Summer is a time for outdoor fun, but this year the United States is suffering from well above-average temperatures nationwide. This puts many of our beloved past times at risk, including enjoying outdoor activities with our dogs.

Don’t fret, preparation and modifications can help you still get the most out of the warm weather – your dog at your side. Below are several tips on how to keep your dog happy and healthy in the heat:

Provide shade and water
When temperatures soar, it’s harder for dogs to find relief from heat than their human counterparts. This is because dogs don’t “sweat” in the traditional sense. Instead, they lose heat through panting and dilation of the blood vessels along the surface of the skin. In fact, dogs can only truly sweat from their paws.

To aid in their cooling process, make sure your dog has access to shade and water on all outdoor excursions. If you are unable to provide either, it may be best to rethink your plans as heat stroke can quickly occur in extreme heat.

Adjust your walks
Mid-afternoon walks may need to be a thing kept to cooler seasons. As things warm up in the afternoon, the sidewalks and pavement also warm and can get too hot for exposed paws. The rule of thumb is that if the sidewalk is too hot for the back of your hand to be held on it for 5 seconds, then it’s not safe for the dog’s feet.

Instead, opt for early morning walks to beat the sun – but watch out for the humidity as this can be just as bad as the glaring sun. Or take walks in the evenings as the sun sets. This will allow you to miss the hottest parts of the day but still capitalize on enjoyable weather and exercise.

Use creative methods to protect your dog from heat
Not all dogs love the water, but if your dog does then take advantage of that! Buying a kiddie pool or making trips to a local swimming hole is a great way to exercise and cool your dog at the same time.

If you’re introducing your dog to water play, consider using a sprinkler first. This option tends to even entice the most water-avert dogs. Additionally, offer your dog frozen toys – these can be stuffed Kongs placed in the freezer, frozen treats, or frozen bones. Anything that is cooling while providing mental stimulation is a great option during the summer.

And finally, be sure to put sunscreen on your dog’s exposed skin. That’s right, dogs can burn or develop skin cancer just like humans. Take this extra precaution to protect the ears, noses, chins, and paws.