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Top 4 Dog and Kid-Friendly Summer Activities

Ruffwear Ambassador Maria Christina Schultz is an outdoor enthusiast, certified stand up paddleboard instructor, and author. Her dogs are her constant companions. Maria's pack recently grew with the addition of her son. Here, she shares her tips for 4 dog and kid-friendly summer outings, plus dog training and gear advice to get you started.

A woman sits on the grass in a park with her baby in a stroller and two dogs.

Muddy Paws & Diaper Changes: Our New Normal

My friends laugh at me when I say this, but it’s true – I’m a working breed! I need a job, and I need to keep moving. Slowing down is not something I’m wired for. But after having a baby last year, I’ve been forced to do just that. It’s been an adjustment filled with frustration, tears, laughs, and a lot of extra wet wipes.

Who’s coming? What gear do we need? Did I pack enough diapers? What trail will be the least crowded? Sometimes I’m worn out before we even get to the trailhead. But with summer in full swing, I’m more restless than ever. Getting out with the dogs is important because even the smallest adventure refills my cup.

A woman holds her baby and smiles at her three dogs.

Now we can’t go as hard as we used to, and we can’t do as many miles as we want to; that’s just the reality of having a baby. But here’s the thing I’ve learned – I can’t dwell on what I used to be able to do. Instead, I need to focus on the new things we can all do together. This small mind shift has been the key for me as I tackle a life of adventure as dog mom and baby mom.

Here's what our summer adventures are looking like with multiple dogs and 11-month-old Wolf (My son’s name is Andrew Wolfgang, so we call him Wolf). Our adventures may be smaller right now, but we’re all together, and that’s the most important thing!

1) Hiking

A woman hikes with her baby and dogs.

I couldn’t wait for Wolf to be 16 pounds so we could finally put him in his backpack and start hiking with him. Hiking has been a great way to get us all back out on the trails in a way that’s familiar. I always pick trails where it’s safe for the dogs to be off leash since I need my hands free for hiking poles.

My backpack's rider is constantly moving, and the pack is a lot bigger than what I’m used to. The poles make hiking with a baby so much safer. I appreciate Bodie and Willow’s ability to stay close and check in often when they’re off leash. That trust and their training make it possible for us to all enjoy the trails at our own pace.

Essential Training Skill

Off leash recall. This skill takes time and trust! Bring lots of high-value treats and reward your dog often for checking in or anytime they walk close to you.

Recommended Gear

Front Range® Harness. When I do have to leash my dogs, I like to use a harness that discourages the urge to pull. The front attachment point on the Front Range helps reduce pulling.

2) Biking

A baby is in one bike trailer and two dogs are in another bike trailer.

We’ve all fallen in love with biking again. Here’s what it looks like – I pull the heavy trailer with Bodie and Willow on my e-bike, and my husband pulls Wolf in his trailer. This is another activity where the dog’s training is helpful. I love that our training runs over the winter helped them understand sitting in the trailer not jumping out was what we wanted.

We always choose quiet roads and trails where there will be fewer distractions for everyone. We love exploring the quiet roads in the battlefields of Virginia. Car traffic is minimal, so we all feel safe riding as a group.

Essential Training Skill

Place work or mat work. Bodie and Willow learned to stay in their bike trailer by transferring a place cue to the bike cart. A place cue is nothing more than, “Go to this spot and stay put until I release you.”

Recommended Gear

Swamp Cooler™ Dog Cooling Harness. It can get hot riding on pavement in the summer. But with a breeze from riding and the evaporative cooling tech from the harness, the dogs are a lot more comfortable. Just be sure to bring extra water bottles!

3) Paddling

A woman sits in an inflatable kayak with her baby and dogs.

The little apple didn’t fall far from the tree. My son can’t sit still, and he LOVES water! Putting him on my paddleboard just isn’t an option at the moment. Wolf is curious, fearless, and highly mobile. So, I’m using my inflatable kayak for river adventures to prevent the unwanted baby overboard episodes.

It’s also perfect for my older dog Riley, his old legs aren’t as steady as they used to be. Wolf is learning to tolerate his life jacket and getting his sea legs ready for bigger trips on the water.

A woman sits on a paddleboard with her baby and dogs.

We still make good use of my boards, though – think private island. We bring the paddleboard to the river as a place for Wolf to hang out on and watch his dogs chase their Lunker™ and Hydro Plane™ toys. Riley sits close and watches – he never tires of being on the river. While it’s not the same as paddling for miles with my dogs, everyone has a blast and we all go home happy.

Essential Training Skill

Retrieve and drop it. It’s a lot easier to play with my dogs if they do most of the work. I love that I can sit on my board with Wolf and just throw the water toys. My dogs know the game continues when they bring back the toys, drop them, and wait calmly for the next toss.

Recommended Gear

Hydro Plane, Lunker, Float Coat™ Dog Life Jacket, Confluence Waterproof Dog Collar

4) Running, jogging, or walking

A woman runs with her dogs while pushing her baby in a stroller.

I’m not much of a runner. It’s never been one of my favorite activities. But I do it because it’s something I can easily manage with everyone. It’s been getting warm here in Virginia, but I worry a lot less about the dogs overheating with cooling gear. Wolf likes going fast, as do Bodie and Willow. Running has been a great way for me to start getting back in shape, wear out the dogs, and give Wolf a bit of visual enrichment!

Essential Training Skill

Loose leash walking. This is an activity where the dogs need to be polite on the leash. One hand has to be on the stroller, and one hand holds the dog’s leashes. For safety reasons, I try never to put my hand with the leashes on the stroller, just in case someone decides to be naughty and chase a squirrel.

Recommended Gear

Swamp Cooler Zip™ or Swamp Cooler™ Vest, Front Range™ Leash

Not every outing is smooth – there are meltdowns (myself included), blowouts (Bodie, Willow, and Riley included), and everything in between. I’ve learned to pack extra wet wipes, diapers, and goldfish crackers – for reinforcing good behavior of both dogs and child! It’s all an adventure and things are only going to get bigger and better as our little Wolf grows up with some amazing dogs by his side.

Ready for more inspiration from Maria and her pack? Follow their adventures at: @sup_with_pup.