Great Outdoors Month – 10 Ways to Spend Time Outdoors With Your Pet
By Dr. Katie Falk, Veterinarian
June is Great Outdoors Month! Now that the warm weather is here, it is the perfect time for you and your dog to get off the couch and out into nature. Try one of these outdoor activities you’ll both enjoy — and remember to bring plenty of water, so that your furry friend stays hydrated!
1. Take a Walk!
The tried and true best way to enjoy the outdoors with your pets is by taking them for a walk. It’s as easy as putting on a leash (and a harness) and putting one foot in front of the other. Not only is it simple, but walking daily is proven tremendously beneficial to the health of both your dog and yourself! Important things to remember while walking your pet include using a harness to prevent putting pressure on their trachea, use a non-retractable leash to maintain control, and ensure your dog (or cat!) is protected with proper vaccines and preventatives on board.
2. Hiking Trails
If you think your dog loved all those sniffs on that walk, just wait till you take them for a hike! Maryland has so many versatile hiking options that are all around us. The hiking app, AllTrails shows you a list of options that are nearby and often includes whether dogs are allowed on the trail, or not. Hiking rules are very similar to walking, but now those monthly preventatives become even more important. Lyme disease is extremely prevalent in Maryland, so remember to check your pets for ticks when you get home!
3. Play Fetch
Maybe you don’t have time to take your dog for a hike. No worries, just step outside and play a game of fetch! Throwing the ball serves as a great source of exercise and stress relief for your pet. Animals enjoy having a task that challenges both their body and mind. Fetch also serves as a great bonding time for you and your pet. You may utilize their attention as a training mechanism. Try asking them to sit and stay before throwing the ball and you will be pleasantly surprised when they continue listening to you even without the ball!
4. Dog Parks
Dog parks are a great place for exercise and socialization. Just like children on a playground, dogs learn so much more than just how to play games while at the dog park. But socialization can be tricky. Dogs are still animals and always have the potential to fight, so please keep a close eye on your little one and always be nearby to help if needed. While socialization is key for young puppies, we recommend keeping them away from dog parks and puppy classes until they are fully vaccinated, which should be around 16 weeks old.
5. Picnic with Friends
How about socialization for both you and your dog! Call up your dog-mom and dog-dad friends to get the kids together at someone’s house. While many of the same precautions of the dog park apply here, a big benefit is knowing the dogs beforehand and whether they are vaccinated or not, removing a lot of the stress. Similarly, while we do not want puppies at dog parks, we recommend as much socialization as possible with adult dogs who are well vaccinated. Making a puppy play date is the perfect scenario!
6. Go For a Swim
We are lucky to have so much water in this area, which many dogs cannot get enough of! Swimming is again a great source of exercise, particularly for our older friends who have arthritis or a previous injury. People pay a lot of money for canine hydrotherapy, but you can get the same benefits by finding the closest beach! It is important to remember that much of Maryland’s water is salt or brackish water. Drinking this very hyperosmotic water can actually dehydrate your pet, so always remember to bring water and encourage them to drink frequently.
7. Other Water Sports
I take my dog on my kayak and paddleboard all the time! Some dogs also love being on boats, but I would never force one of these activities on your pet if they do not feel comfortable. Life vests are always a good idea, even for our expert swimmers. If an injury were to occur, the vest could very well save their life.
This one may be a bit trickier, but can prove to be a lot of fun! It is important to buy the appropriate equipment that allows a dog leash to be attached directly to the bike, as opposed to holding the leash in your hand while balancing a bike.
9. Dog-Friendly Restaurants
Take a break from all the activities and relax at a dog-friendly restaurant. Taking your pet out in public can be great for socialization. Not only are they experiencing new people, animals, and noises, but they have to learn to stay calm while doing so. Simply call a restaurant in advance and ask if they allow dogs. Usually if they are allowed, it will be for outdoor seating only, so you want to plan this outing on a sunny day! It is good etiquette to keep your dog on a short leash and ensure that they do not bother other guests or dining staff.
10. Local Dog-Friendly Events
There are many local events that cater to two- and four-legged friends alike! You can find 5ks, winerys, concerts, and even PetOberfest at. Either way, just get out there and have fun with your favorite companions!