Training tip: Beating the Heat

It’s a “hot dog!” Ha ha, get it? No, seriously, test the pavement before you make your dog walk on it!

Every summer I see folks walk their dogs across scalding hot asphalt, and take their fully coated, dogs fluffy dogs for a run.  This drives me (and many animal lovers) a little nuts.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t do things with your dog in the summer; I’m just saying, look at things from your dog’s perspective!  If you can’t hold your bare hand on the pavement, chances are it’s too hot for your dog, too.  If you don’t want to go jogging in your winter coat, neither does your dog.

Here are some tips for keeping your dog cool outside:

  • wet them down.  If you’re near a water source, take your dog for a swim (or wade) before you start exercising (not after your dog is already overheated).  Make sure you get their tummy wet, as that’s where the fur is thinnest and the most heat can be dissipated.  You can also use a plant mister.
  • bring plenty of cold water.  Warm water will quench your dog’s thirst, but not cool him down.  Put some ice cubes in your “dog water” bottle before you leave home to keep it cool.
  • Stop for breaks in the shade.  Dogs can really only cool themselves down by panting; stop for a few minutes for water and to give your dog a chance to cool down by breathing.
  •  If the pavement is too hot for you to hold your hand on, it’s too hot for the dog to walk on.  Either avoid it completely, carry your dog, or RUN.  But above all, be considerate of those paws!
  • Know when to say when.  Look at your dog’s tongue right now – it’s pink, right?  You know a dog is close to overheating with they pant with a long, very red tongue.  That’s the easiest way to tell.  They may also lie down and refuse to move, or lose coordination – become clumsy or appear “drunk.”  If you’re training, they might not be able to perform the way they usually do.  Take them to the shade, give them water, and let them cool down naturally.  Don’t douse them in ice water – it’s also dangerous for an over heated dog to cool down too fast.  If in doubt, go to the vet.
  • There are many clever products on the market to keep your dog cool.  Try them!  Here are some of my favorites (tried and tested!)
    • A cool coat.  This lightweight, breathable “coat” reflects light and heat away from your dog.  It can also be wet down for extra cooling power.
    • A Kool collar.  This “collar” can be filled with ice cubes.  As the ice melts, the water trickles down your dog’s front to cool his skin through evaporation.  Insider tip: a bandana with ice cubes rolled up inside works well, too.
    • Frozen water bottles: especially for small, thick-coated dogs.  Many will appreciate a frozen water bottle in their bed to lie next to.
    • Frozen treats:  Anything you can put in a KONG, can also be frozen.  Just put the KONG upside down in a cup and stick it in the freezer.  Or try this neat contraption!
    • Reflective car/crate/dog house cover.  This breathable, highly reflective cover is very popular with K9 Nose Work folks, since it’s mandatory to be able to kennel your dog in either a crate or your car.  It works remarkably well – like sitting under a really big, shady tree.
    • Fans!  These ones are made to hang from a crate door, and you can buy a cooling attachment which basically blows the air over an ice pack before it hits your dog.  This one is designed to run in a vehicle.  Keep that air fresh and moving!

Did I miss something? I’m sure I did.  If you have a favorite way of keeping your dog cool, tell me about it!

Have an idea for a training Tidbit? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!

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