How to Keep Your Dog Safe at Summer BBQs and Picnics


Some of the best summer memories can be made over gatherings of friends, family and food. Make sure the canine members of your family have a great time too with these helpful tips for barbecues, parties and picnics with your dog.

Who doesn’t love summer? Sunshine and warm weather make the outdoors so inviting. It’s a great time to get together with friends or family over a barbecue or picnic. As you plan your outdoor party, don’t forget to account for your furry friends. Follow these tips for help planning a dog-friendly barbecue or picnic.

Keep Your Dog Cool and Hydrated

If your dog enjoys basking in the warm weather with you and your guests, it’s important to make sure they have a place to cool down and rehydrate. Spending excessive time in the sun can cause them to overheat, which can lead to heat exhaustion, sickness, heatstroke or even death. Make sure your canine party guests have access to plenty of fresh drinking water and a shaded area to rest. It’s also a good idea to bring them inside an air-conditioned building every 15-20 minutes if temperatures are uncomfortably hot.

Grilling Safety Tips for Your Dog

To avoid the risk of injury, keep dogs away from hot grills and grilling tools. Also, be mindful of accessories such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, skewers, toothpicks, etc., that may fall on the ground or be otherwise accessible to dogs. Ingesting such items may cause sickness or injury. Even after you’re done grilling, make sure to keep dogs away from hot coals or ashes, which can stay hot for several hours and burn your dog’s paws.

BBQ and Picnic Foods Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat

The smell of burgers and brats on the grill is enough to make anyone’s mouth water, including your dog’s! While it may be tempting to give your dog small pieces of food or let them clean up dropped food and spills, human food typically is not safe for dogs to eat. Avoid giving dogs the following foods:

  • Meat on the bone – This one sounds counterintuitive; dogs love bones, right? However, bones can be a choking hazard or splinter off and puncture a dog’s internal organs.
  • Corn on the cob – While corn itself is not harmful to dogs, the corn cob can get stuck in their digestive tract if swallowed, and might require surgery to remove.
  • Whole hot dogs – Small pieces of hot dog are acceptable treats for dogs, but feeding whole hot dogs can cause choking. Hot dogs are also high in fat and calories, so be mindful when treating not to overfeed.
  • Chip dips – Chip dips such as guacamole can be harmful to dogs and cause gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Onions – Although they are more toxic to cats than dogs, onions can cause intestinal distress and should not be consumed.
  • Grapes – Grapes are toxic to your pets and should not be fed to dogs. Ingestion can result in kidney failure. Keep this in mind if you have a fruit salad on the table.
  • Desserts – Chocolate desserts are especially toxic to dogs because of the theobromine they contain. This chocolate compound is most concentrated in dark chocolate and baking chocolate, such as that found in cakes and brownies. Sugar-free desserts can also be harmful as they contain xylitol, an ingredient toxic to dogs.

Feeding your dog a few small treats while you and your guests eat can help them feel included and distract them from begging for food or becoming a bother during the meal. Keep your dog entertained longer by dispensing the treats from an interactive toy.

Banish Boredom With Toys

Dogs that are bored are more likely to get into things they shouldn’t. Minimize boredom and the risk of injury to your dogs by keeping them entertained with toys or interactive treat dispensers. Not only will your dogs be out from under foot, but they’re also less likely to sneak pieces of potentially harmful human food.

Hiking and Outdoor Activities

If you’re hiking with your dog to a picnic spot, it’s important to bring plenty of water along to keep your dog hydrated. Healthy adult dogs require 0.5-1 oz. of water per pound of their body weight each day. It’s also best to take a few short test hikes before going on a major endeavor to see how your dog responds and how much water they will need.

Remember to check for ticks on your dog after finishing a hike and remove them promptly if any are found.

Swimming Safety

Taking a dip in cool stream or lake can be a refreshing way to cool off on a hot summer day before or after a picnic. If your dog has not been in or around water before, introduce them gradually. Let your dog wade into shallow water to become familiar with it instead of taking them straight to a pool or lake where the water can be deep and overwhelming. If you plan to take your dog on a boat, make sure they wear a properly fitted canine flotation device.

Before you send out block party invites or pack up that picnic basket this summer, remember to plan ahead and take a few simple safety steps so you, your guests and your dogs can all enjoy some summer barbecue fun.

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