hiking is great exercise for people and dogs alike, and there are many state parks across the U.S. that welcome leashed four legged hikers on their trails. Dog friendly national parks are harder to find, but they do exist. You can research them online, but be sure to confirm with the park directly before you go to avoid disappointment.

Camping with your dog can be a wonderful experience. Camping offers lots of new sights and smells for your dog, as well as some stress-reducing peace and quiet for you. As with the hiking, be sure to confirm that your chosen campground allows dogs before setting off for your rugged outdoor adventure.

If hiking and camping aren’t really your cup of tea, you can still have outdoor fun with your canine best buddy by taking him to the local dog park. He can run and romp freely, and socialize with other dogs while you chat with their owners.

Most dogs love riding in the car, and travel with ease whether you’re going on a road trip vacation or just taking a little sight-seeing jaunt around town. A road trip with your dog can make for a fun and memorable family vacation, provided you seek out pet-friendly lodging. Thankfully, there are plenty of motels, cabins and vacation rental homes that allow dogs.

Now that you have some ideas for summer fun with your dog, isn’t it time to shut off the computer and head outdoors?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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