When considering whether to bring your dog, and what preparations to take, consider these factors:
- In the beginning of summer, your dog will be less heat tolerant. By the end of summer, most dogs have acclimated well if you keep working with them.
- Consider your dog’s breed, physical health, age, structure, and coat. All of these can have an influence on how they handle heat. Generally speaking, smooshy-faced dogs don’t handle the heat as well as dogs with long noses.
- If you have a long or thick-haired dog, keep them well groomed and their undercoat brushed out. Try a Furminator or other de-shedding tool; they really work!
- Be aware of how hot the pavement is; if you can’t hold your hand on the asphalt for a count of 10, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
Have a game plan:
- Have water available for your dog, always. If you’re bringing water for you, bring water for your dog. A collapsible water bowl such as this one is a lifesaver.
- If there is not shade available where you’re going (for example, the beach, the porch, etc), make your own. Use a cover such as this one: http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=564&Pare/ntCat=313 which is vented to let the breeze through, but reflects the sun and heat. (Whatever you choose, be sure to weight it down somehow to keep it from blowing away!)
- Keep the air moving. We’re lucky in Nevada that there’s often a breeze, but be prepared for the event that there isn’t.
- There are many versions of fans, of various power, that are either battery-operated or designed to work with your car’s cigarette lighter, and they’re easy to store in your trunk: http://www.petedge.com/catalog/search.jsp?N=0&Nty=1&Ntk=AllSearch&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Ntt=crate%20fan
Don’t forget additional batteries!
- Use evaporative cooling
- Consider a cool coat. There are many on the market. These two are light weight and great for black dogs, but in our dry climate need to be re-wetted frequently: http://www.horseworks.com/inc/sdetail/157/181
These two are heavier, but absorb more water and stay wet longer:
- Wet your dog down before they start working or exercising. I personally use one of these, which I bought at Home Depot for about $7.
Be sure to use lukewarm water (not ice water) and spray the areas of your dog where the fur is thinnest, like tummy and inner thighs. Work the water in so it touches the skin (spraying the outer layer of coat won’t help.)
- Take them swimming before you go!
- Use a cool bed: http://thegreenpetshop.com/, or www.khmfg.com/cool-bed-iiitm.html (Actually, do they make these for humans?)
- Know what you’re looking at. Signs of overheating include:
- Profuse, shallow and rapid panting, with “spoon tongue” – where it gets all flat at the end
- Bright red tongue (look at your dog’s tongue now, so you have a baseline)
- Thick, drooling saliva
- Disinterest in working, OR inability to learn well, even though they still want to “go”
- Lack of coordination, or appearing “drunk”
- At it’s worst: vomiting, diarrhea, coma and death. Let’s not get here, huh?
- Remember that if your dog is already overheated, don’t douse them in ice water. Cooling them down too quickly can cause more damage. Just take them to the shade, and give them water to drink. Consider how you’re going to do things differently next time. If in doubt, call a vet.
- Don’t be afraid so say “we’ll sit this one out.” You are the voice of your dog, since they can’t speak. Many high-drive dogs will choose to work and play even when they shouldn’t, which means that you, the human, have to know when to say “no.” While I’m not a fan of protecting dogs to the point where they aren’t challenged, there is no shame in advocating for your dog. There will always be more fun later on!
Have an idea for a training Tidbit? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!