Getting Pets Ready for Summer

May is an exciting time for pets and people alike. The days are getting long, and inviting weather beckons us all into the great outdoors. Get your pet ready for all the joys of summer by following this simple advice.

First, this is an ideal time to get your dog to the groomer (or do some grooming yourself). With summertime hikes, swims, and romps at the park coming up, this is the perfect time to get your dog's hair and nails into shape. If your dog gets hot in the summer, or if you live in a warm area, consider a short "puppy-style" cut or other trim as recommended by your groomer or vet. Short hair is less likely to pick up burrs, twigs, and dirt, so it's practical to keep your pup's hair trimmed even if heat isn't an issue. Overgrown nails can lead to scratches on the furniture, walls, and human skin, so keep them trimmed. And dew claws that aren't trimmed can get snagged on logs, gates, and other things during playtime.

Summer marks the height of a dog's social life. With walks through campgrounds, towns, and parks, plus picnics at the lake, your dog is sure to make doggie friends during the summer months. You can help ensure that these interactions go well by giving your dog a few social warm-ups.

Visit a nearby dog park, where your dog can meet fellow canines off-leash in a neutral environment. Make walking dates with other dog owners, so your pup can practice feeling like part of a team with another dog. Remember to always keep your dog on a leash in new areas and during any time when your dog might be tempted to run, chase, or bolt away from you. It's always better to be safe than sorry, so keep your dog leashed unless you're absolutely sure there can't be a problem.

In the summer, many older dogs can experience the same symptoms as human "weekend warriors". After a week of snoozing on a comfy bed, your dog can easily over do it with a weekend swim or a long, hilly hike. If you notice that your dog is stiff and sore after such a weekend, talk to your vet about ways to alleviate this pain. Another thing you can do for dogs of any age is to give your pet regular exercise throughout the week. Help your pet "train" for these weekend romps in the same way you'd train for a 5K race or a heart walk. Find activities that will let your dog build its strength gradually. If your dog enjoys swimming, try to work short swims into your weekly schedule. If it's racing around with other dogs that your pet loves, try a few games of fetch on the weekdays to warm up those running muscles.

Whatever you do with your dog this spring, be sure to bring a water bowl and plenty of water along, plus a towel for drying off wet or muddy paws. You may also want to pack treats for a little impromptu training. Remember that dogs enjoy having jobs to accomplish, so it's always best to ask your dog to do something - come, sit, or stay - for their treat-reward. This reinforces your training and leaves your dog with a sense of accomplishment!

Dogs enjoy following a daily routine, but like their human family members they also thrive on new adventures. This spring, consider planning a dog-centered day with an outing that's designed to make your pet happy. Will you head to the beach? Hike through wooded trails? Visit the dog park or socialize in town? If you're on a camping trip, maybe you'll arrange an hour of fetch by the lake or a game of tag with the kids. For some dogs, a scenic ride in the car is the nearest thing to heaven. It doesn't matter so much what you do ñ so long as you do it together, your dog will think it's been the finest day ever.Looking for more information and other great articles about camping with pets? Visit
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