Activities For Dogs In The Desert

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Introduction

Do you and your pooch live in the desert or are planning a road trip to a desert locale?  No matter what time of year, summer or winter, the desert can get hot.  Don't let the snowbirds and other fair weather desert visitors pull one over on you with the old saying, "but it's a dry heat."  The desert can get unbearably hot all year round and it is important to be prepared before going outside, especially with your dog. Dogs, unlike us, wear the same coat year round, though some dogs may shed hair during the summer months.  Despite the rising temperatures in the desert, dog owners can find many activities to do with their faithful friends.  Getting outdoors and into the desert can be a rewarding experience for both you and your dog.

Take a Desert Hike

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Normal
1 hour
Items needed
Water Supply with Water Bowl
Leash or Harness
Dog Boots
First Aid Kit
Activity description

Desert hikes, no matter what time of the year, can be great fun for you and your dog.  Sunny days or overcast days are best, and dog owners want to avoid hot or rainy days on the trails.  When planning a hike with your dog, you must be aware of the weather conditions.  Summertime in desert locations gets hot, and many trails issue heat advisories.  Hikers should always take heat warnings seriously, especially with their dog along since they cannot tell you how hot they are.  In the summer, it's best to take early morning hikes when the temperatures are at their lowest.  Zenith hikes are never suggested at any point in the year since the sun is at its hottest and brightest between noon and 3:00 pm.  In the winter, late afternoon hikes, just before sunset are ideal for you and your pooch. This activity can range in price depending on parking and admission to the trailhead as well as some of the gear.  Dog boots are important if your dog will wear them because they will prevent thorns and rocks from getting stuck in their feet.  A dog-geared first aid kit is also necessary and should include tweezers and dog tape to remove any sharp desert flora from your dog's coat.  Finally, your dog must have a leash or harness on the trail for their safety as well as others.        

Step
1
Plan your hike
Start by looking for a trail that is suited to your level of hiking expertise as well as your dog's. Not all trails are easy for dogs and the more they have to work, the harder it will be for them. During this step, you want to check the weather forecast as well. If it's too hot or there's rain in the forecast, put your hike off until another day.
Step
2
Grab your gear
Water is essential when hiking in the desert. The air is dry, and it will quickly wick the moisture from you and your dog. While on the trail, monitor your dog's breathing and panting and keep them hydrated. Depending on the terrain, you may want to outfit your dog with boots, so they don't cut their feet or get rocks and other materials stuck in their paws. Most hikers carry a fanny-pack or a light backpack. Be sure to include a first aid kit for your dog.
Step
3
Review your route
Before you hit the trail, be sure to check in at the trailhead. Many trailheads have log books that hikers sign when paying for parking or trail admission. This lets the Forest Rangers know you are out there. Also, review the trails and know exactly where you are going. Many trails are marked with trail names and have mile markers to let you know how far you've hiked. Be sure to follow your designated trail and if you deviate, always stay on a trail and mentally record your progress. Heading off into the open desert is dangerous as well as disruptive to the desert environment. Above all, always keep your dog on the leash or harness, so they don't run off after a jackrabbit or potentially frighten another hiker on the trail.
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Day at the Dog Park

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Any Day
Free
Easy
1 to 2 hours
Items needed
Balls
Water Dish
Activity description
Many desert environments have green spaces for its residents and visitors.  The desert, while full of life and soft muted colors, often lacks the vivid greens that we find in wetter climates.  City and community planners alike understand the need to see green, so parks have sprung up everywhere in these desert communities.  Dog parks in the desert are some of the best spaces to find green and a lot of happiness.  Many dog owners take their pups to the dog parks on a daily or weekly basis for socialization and play time.  With the exception of extremely hot summer days, a visit to the dog park is ideal for almost any kind of weather.  Heavy rains might not be the best but a light rain will not hurt.  Most dog parks have an abundance of shade and offer running water for the dogs.  However, it is a good idea to always be prepared with your own water supply and way to let your dog drink.  Toys are also an essential part of this activity but don't bring your dog's favorite toys as they may become territorial over them.
Step
1
Find a park
A quick internet search in your area should give you a list of the dog parks in your area as well as the features of the park. You can plan your dog park activity based on the information you find on the desired park but if this is your first time visiting the dog park, always be prepared with water.
Step
2
Invite a friend
One of the benefits of a community dog park is they give your dog an opportunity to socialize with other dogs. Socialization is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle for your dog. If you have a friend with dogs, let them know you're heading to the park or pre-plan a doggy date, so your pooch has a companion to run around with and play.
Step
3
Get off the bench and play
The dog park is an enclosed green space that is supposed to be a safe zone for your dog. That doesn't mean you turn them loose and catch up on the latest social media feeds on your phone. Playtime is crucial for your dog, and they want to engage with you and with other dogs. Grab the ball, the Frisbee, or the tug-o-rope and play with your dog. Run around with the dogs and have fun. Staying engaged with the action is for your dog's safety as well as the safety of everyone else using the park. You can anticipate and stay vigilant with your dog's safety when you are an active participant at the dog park.
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Head to the Water

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Easy
2 hours
Items needed
Dog Life Vest (optional)
Leash
Ball that Floats
Activity description

Many deserts, despite their reputations for being dry, hard climates, have plenty of water spaces.  Lakes and rivers are found throughout the Southwest that many people frequent year round and most dogs love the water.  Sunny or overcast days are the best days to go to the lake or river, and people should avoid rainy days altogether.  Rain can sometimes bring flash flooding in the desert, which is a dangerous event.  Always check the weather forecast and don't recreate during or just after a rainstorm, especially if it rained upstream. If you're boating with your dog, bring a dog life vest.  All dogs can swim but not for extended periods of time.  You always want to be on the safe side when out on the water.  Additionally, keep your dog on their leash until you find the perfect spot to let them loose in the water.  Be sure your dog is welcome in the water and try not to be too disruptive to those fishing nearby.  A nice secluded space is ideal for doggy water sports.  Lastly, bring a ball that floats for this activity.      

Step
1
Find a dog friendly water spot
Not all water spots are dog-friendly. Do your research ahead of time and find a water spot where you can safely bring Fido. You can check with the Forest Service or do an internet search to find dog-friendly spots. Ask your other dog owner friends for their best ideas for water cool down places in the desert as well. Once you have your spot picked out, check the weather forecast to be sure there's no rain on the way.
Step
2
Grab your dog gear
Even though you are going to the water, be sure to grab a water supply and a way to let your dog drink. You want to prevent your pooch from drinking lake or natural running water because it can carry bacteria. Also, if you're planning on taking a boat out, make sure you pack your dog's life vest for safety. A leash and a ball or other floating toy will complete your dog's necessary gear.
Step
3
Monitor your dog's activity in the water
Once you have found your water spot, you can take your dog off their leash. If a visit to the water is old hat for your pooch, they will jump right on in. However, never force your dog into the water and if you plan on playing fetch in the water, start by throwing the tennis ball or another floating toy close to shore, so your dog doesn't have to go far at first. You want always to be aware of your dog's activity in and around water. They can tire out quickly, which becomes dangerous in water. Heavy panting or struggling to swim are clear signs your dog needs a rest, some fresh water to drink, and maybe a treat for being such a good companion.
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More Fun Ideas...

Dog Friendly Patio Outings

One of the benefits of living in the desert is the year-round sunny days.  They are perfect for playing outside but also perfect for dining outside.  Many patios in desert communities allow dog access.  Bringing your pooch for brunch at your favorite patio on a Sunday is relaxing and fun.  Your dog will experience many sights, sounds, and smells to keep their mind active and sharp as well.

Local Dog Events in the Desert

No matter where you are, you can find local events geared forward your dog.  Some fun events might be a dog's day at the desert botanical gardens or a visit to the zoo.  Local rescues and pet supply stores in your community usually have the skinny on local dog-related activities in the community so that you can check there first.

Conclusion

There are many paw-sible activities for you and your dog in the desert.  Don't get discouraged by hot, dry days either.  The one thing to always remember during any desert activity is to bring fresh water for your pooch and plan ahead for your day in the sun.  From cool morning hikes to misty patios for Sunday brunch, the desert-bound dog will love being outdoors by your side.