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Summer Dog Exercise: Six Ways to Keep Fido Cool and Happy

Here are our protips to keep your pup safe, happy, and exercised during the warmer months.

by Claudia Kawczynska
June 1, 2021
Labrador Retriever and Dachsund playing with a stick at the beach shoreline
Luis Velasco // Stocksy

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

Ah, late summer — the land of twilight walks with your pup after long days doing the doggy paddle at the beach. While exercise is crucial to you and your pet’s health, it’s important to remember that the soaring temperatures can be harmful and easily lead to overexertion. Your dog doesn’t need as much exercise in hot weather and should be eased into any activity during the summer

Here are our protips to keep your pup safe, happy, and exercised this season:

Become an early bird – or a night owl.

If you normally go on your daily walks during the day, it might be time to set your clock back or push it forward to stroll safely. Whether you choose to get up early or stay up late, your pup will appreciate the cooler temperatures when the sun isn’t high overhead.

Swim in the lake…or in the kiddie pool!

It may seem like a no-brainer, but water is the perfect solution to hot weather exercise. Whether you live by the beach, a gentle river is a walk away, or a lake is within driving distance, getting your pup into cool water is a perfect way to get some physical activity in the summer. 

If water isn’t nearby, try setting up a pup pool in your yard. This is also a great alternative for dogs who are afraid of deep or shifting water. Ramp up the fun by including water toys like floating frisbees, splash balls, and decoy ducks. Some dogs will even dive for their toys.

Before taking your pooch on the water, be sure they can swim (not all dogs do). Buckle them into a canine lifejacket if you’ll be on a fast-moving river or open water. Too much water might also not be a good thing — it can lead to water intoxication that can result in life-threatening hyponatremia (excessively low sodium levels).

Take to the trees for a shady forest hike.

Hiking is another great source of exercise for you and for your pup. If you have any forest trails nearby, the shade can provide a perfect respite from the hot summer sun. Plus, the dirt trails stay cool and ensure that your buddy’s paws won’t get scorched!

Wet your pup’s belly and paws to keep them cool.

If your only option is to exercise when it’s hot, bring a wet, frozen cloth or a bottle of water along. The belly and paws are great areas to dampen and are more effective at keeping your dog cool than his back. Bring along extra water for drinking and a small, collapsible bowl. Remember: if you need a water break, so does your pup.

Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion.

During summertime exercise, one of the most important things to watch for is heat exhaustion in your pet. Excessive panting, lethargy, confusion, and bright red gums and/or tongue are all signs of heat stroke. Additionally, if your pup lies down and refuses to get up, they need water and a break. Never force a dog to keep going if he exhibits these signs; get them to a shady, cool place to rest and recover.


Remember that dogs can get sunburned too! Sunscreen is crucial for dogs with sparse, light colored hair. Baby sunscreen doesn’t contain toxic chemicals and is safe to use on your pets. Just keep away from sunscreen with zinc oxide, as it is deadly to dogs if ingested. 

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Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.