Family Fun Month

Did you know that August is National Family Fun Month? As students go back to school and we roll into the home stretch of summer, spending time with family members and loved ones is a great way to de-stress, get moving, and have fun! But Family Fun Month isn’t exclusive to people. We can include our furry friends in family activities to spend more time together, increase the human-animal bond, and remind our pets how much we love them. The Colorado climate and landscapes offer amazing opportunities for hikes, mountain getaways, water play, and more. But sometimes a night in with cuddles, indoor play, and watching movies is what you and your family needs. No matter what the activity, prioritize family time to better your physical, mental, and emotional well being.

Outdoor Activities

Hiking is a perfect way to enjoy nature, stay in shape, and bond with your family. Many dogs enjoy it as well– just make sure you bring along a water dish to keep them hydrated. Even cats can hike if they have a harness and have been vaccinated against outdoor diseases (ask your veterinarian for more information on how to keep your outdoor cat healthy). Use your best judgment when considering the difficulty level of hikes to take your pets on. Factor their size, breed, stamina, health conditions, and body condition (overweight, underweight, or just right).  Pets generally do best on flat and 5-10 mile hikes. After a lighter hike, you and your pet can work up to more difficult and long trails. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash or under voice control at all times when you hike or walk with them.

To get started on hikes, here are a few pet-friendly and easy hikes we love. The Rawhide Trail in White Ranch Park (Golden) has lots of shade and is about 5 miles around the loop. Check out the Alderfer Three Sisters park in Evergreen for a variety of 2-7 mile trails. The Royal Arch trail in Boulder is just 3.5 miles but is more rocky and steep, which can offer an exciting challenge for you and your pets once you are more experienced. Find more pet-friendly hikes in Colorado here.

If your pets don’t get along with car rides, or finding a place to hike isn’t feasible for your family, local walks are still a fantastic option. When walking for longer than 30 minutes, bring a water bottle and dish for your furry friend so they can stop to re-hydrate. This timing may depend on your pet: if they are panting excessively and slowing down, it’s time for a break. Make sure to take walks at times that are not during full sun. In the heat of the summer, our best recommendation is to take your walks before 9am and after 7pm. This will help decrease the risks of dehydration and heatstroke.

Though Colorado is a land-locked state, there are still ways to enjoy water play. Turn on the sprinklers or use a pet-safe splash pad or kiddie pool if your dog loves water at home. You may also be interested in lakes such as Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Union Reservoir in Longmont, and Sloan’s Lake Park in Denver. Before bringing your furry friend to a lake, ensure that pets are allowed during the time of year you are visiting.

Want to bring up the adventure another notch? You may even plan a mountain getaway with your family and pets. At Harmony Vet Center, we love the Great Sand Dunes National Park for camping, Vail Pass/Frisco for biking and small-town shopping, and Estes Park for a combination of the most popular mountain activities and relaxation.

Whenever bringing your pet on a trip, make sure to conduct research and make sure every area you visit is pet friendly. Learn more about pet travel tips on our blog. Spending time outdoors strengthens the bond between pets and people and still shows how much you love your furry friends without the need for physical touch or downtime. Integrate a variety of activities into your free time in a way that works best for you and your family.

Indoor Activities

Get cuddled up during any time of the day to show your love and appreciation for your pets. When cuddling with your pets, watch their body language to see where they are most comfortable if it is time for a break. Some pets just enjoy spending time close together, even if you aren’t touching. Cuddling is so great because it stimulates oxytocin production in the brain. Oxytocin is a hormone in both pets and people associated with love, trust, and empathy. It also inhibits cortisol production. This is important because cortisol is a hormone synonymous with stress. Cuddle with your pet to lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, and even improve the immune system. 

You can also get cozy on the couch by doing activities together, even if your pet isn’t quite as invested in the show as you are. We enjoy television such as New Girl, Queer Eye, and Stranger Things. Movies such as Legally Blonde, Star Wars, and The Breakfast Club are classics that even our pets can quote! Want to try an animal-themed film with your furry friends? We recommend Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, 101 Dalmatians, and A Dog’s Purpose (if you don’t mind crying, that is). Some pets may not be as interested in the TV as others, and that’s okay. Stimulate your furry friends with multiple avenues of fun – both on and off the screen.

At Harmony Vet Center, we also enjoy reading and crafting with our pets. Even if they can’t understand what we’re saying, dogs and cats love the sound of their family’s voices and may benefit from a story read allowed. You can also make a paw print keepsake with air-dry clay, painting or drawing your pet, or making a photoshoot of your furry friend. Find more simple crafts that involve your pets here.

Playtime and training is a super fun family activity to get everyone’s mind stimulated and bond over a common goal, whether that’s teaching your dog (or cat) to fetch or getting that treat. Short, consistent training sessions of just a few minutes at a time have been seen to have the most effective results, and watch your pet’s body language in case they become stressed. Learn more about training tips on our blog. Dogs love games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and finding hidden treats. Cats love these games, too! Consider toys that make a game out of getting treats or catnip to stimulate your furry friend and keep them busy during the day.

How do you and your family have fun together? Find activities that everyone in the family enjoys, and look into including your pets into the fun when you can. Celebrate Family Fun Month by having the best August yet!