A Dog Trainer's Guide to Summer Safety
Updated: Jun 4, 2022
Summer is just around the corner and soon everyone will be thinking of sunny beaches, lounging by the pool and a relaxing vacation. That means it’s also time to prepare our dogs for summer (you know, beyond the fun stuff like making them banana yogurt popsicles!). Here are a few things to consider as you break out the beach towels and sunscreen.
Have you ever run out onto a hot blacktop barefoot in the summertime? It’s not a fun experience! Unfortunately, in the hotter months, city streets and sidewalks can get scalding hot, and you must be careful how and where you walk your dog. Try your best to plan your dog’s walking routes to be on dirt or grass and in the shade where it’s cooler. It’s important to note that while AstroTurf (which lines many city dog parks) is cooler than concrete and blacktop, it retains marginally more heat than grass, and can be ~40 degrees hotter than grass, also potentially burning puppy paws. If you live in a warmer climate or want to play it extra safe, we recommend using paw protection like paw balm or booties.
Chemically Treated Grass
Let’s face it—many of us have ignored a “no dogs on grass” sign at least once in our lives. But often, it’s not just a desire to keep the lawn clear of pet waste but also for the dog’s safety. Many lawns, patches of grass, garden and flower beds in urban areas are treated with chemicals and pesticides. Allowing your dog to play or sniff around on chemically treated lawns could cause damage to their eyes, create skin rashes, digestive upset—and long-term exposure can even result in the development of cancer. So next time you see a “No Dogs” sign, make sure to find a better place for your pup to play!
City dwellers don’t spend much time thinking about dangerous plants that could harm their dogs. But they aren’t totally in the clear! Even urban areas can have large populations of a dangerous weed called “Foxtails.” Foxtails are long, skinny weeds with fine hairs that come to a spiked head. These invasive plants can be found in patches of grass in cities and even grow in cracks of sidewalks. Though they look harmless, they could cause serious injury. Foxtail plants are known to embed themselves in dogs’ eyes, ears, paws and flesh, causing pain and expensive vet visits that may even result in surgery. So if you see these weeds in your dog’s walking path, avoid them! If they happen to be on your building’s property, request the property manager remove it.
If you take your dog hiking or in any wooded areas—or even a friend or relatives’ backyard, you need to think about ticks. Ticks are not only gross and unpleasant to pick off your dog, if bitten by the wrong one, your pup could develop Lyme Disease or other tick-borne illnesses like Ehrlichia. After you come home from your adventure, check them over—especially hidden spots like behind their ears and paws. Darker colored dogs and those with thick fur need to be inspected even closer, as it’s easier for the tick to camouflage. Should you discover a tick—don’t panic! Though you can use tweezers, the best method is a specific tick remover that you can purchase online. It’s important to slip the remover around the head/base of the tick and pull, lest you rip part of it off and leave the head. Once the tick is removed, you can safely flush it or (if it’s a deer tick) put it in a sealed plastic bag to take to a veterinarian and see if your dog has contracted Lyme. To protect your dog from ticks year-round, be sure they are on a preventative like Bravecto, Seresto, or Advantix.
Beach & Water Safety
When it comes to dog beaches, it’s important to remember to only allow your dog off leash if they are friendly to people and dogs, as well as reliably trained off-leash. As for the water, make sure not to let your pup drink the saltwater! This can cause upset stomachs and result in diarrhea and even salt poisoning. Dogs drinking chlorinated pool water can be equally dangerous.
As for actual swimming, it’s best not to allow your dog to swim unsupervised. You should not assume your dog is a good or strong swimmer, as just like us humans not all dogs are well-versed in the water! In fact, flat-faced or short-legged breeds like Bulldogs and Basset Hounds are poor swimmers and can easily drown if left unattended. Dogs like this and small ones should wear a life vest just in case they’re not much of a “water dog”! Life vests also happen to make for very cute photos of your dog, so really it’s a win-win.
Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke
Just like people, if dogs get overwhelmed by intensely hot temperatures, they can succumb to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Some dogs may be more at risk than others—particularly those with thick coats for cold climates such as St. Bernards and flat-faced breeds like Frenchies or Pugs. Dogs who are elderly, obese, or have other health problems are also at higher risk. If your dog is in a higher risk category you should watch them closely when outdoors, potentially limit their time outside, and make sure you have a strong AC.
Signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke include excessive panting and drooling, abnormally colored gums, vomiting, and tremors or collapse. If you see your dog in this state—don’t panic! Take them indoors to a cooler or air-conditioned area and offer them tepid water to drink and douse them or wipe them down with tepid water as well. Make sure the water is not cold, as this could shock their body and worsen the situation. . If the dog doesn’t seem to improve within a short span of time, or you just want to make sure, seek out a veterinarian.
Summer is often the time of year we look forward to the most, as it’s often regarded as the most fun! We should make sure this time of year stays fun and safe for both people and our doggy pals. We hope these tips make it easier for you and your pup to enjoy the warmer weather. And if you’re living in a Bark Building, you can reach out to your Pet Concierge for more specific tips, get parenting guidance, and check out our vetted providers to help you find local vets and services!