Summer is the season of sprinklers, swimming pools, and cookouts! People everywhere are firing up the grill and planning the next few months of backyard fun with their friends and neighbors. Your dog shouldn’t miss out on the fun, but keeping them safe during cookouts is key to a successful summer!
Here are some tips for common cookout concerns:
Too Many Distractions
Distraction training your dog is an important first step to ensuring a safe cookout for everyone. Your dog should know how to focus on commands in unpredictable, disruptive situations. Distraction training will take time and practice, so work with your dog before putting them into an overwhelming situation. Between tempting food smells, playing children, and loud music, an untrained dog may have a hard time remembering their manners. By teaching your dog how to resist temptation and focus on what you’re asking of them, you’ll be able to keep them safer in a variety of environments.
Begging for Food
It’s hard to resist a dog’s sweet, begging face as they watch every bite of food go into your mouth, but many foods served at cookouts can make your dog sick. Encourage guests to keep their plates out of reach of dogs and not to feed any scraps. Train your dog not to beg for food before introducing them to cookout situations where temptation is everywhere.
Some common cookout foods that can make a dog sick include:
- Dips (containing onions, spices, or garlic)
- Uncooked meat
Try making these delicious pupsicles to keep your dog hydrated during the hot summer days. Or try this one-ingredient banana ice cream recipe to satisfy both you and your dog’s sweet tooth! You can also find ice cream made specifically for dogs at many boutique dog supply stores.
If you’re worried about guests feeding your dog inappropriate scraps, consider putting out a dog-friendly treat bowl filled with healthy fruits that can be shared with party-going pooches. Fill this bowl with bite-sized seedless watermelon, blueberries, apples, and strawberries. Make a sign to let guests know that this fruit bowl is dog-friendly, but remind them that even with these healthy options, your dog shouldn’t have too many treats!
Dogs are quick and often sneaky when it comes to snagging food off tables. If you see your dog grab something they shouldn’t, try to encourage them to drop it. It’s important to teach your dog the ‘leave it’ command before a situation like this occurs, so you can keep your dog from swallowing harmful items. If your dog has already eaten something and it doesn’t appear to be causing them distress, they may be able to pass it. If you know the item is toxic to dogs, such as something like grapes, you may need to call the Pet Poison Helpline. If your dog ate chicken bones, or something similar that might scratch their digestive lining, keep a very close eye on your dog over the next few days and take them to the veterinarian if they start vomiting, have bloody stool, or shows signs of stomach discomfort.
If there’s a pool at the cookout, ensure that your dog can’t get into it unsupervised. If your dog isn’t allowed in the pool, keep them on a leash unless the pool is fenced in. Teach your dog to swim before taking them to events with a swimming pool or natural body of water. Remember, even the best swimmer can get tired or forget where the exits are in a pool. Keep an eye on your swimming pup and remove them from the water if they seem to be too tired to safely play!
With guests coming in and out of the cookout area, a dog can easily slip through a door or gate. Keep your dog’s collar on throughout the event with up-to-date identification tags that clearly state your name and phone number. Some dog ID tags will wear out over time, so remember to order new tags if your address and phone number are no longer legible. About 1 in 3 pets get lost at some point in their life, so microchipping your dog is the best way to ensure their return.
Always keep an eye on how your dog is handling the heat. If you’re hot, they are too. Panting is a normal reaction to heat, but if your dog’s panting seems uncontrollable, you should get your pet into an air-conditioned room right away. Contact your veterinarian if your dog starts drooling, stumbling, vomiting, has a rapid pulse, or has pale blue/white gums, as these are symptoms of heatstroke in dogs. To prevent your dog from overheating, offer them the chance to go inside to a cool room throughout the day and be sure to provide plenty of fresh water and shade.
Your dog needs as much protection from the sun as you do, so protect your pup if they're going to be spending a lot of time outside. Provide shaded areas by putting up an umbrella, planting trees in your yard, or allowing your dog to take breaks inside your house away from the sun. Dog-safe sunscreen can be used where your dog has little to no fur, such as on their muzzle, ears, and belly.
Consider enrolling your pet in a pet insurance policy for added protection from summer dangers like overheating, too much sun, and more! Now that you know how to keep your dog safe, you can get started on enjoying your summer. From Fourth of July parties to Labor Day picnics, you and your dog will be ready for whatever event this season sends your way!