Dear Gail: We’ve just moved from Chicago as we’re so over the cold weather, snowstorms and gearing up just to get to work. We know that the Las Vegas summers are hot, and although we’re not sure if we’re ready, at least we don’t have to shovel heat. We have two dogs and are in the process of designing our backyard. Do you have any Las Vegas weather puppy tips? — Vini
Dear Vini: I agree on not having to shovel heat. I grew up in New York, and I still remember the time my brother and I had to shovel the driveway before our parents came home, only to have the snow plow push it all back. As I get older, I find I’m less tolerant of the heat but will take it over the cold any day.
Although we’ve had great winter weather and a fairly cool spring, the dog days of summer are upon us. You’ll enjoy spending more time outdoors but will find that in Las Vegas we are challenged with our blistering heat.
Your pups will spend more time indoors during those 100-plus-degree days, but I’m sure they will also want to be with you when you’re outside. So as you plan to get your backyard summer ready, here are a few ways to make your yard more pet-friendly this summer.
n Safety is more important than decor. There are many safety concerns in our backyards, so plants, landscaping materials and surface selections need to be on the top of our list. Dogs especially love to chew. Some plants are not compatible with dogs and, if ingested, can cause serious health problems.
Along with plants, we must look into what they are stepping on. Are there toxins that can be harmful when absorbed by their paws or when they lick them? Please take the time to visit the ASPCA Poison Control website for more information.
n If you don’t have a pool or don’t want your pup in it, create their own water park. Instead of placing the kiddie pool on top of the grass, put it in the ground. Pick one that is shallow enough for your pet to easily get in and out of and is a safe size for them.
Also, putting in the ground will keep them from chewing it up or dragging it around or through the doggie door, as we’ve all seen on the hilarious YouTube video. You can surround it with pavers or even incorporate it into your pool design.
Now, yes, you will have to drain it, but there are simple siphons you can get at any home improvement store. There are even cute pools shaped like bones that claim to be chew resistant.
n Consider a pondless fountain like a floor or planter fountain water feature. They’ll have fun trying to catch the water while you enjoy watching them and listening to the serene sound of the flowing water. Since Las Vegas is a water-crisis area, don’t run it all day, just when you’re home so you and Fido can both enjoy it.
n We now have water for them to play in and play with, but more important is water for them to drink. My girls have three different places for water — with their beds, in the kitchen and on the patio.
Instead of plain water bowls, I put them in decorative planters and incorporated them with the other planters on my patio. If you have larger dogs, you use different heights.
n Always have a shaded area under which they can cool down. They sunburn just like us, especially short-haired dogs. Whether a dog house with air conditioning and/or misters (yes, my girlfriend had both for her pups) or a fun puppy cabana with a thatched roof, be creative. You can find hundreds of ideas on Pinterest.
n Just like us, they like to sit back and relax. My Millie is a sun worshiper, so she prefers the cool deck before the afternoon sun. Matilda likes her own fluffy pillow, which I’ve made out of Crypton fabric. Water runs right off these fabrics, which makes them perfect for pets and especially outdoors.
If your little or big one likes a chair of his or her own, take a thrift store Adirondack chair and cut the legs off to make it pet height. You can buy them specifically for pets or make it a DIY project and save money for those patio parties.
Ottomans also make a great place for them to lie. If you have little ones, you can adjust the height by changing the legs.
n If it’s hot on your feet, it’s hot for them also. Bring color and pattern to your patio with an area rug. Buy one made for the outdoors or something inexpensive that will last a couple seasons.
If you have artificial grass, remember it’s plastic and gets piping hot. We put up an automatic awning to cover it during the day. Yes, we already know we’re crazy puppy parents.
On one last note, since you are new to Las Vegas: Never, ever leave your pups outside in the heat without plenty of water and shade. And never leave them in your car without the air conditioning running, even for a few minutes. That crack you left in your window doesn’t allow proper air flow.
I know people feel that 80 degrees isn’t all that bad, but test it yourself and you’ll find you won’t last five minutes. Enough said on that, but I feel it’s important to spread the word.
Have a fun, safe and puppy-friendly summer.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to GMJinteriors@gmail.com. Or mail to 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her web address is www.GMJinteriors.com.