Summer is great, the days are longer, thus giving us more time to do things with our dogs! The problem is, it’s sometimes too hot to do anything! We need fast and easy ways to keep our dogs calm and cool when it’s too hot for a walk or a game of ball in the yard.
Let’s start with the facts. Overheating and heat stroke is serious and even life-threatening to our dogs. Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves down. Instead, they rely on panting, and the pads of their feet to expel heat keeping them comfortable and cool. Due to the feet being sensitive and important to the regulation of body temperature, one must be extra cautious on surfaces such as concrete or plastic on hot days. Not only are they unable to expel the heat because of the surface, but they are also at risk of burning the sensitive skin that makes up the pads.
Tip Number One: Walk Early In The Morning.
Some dogs (and people!) just need their walk. It’s a chance to get out in nature and decompress. Though this tip is common and seemingly obvious, what may be less obvious is how early one needs to go to beat the heat. Many people often recommend late at night as well, but often by the time it is comfortable, it is quite late in the day thus increasing the chances of it not happening at all. Planning is key to making one’s early walk successful. By 10 am on hot days it can be too hot to walk your dog, so being mindful and checking the weather the night before, you are able to plan exactly what time would be best, and make sure to stick to it!
Tip Number Two: Invest In A Cooling Collar Or Cooling Mat
Keeping the dog calm and inside is sometimes not enough! Despite our best efforts, they are still hot. This is where products such as cooling collars or cooling mats come in handy. Sometimes the heat is just unavoidable and we need extra assistance keeping our dogs safe and comfortable. When introducing your pet to a cooling mat, it may be necessary to put it on top of their existing bed, to encourage them to use it. Another idea is putting a sheet or pillowcase on the mat to make it look a little more inviting until the dog gets used to it. The last alternative would be to use it when practicing your settle on a mat cue. Sometimes dogs don’t know what’s best for them, so we have to be there to guide them. And having a cue for your dog to go lay down on a mat can be immensely helpful for those dogs who don’t volunteer to go on the mat themselves.
Tip Number Three: Have Icy Treats On Hand
For most of us, food enrichment is a fairly common part of our routine, so changing it up a bit to tailor to more cold or cool snacks is a simple yet effective way to keep your dog busy, hydrated, and cool! Aside from freezing typical food toys, one can also make icy treats by freezing cups of yogurt or applesauce. You may choose to insert a spoon or popsicle stick into the cup before freezing so you can hold it for them and ensure they lick it instead of swallowing it whole! You can also make tuna juice or bone broth ice cubes and insert them in toys such as a West Paws Quizzl. This is most easily achievable by using a water bottle ice cube tray, so the ice cube is long and slender, making for easy insertion into the toy. Another great option is offering frozen or refrigerated fruit such as berries or watermelon. Because these are small and easy to give as treats, they are often less messy than their long-lasting counterparts.
Tip Number Four: Avoid Intense Training
Have you ever noticed your dog panting after a seemingly stationary training session? Or a simple nose work search? This is because training is hard and can make them hot! Though it may be tempting to work on a skill to keep them stimulated and busy, I recommend sticking to simple and more well known behaviours to avoid overtraining. Make sure to use soft treats, and provide lots of opportunities for water breaks throughout your session.
Tip Number Five: Have A Pool Party
Having a dog that enjoys water is a total bonus when trying to survive a heat wave. You have the option to take them for a swim to cool off, play in the sprinkler, or set up a kiddy pool! Personally, I highly recommend a small pool in the backyard so your dogs have easy and recurring access to it as they see fit. The shallow water of the pool also provides you with more opportunities for fun games! Throw a few hot dogs in the pool and let your dog try ‘bobbing for wieners.’ Put some floating toys or balls in the pool for your dog to play with. Get in the pool yourself and spend some quality time with your dog. There is no wrong way to play as long as you are having fun with your dog.
Some dogs just love to seek out every sunspot they can, and who are we to stop them? The most important thing is to have lots of variety, and a plan in place if your sun seeker gets a little too warm. Make sure you know the route to the nearest animal hospital. Review protocol of what to do if your dog does get overheated, and make sure everyone in the house recognizes the signs of overheating in your dogs. These may all seem like extreme steps, but especially in these heat waves, it can happen very quickly.
Have fun and stay safe this summer!