The dog days of summer are in full effect in the ’burgh, leaving many Pittsburgh pups and their people looking for cool ways to beat the heat and soak up every ounce of summer fun that they can.
If you’re looking to shake up your summer alongside your furry friend, check out these five boredom-busting activities sure to get Pittsburgh dogs’ tails wagging.
1. Treat Yo’self
I scream, you scream, we all—er, bark for ice cream, and I’ve got just the place to stop by with your furry friend: Salty Paws!
Situated in Lawrenceville on bustling Butler Street, Salty Paws is the first doggie ice cream bar in Pennsylvania filled with colorful baked treats, a bone bar, toys, quality leashes and collars, apparel and accessories, and, of course, ice cream.
Owner Jessica serves up eight standard and four seasonal flavors like blueberry, carob, peanut butter, and vanilla, all of which can be topped with your dog’s preferred toppings, including dehydrated venison, rabbit, and beef.
Hunter suggests sampling her maple bacon flavor with rabbit…but refusing to eat it unless your mom spoon feeds it to you like the deserving prince or princess you are. (#truestory.)
And while you could eat its all-natural, human-grade, sugar- and lactose-free ice cream, I recommend the two-minute walk down Butler Street to NatuRoll Creamery to try Pittsburgh’s original rolled ice cream with its more than 60,000 different ingredient combinations. (It’s OK—no one’s judging if you drool a little too.)
2. Make a Splash
Do you have a water-loving companion? He’ll agree that there’s no better way to cool off than by belly-flopping into one of western Pennsylvania’s gorgeous lakes or doing his best submarine impression along a beautiful tree-lined creek that runs through his favorite park!
Swimming is a low-impact, stress-relieving activity that provides one of the most complete forms of exercise. (Did you know that one minute of swimming is equivalent to four minutes of running?) Encouraging your pup to make a splash helps strengthen his lungs and heart, improves range of motion, decreases inflammation, boosts metabolism, improves circulation, and enhances muscle tone. Swimming is also safe and comfortable for those with joint disorders, arthritis, or dysplasia as well as senior and overweight dogs.
Before diving in, keep the following tips in mind:
- Check that your desired swimming spot is dog-friendly. Most unguarded beaches and unmarked swimming areas usually allow pets.
- Plan to supervise your dog closely.
- Invest in a life jacket to help keep your dog afloat, particularly if he’s new to swimming or has a breed-specific build that makes swimming more challenging.
- Be mindful of rough water, rip tides, fast-flowing streams, and large waves.
- Keep your pup on a long waterproof lead for added precaution.
- Avoid stagnant water caused by slow summer flow. Hot temperatures can cause a rise in brain-eating amoeba and blue-green algae, which you’re most likely to encounter in warm, standing water, and which can be toxic and fatal to dogs.
Lakes and streams not your thing? Check out:
- Lucky Paws Pet Resort in Freedom with its 3,000 square foot, zero-entry swimming pool.
- Sewickley’s Misty Pines Pet Company and Dog Park where your dog can dock dive and swim in its spring-fed pond.
- The Dog Stop in Upper St. Clair that boasts an outdoor splash park complete with a fire hydrant sprinkler and gushing tennis ball.
- Allegheny County’s Pooches in the Pool day, held annually over Labor Day weekend to mark the end of summer.
3. Host a BBQ Pawty
Nothing says summer quite like a BBQ, so why not invite the neighbors—two- and four-legged—over for a casual cookout!
Most dogs can safely enjoy many of the foods their human counterparts can. Bite-sized pieces of hot dogs, hamburger or bun-less sliders, grilled vegetables like zucchini or sweet potato, seedless watermelon, and small servings of grilled fish and meat are all healthy and delicious options.
If you feeling creative, bake up a batch of homemade cheddar and beef dog treats shaped into mini burgers, tacos, and corndogs, or arrange a beautiful “barkuterie board” of your dog’s favorite foods, including dog-approved fruits and veggies, mounds of chews and dried treats, special “sauces” like non-fat plain yogurt or peanut butter, and protein-filled hard-boiled eggs, boneless fish, and low-fat cheeses.
Too hot to grill? No time to hunt down dog-friendly recipes? Head to Three Dog Bakery located on Beaver Street in the heart of Sewickley and stock up on cute summer-themed desserts and treats.
For even more fun, fill a kiddie pool filled with colorful plastic balls or empty plastic water bottles and let the furry guests will go wild bobbing for hot dogs, hide tasty treats around the backyard to encourage some nose work in the backyard during a treat hunt, set up a homemade agility course for them to race through, or invite them into the pool to cool down.
Don’t forget to send each pawty pup home with their own “sWag bag” filled with treats-to-go, a mini bone treat cutter, and playful themed toys, like this Bark Bros. two-pack plush squeaky Barklight Barkweiser toy or this five-piece P.L.A.Y. American Classic Mini Squeaky Dog Toy set that can be divvied up among several goodie bags.
4. Put Your Tails to the Trails
Getting outdoors is essential to your best friend’s mental and physical well-being; doing so creates a bonding experience between you, serves as an affordable and fun boredom reducer, adds variety to his daily walks, provides opportunities for social interactions, improves his endurance and fitness, and promotes better sleep.
If you’re planning a warm-weather hike, consider heading out in the early hours before the heat of the day peaks to prevent your adventure from becoming too strenuous for your dog. Give him plenty of time to rest and cool off in shady spots along the trails and keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Related: Helping Your Pet Beat the Heat During Summer Sessions
When preparing for your summer hike, be sure to bring:
- a portable, lightweight container with plenty of water to keep your pup hydrated.
- a canine first-aid kit.
- a cooling bandana, vest, or collar to help dissipate your dog’s body heat.
- a durable, trail-tested leash, harness, and collar with ID tags and current contact information.
- a properly-fit dog pack.
- all-terrain dog boots.
- microfiber towels.
- flea and tick protection.
- bite-sized snacks and treats.
- earth-friendly poop bags in accordance with the “Leave No Trace” outdoor principles.
You’ll find many of these four-legger hiking essentials locally at Wagsburgh, Petagogy, Healthy Pet Products, and 3 Rivers Outdoor Company.
Outdoor recreation retailer REI Co-Op Outdoor School Market Coordinator, Megan Green Wells, also has some great suggestions for hiking or backpacking with your dog.
5. Play Ball at PNC Park’s Pup Night
Take you and your dog out to the ballgame when Pup Nights return to PNC Park. A limited number of rooftop tickets (for sections 335-339) include complimentary admission for your furry friend to enjoy all the excitement and entertainment of a Pirates game. Talk about putting the tail in tailgate party!
Please note that in addition to this event’s special ticket, a signed release and waiver, and proof of current rabies vaccination must be presented at the gate. Due to the popularity of Pup Nights and limited tickets, PNC Park recommends that you purchase yours early to ensure availability.
Is a pet photography session on your summer bucket list? I’d love to chat availability and about all the ways we can tailor your session to your pup’s favorite things! Choose your adventure below to begin.