The only thing better than having copious summertime adventures? Watching your dog have them, too. Pretty much all my favorite moments this summer have included my dog. My iPhone is brimming with photos of Amos with his head out the car window, nose hair blowing in the wind, of him swimming (I think he actually might be part fish) and even eating watermelon.
But lots of activity also means that the chances for accidents and discomfort is a lot greater than during the 8 months a year he spends mostly on the sofa. A few key products, however, can help keep things as easy and breezy as they should be.
On the Water: The Right Life Jacket
Dogs have the strongly built in instinct to kick their legs when they’re in or even near water, starting practically from birth. That doesn’t mean that every dog likes pool time, of course. A good dog life jacket can help you acclimate your dog to water — it may keep a new swimmer’s initial panic at bay. If you take a dog on any kind of boat, however, you shouldn’t skip the vest. If things turn bad, your dog might not be able to swim, or might only be able to tread water for so long. I’m particularly fond of the ones that have fins.
On The Beach: Puppy Sun Screen
Sunscreen for dogs? Well, yes. Dog skin cancer is a real thing. Dogs with short white hair (or no hair) and light skin are particularly susceptible — bull terriers, Chinese crested, Dalmatians, to name a few. The good news is that human sunscreens can work on dogs, as long as you don’t use ones that contain zinc oxide. There are also plenty of sun screens made especially for dogs. It’s a good idea to check with your vet before applying any kind of SPF to your dog, since he or she will be able to advise you regarding any specific sensitivities your dog may have.
On The Go: The Dog Bike Helmet
If you’re going to riding your bike with your dog, get him a helmet. Admittedly, there isn’t a great selection of them out there. Someone needs to get this idea on Shark Tank, stat! The only ones that exist are on the flimsy side. But, if I had an accident and my dog suffered a head injury, I would probably want to kill myself. I figure having a modicum of protection against the unlikely event of an accident that would send him crashing to the ground head first is… better than none! Added benefit: When you are on a bike with a dog in a helmet on your back, EVERYONE pays a lot of attention to you on the street. And a major of part of accident avoidance is simply being noticed!
On the Street: Paw Wax & Summit Boots
No one really wants to have anything to do with hot pavement in the summer - least of all your dog. Come summer, my daily routes with my dog are sometimes planned to specifically avoid the darkest pavements, which heat up the most. Two good ways to save those poor puppy foot pads from frying: Mushers wax is a great sealant that can be usually be quickly and easily rubbed into your dog’s pads before a walk.
The other option is to use dog boots. The gold standard for, uh, canine footwear, is probably RuffWear, which makes a variety of boots for different activity levels and terrain. For summer use, I’m partial to the lightest weight ones, the Summits. It can take some training for a dog to get used to wearing booties, but I’ve found that many pooches seem to respond better to wearing them in the summer than in the winter. I think when they discover that shoes make cement-walking a much less painful experience, they’re all in.
Remdawg the Tripawd makes sure his remaining paws stay cool. Photo by his person, Brianna Kuna
On The Road: The Right Car Restraint
Buckle up, dog. Seriously.
The right restraint for your dog may literally be a matter of life and death. The risks are both for us and them: unrestrained dogs can suffer death or injury due to short stops, airbags and accidents, and they also increase the risk of driver distraction. While a seatbelt may be the answer, not all have achieved the stamp of approval from The Center for Pet Safety, which is the gold standard for crash testing vehicular-related pet products. Among those that have been approved by them: Ruffwear's Load Up Harness, which has been crash tested up to 75 lbs, passing the same frontal crash tests that ensure the effectiveness of child safety restraints. The harness attaches to existing seat belts for a universal fit, and is easy to put on and adjust.
At The Pool: The Best Fetch Toy
My dog must be descended from a long line of fish. Once he sees a body of water, all he wants is for someone to throw something in for him to fetch. My go-to for these occasions used to be a tennis ball. While I've heard that the fur on the balls is hard on their teeth, I haven't seen any solid evidence that backs that up. However, Amos definitely enjoys ripping them to shreds, and that can easily lead to him swallowing pieces of rubber or fuzz or both, which can't be good for him. Sticks are another good option, but sometimes they're in short supply, and we've also had the problem of them breaking and getting lodged in the roof of his mouth. Ouch! Enter the Bumi -- the ultimate floating toy. Part of the West Paw line of Zogoflex toys, this thing erases any stress involved in our water-fetch games. It is latex-free, dishwasher safe, and very difficult to chew into bits-- indeed, West Paw, a Montana-based company offers a guarantee and will replace one if it gets chewed up. It fits in the mouths of dogs of almost any size, and it also works as a tug toy, stretching out to twice its size. Water-tug adds a new element to our endless summer games of fetch. Of course, it's a fun game on land too!
In The Heat: Products To Cool The Pooch
Some dogs are experts at finding a cool spot to sprawl out, be it a marble doorstep, the building foyer, or a puddle. Save them the trouble by packing a Polar Pad. These pressure-activated memory foam mats contain a special gel-infused foam that absorbs and dissipates heat. They're waterproof and stay cool for up to two hours. For extra coolness, you can pop it in the fridge or spray it with water. Honestly, you might want to get two... because your dog might not want to share his with you!
Another recent discovery that has made a big difference in making sure my dog doesn't overheat when we're on the road: an ultra portable pool. Small enough to literally fit into a backpack, it provides just enough space for a small-to-medium sized to sit or lie down. Even when filled with water, it can be easily be moved around, providing the perfect spot to cool off.