Nothing says "summer" like picnics and outdoor family gatherings. Unfortunately, many people don't let their pets in on the fun because they're worried about the dogs getting into people food, coming too close to open fires, or suffering in the extreme heat. But there's good news â your four-legged friend can enjoy outdoor gatherings if you follow these five tips to keep your dog cool and safe.

1. Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Just like humans, dogs need plenty of fluids to stay cool and healthy on hot days. One of the easiest ways to keep your dog cool and hydrated at picnics and outdoor gatherings is to carry a portable, collapsible water bowl and bottles of cold water. Make sure your dog drinks water every hour. If he starts panting excessively, get him into the shade and offer more water right away.

2. Pack Treats Ahead of Time

BBQ favorites like chicken wings, s'mores, and ice cream are common foods at summer gatherings, but these and other foods could cause serious health problems if your dog ingests them. Sharp edges on bones from chicken wings, for example, can tear your dog's digestive tract. By bringing your own dog treats to family gatherings – and reminding family and friends not to feed your dog people food – you can avoid such pitfalls.

3. Get Wet

One way to keep your dog happy and cool during outdoor gatherings is to allow him to swim or do other water play activities. Always check out the gathering venue ahead of time to determine what water options are available for your dog. It's also a good idea to bring a few old towels along to dry your dog after he plays.

4. BYOB (Bring Your Own Ball)

A bored dog is more likely to look for something to get into. Your dog will see people all around hot grills and coolers filled with ice and may want to check out those things, too. Keep your dog safe by keeping him occupied with toys that he likes. That way, he's not tempted to check out more dangerous items at the picnic. After all, no one wants the poor dog to burn his paws!

5. Keep Your Dog on a Leash

It's best to keep your dog on a leash and keep him nearby at outdoor family gatherings. If a dog runs free, he could easily step on hot coals, get too close to an open fire, or run away. By keeping your dog on a leash, you can have better control of his actions and ensure he stays safe.

It's also important to have your dog well trained before attending large family gatherings in unfamiliar places. Make sure your dog can follow simple commands like "no," "leave it," and "heel." Having your dog well trained and following these simple tips will allow you and your best friend to have fun and be safe together all summer long.