It's summertime! For many of us, the months of June, July, and August bring up memories of long days, warm weather, time off from school, and plenty of outdoor fun for the whole family—including the dogs! First thing on the summer schedule bucket list? A picnic!
When you envision a picnic, you probably imagine a perfectly sunny day with no bugs, good food, and a happy canine friend along for the fun. And while you can't always guarantee perfect weather or a great time, there are several factors you can work in your favor to help ensure that a great time is had by all—especially your pooch. So here are six tips to get you started.
1. Exercise first
Many dogs are at their highest energy level and most rambunctious when they first leave the house or exit the car. If you immediately ask your dog to sit quietly at the picnic spot, he may fidget or seem distracted. You'll both enjoy the picnic more if he's relaxed, so take him for a walk or run prior to settling down for the afternoon. A little bit of playtime with a favorite outdoor toy can make the picnic more fun for you and your dog. But after all that exercise, you'll also need to…
2. Bring plenty of water
Even if you're bringing other beverages on the picnic (soda, juice, etc.), you'll still want to have plenty of water on hand. With all the warm weather, sunshine, and outdoor activities, you may find yourself reaching for water more frequently than normal. Well, the same holds true for your dog! Pack enough water so that he has plenty even if he exercises or if the weather is warm. Occasionally refreshing his water may encourage him to drink more.
3. Stay comfortable
You and your pet will have more fun on the picnic if you have a place to get out of the sun. If there isn't any shade available, consider bringing along an outdoor umbrella or pop-up shelter/cover. Insect repellent (for both the humans and the dogs!) is also a good thing to bring, as well as sunscreen in case you are out in the open. A handy solar-powered radio can provide a bit of musical atmosphere while allowing you to keep an “ear" on the weather.
4. Keep your food safe
Food safety should be an important priority at your picnic. Cold (perishable) foods should be removed from the fridge just before leaving the house and then kept in a safe (40° F or less) cooler until meal time. Food should be kept out of direct sunlight and shouldn't be left out for more than an hour. If there is going to be a cookout at the picnic, make sure that all meats are cooked to an appropriate internal temperature (bring along a meat thermometer!) and avoid cross-contaminating other foods with utensils that have handled raw meat. And with all those good smells coming from the grill, keep your dog away!
5. Avoid dangerous treats for dogs
There may be some human foods at the picnic that are not appropriate for dogs. In fact, some human foods can be downright dangerous for dogs. (To help keep your dog safe, make sure that all the picnic guests are aware of this, too.)
Dogs should not eat:
- Grapes or raisins. This includes baked goods that contain these items, like raisin cookies, as well as the fruits themselves.
- Onions. You'd be surprised how many picnic foods include onions as an ingredient. Salads may have chopped onions in them, as well as coleslaw and baked beans. Hot dogs may use onions as a topping, and many varieties of potato chips (what's a picnic without potato chips?!) contain garlic, onion powder, or similar ingredients.
- Bones. Cold fried chicken may be a classic picnic staple, but the leftover bones are no friend to your dog, who could potentially choke on the hard, sharp pieces. Even though he may like the smell, keep him away from the fried chicken and ask that your guests do the same. Also, do a quick check of the picnic area upon arrival, since the previous users of the picnic spot may have left bones behind.
- Xylitol. This is a sugar substitute that is used as an alternative sweetener in things like candy, gum (think “sugarless gum"), and some baked goods. Xylitol can cause a number of serious health problems for dogs, so be sure to keep your dog away from this ingredient.
- Chocolate. Sorry pup, no candy bars for you!
Instead, plan on providing a few natural treats that are dog-friendly so your dog can still be part of the picnic fun. Good (and healthy!) picnic treats for dogs include banana pieces, slices of apple, cheese, baby carrots, and berries like strawberries or blueberries. But be careful not to overdo the treats, and choose treats that your dog is already used to eating. If you're going to be gone past your pet's normal meal time, pack a serving of his regular dog food.
6. Have fun!
Sometimes it's the simple things like enjoying a meal outdoors that can make us the happiest and create the best memories. Take time during the picnic to take a stroll, watch nature, tell some jokes, and just relax with your human and canine companions. Don't be so focused on making the event perfect that you actually miss it; relax and have fun!