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Celebrate summer with your pet — Canadian style

Celebrate summer with your pet — Canadian style - Dog in swimming pool

To say that we love summer is probably an understatement — and we’re pretty sure our pets feel the same way.

The season is short and sweet and packed with so many opportunities to celebrate with our pets — from street festivals to park hangs to long weekend getaways.

This year, we’re looking forward to making the most of our time together while making some memories that will take us all the way through those long Canadian winters.

To maximize our summer-in-Canada fun, we reached out to some experts for tips and pointers on how to celebrate the season in a way that is fun, safe, and memorable for pets and pet parents. Here’s what they had to say:

Summer is better together

When the sun is shining and the weather’s warm, staying inside just isn’t an option. The great Canadian outdoors is calling for us to come and explore, whether it’s at a street festival in the city, lakeside at a cottage, or deep in the wilder parts of our beautiful country.

Of course, pet parents want their bestie at their side. The key is to involve them in the fun in a way that makes them feel comfortable and happy.

In situations that involve lots of people (and potentially lots of other pets), an early and frequent social introduction is your best tool. “It's all about socialization,” says veterinarian Dr. Garrett Schuilenberg. “It’s as simple as that — and the earlier the better.” He also recommends heel training in order to keep your pup focused on you in situations where there are a larger than normal number of distractions.

“You can have them by your side and constantly reward them for being quiet, staying near you, and not freaking out,” he says. Pet parents should be sure to keep a steady supply of treats, patience, and positive verbal reinforcement on hand for these special occasions.

Boom! How to deal with fireworks and thunderstorm fears - Cat looking out the window

Boom! How to deal with fireworks and thunderstorm fears

Summer features both big, exciting events we choose to take our pets to and big, exciting events our pets may prefer to avoid but can’t (think: Canada Day fireworks and epic summer thunderstorms).

As pet parents, it’s up to us to understand our pet’s capacity for enjoying (or enduring) big crowds and loud noises. Some pets want to be included in everything we do but can still experience stress in certain situations. For them, there are a host of solutions ranging from calming products to training solutions and vet-prescribed sedating medications.

“We have calming products that we find help,” says Pet Valu’s Director of Merchandising Corey D’Mello.

“We have been looking at toys, because similar to kids, when pets get scared, they want something familiar to hold. They’re clothes that help a pet feel like they’re almost being held.”

“Calming supplements are obviously great,” adds D’Mello. “We find that those work really well. And treats! Treats are another good trick. It's an easy distraction: whenever there are fireworks, give a treat, especially something from our occupancy lineup that takes a pet’s attention away for a certain amount of time.”

He continues: “We know that the fireworks likely start to go off as the sun goes down. So if you give your dog or cat a treat, like a chew, frozen kong treat or lick mat that lasts a little longer, it might distract them a little bit from what's going on outside.”

For pets that have an extreme reaction to thunder or firecrackers, medication might be the answer.

“For special events that you want the dog to come to, I don't think it's a bad thing to consider sedation medications,” says Dr. Schuilenberg.

“Something like Trazodone, where our intention is not to knock the dog out so it doesn't even remember the fireworks but just to really relax them so it's much less of a stressful event for them. Some supplements — sprays, collars, and things like that — may help as well.”

Dr. Schuilenberg says that our pets can also be conditioned to fear fireworks or thunderstorms by our reactions as pet parents.

“When there are fireworks or when there are thunderstorms for the first time, the dog is concerned because they have no idea what this is — this is their first time experiencing it. I think our instinct is to cuddle the dog, to use soothing voices, and to hold them,” he says.

“That can actually have the opposite effect [than we’re looking for]. Over time, they learn they're getting positive reinforcement for being afraid. You're teaching them that whenever there's a storm, whenever there's loud noises outside, you should be afraid of this and we should snuggle up in my bed and hide.”

Instead, desensitization and distraction are the techniques pet parents should consider in these types of situations, Dr. Schuilenberg advises.

“So when there are fireworks or thunderstorms don't coddle or cuddle. Get your pet to sit, do clicker training, give them treats, use happy voices to make it feel like a celebration. I see a lot of dogs that are afraid of fireworks and I think it's actually not as hard as we think to prevent that.”

Let’s go for a swim! - Dog Shaking off water

Let’s go for a swim!

Your pet probably has strong feelings about water: they may love it more than anything else on the planet or tolerate it in one place only (their water dish).

For water-hesitant pets, desensitization can work well. Make sure to take it slow and be encouraging rather than demanding. Reward their efforts to conquer the lake at a cottage or the bathtub at home with treats and praise. Or use high-value, floating toys to tempt them to make a splash and join in on the fun.

Got a nautical pet? Whether you’re kayaking or yachting with your animal this summer, D’Mello suggests they (just like kids) should wear life jackets.

“We have a number of life jackets, which we recommend that your pets wear anytime they go into the water. It's good safety.” The jackets will not only provide floatation support, but high visibility, as well as easy-to-grab handles if you need to hold onto your pet.

For water-averse pets, there are other ways to keep cool on a hot day. “The one thing that we've learned over time is that the need for cooling is significant,” says D’Mello. “And while we don't have a long season, sometimes we do have some significant temperatures that could put your animal at risk.”

Pet Valu focuses on cooling in a number of fun ways. “Previously, it used to be mats and cooling jackets,” he says. “Now we've gone into cooling toys, things that you can freeze and then use to play with your pets so it's fun and interactive for them.”

Cooling boots, bandanas, and even hats are other options for keeping pets from overheating on a summer day, as well as water bowls with frozen inserts that keep pets’ water icy and refreshing for hours.

Vacation time is (extra) bonding time

The slower pace of summer often includes more time to invest in strengthening the bond we have with our pets. Coming out of more widespread stay-at-home work scenarios, many pet parents are shifting back towards more time in the office.

It’s a big adjustment not only for us but for our pets who have grown used to having us around more frequently.

Long weekends, shorter work days, and summer vacation offer the opportunity to include pets in fun and exciting summer activities, while at the same time investing in some extra training that may help them deal with work-related absences throughout the year.

When it comes to summertime bonding with his pug, D’Mello likes to be sure to include the pup in whatever he’s doing.

Pet Valu carries an assortment of summer-specific treats for pets including ice creams, pupsicles, and grill-themed items that mimic the hotdogs or hamburgers us humans are enjoying all season.

If D’Mello is having an icy treat, his pug gets a pet-safe one too; if he’s barbecuing, his dog gets a cheeseburger snack so they feel included — even if they can’t have what’s actually sizzling away on the grill.

D’Mello also recommends bonding over interactive toys and games for pets. These are things you can play with together but that will also serve to entertain, stimulate, and occupy pets when you have to be away from them. “A couple of things that really do well when it comes to distractions are the slow feeders,” he explains.

“You spread a little peanut butter and it takes a while for the dog to try to get all of it out from all the crevices. There’s also interactive games where you hide the treats inside and you let them dig around and play with it. These come in multiple stages. So if you have an advanced, very smart dog that can problem solve, you buy a higher stage toy.”

Simpler versions also exist for dogs who may get frustrated with a complicated toy.

Staying safe is a top summer priority - Woman in a tent with her dog

Staying safe is a top summer priority

Longer days and later nights require a little extra vigilance on the part of pet parents — along with all the fun and excitement the season offers comes wildlife encounters, extreme heat, as well as insects and parasites.

 

Start the season off by making sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that they are on a high-quality program for flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. If your dog is a big swimmer, regular fecal testing is a smart way to monitor for common waterborne parasites like Giardia.

  

Another powerful tool to keep your pet safe? A simple, strong leash.

D’Mello likes to use reflective leashes, collars, and harnesses for those late-night summertime walks with his pug.

 

“The reflective element is important,” he says, adding, “We have a couple of leashes that actually glow in the dark, which are cool. Sometimes our pets are walking two or three feet in front of us and it's good to have the reflectors on them to make sure that other people can see them. Especially as the weather starts to become warmer later at night and people tend to stay out more. It's a good safety tip.”

Leashes are important too, when you and your pet are out exploring nature. Canada is home to a wealth of wildlife and you never know when you might cross paths with a skunk, porcupine, or even a bear. Having control of your pet can help keep both of you out of harm’s way.

 

Like us, some pets love the sunny summer heat while others prefer to hang out in the comfort of an air-conditioned home. For all pets, however, the high temperatures and humidity of hot summer days can present difficulties and sometimes danger. Above all: never, ever leave any pet in a hot car, or without access to shade or fresh water.

 

Take extra care with older or very young pets who may be especially susceptible to high temperatures. Make sure your pets always have access to fresh water and schedule walks or outdoor play time during the parts of the day when it’s a bit cooler (early mornings or later in the evening).

 

This summer, we hope that you embrace the season with your furry bestie and make it one to remember.

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