Exercising your Dog Safely in the Heat of Summer

IMG_20150616_155244I don’t know about the rest of you, but this week we are hitting temps of 100 degrees, and higher with the humidity index and I am seeing runners and walkers heading for the comfort for their A/C early in the day.

If you are anything like me and have a dog that NEEDS exercise you will need to think about a few things before you head out for a run with your pup.

First WATER!  Dogs can’t sweat like we can, they cool themselves by panting through their mouths, which is also quite dehydrating.  Make sure you are bringing adequate water for them and stop often to offer them a drink.

Even better than just drinking, finding a swimming hole is also another way to keep your dog cooler.  When I run, or even if I walk later in the heat of the day I make sure we go on a path that loops back to a stream where Emmitt can drink, or lay in to cool himself.

Know thy dog.  Some dogs are just more comfortable in heat than others. Brachycephalic dogs (breeds with short noses, or faces like bull dogs and pugs) have a harder time cooling themselves.  As dogs age they can also become more sensitive to temperature changes too.

Stick to the shade, and even better a shady trail.  Pavement that has been baking in the sun can burn your dog’s pads.  If you see your dog shifting from foot to foot or even licking their pads when you walk on hot asphalt they may be doing so because their little feet are too hot!  So a shady road is good, a shaded dirt trail is even better because the unpaved ground doesn’t heat up like pavement does.   If you live in the desert or somewhere that has no shaded paths and must take them out mid day, there are dog shoes you can put on their feet to keep their pads from burning.

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Go early, or late in the day.

Slow down the pace.

Give your dog a summer cut!  Not too short on top, so they are protected from sunburn (yes your dog can get sunburn!) but you can go nice and short on their underside.

Be aware of how hard they are breathing.  If your dog really starts panting hard and make them slow down or stop until they can recover their breathing.  Dogs don’t always know when enough is enough..so make sure you gage that for them and take a break.  Dogs die every summer of heat stroke. If you suspect your dog of having heatstroke cool him with water (not ice water) and get him or her to a vet as soon as you can!

Snakes!  This is the time of year for snakes laying on the trail and dogs bitten by snakes becomes a more common occurrence.  Keep them out of tall grasses, and behind you on the trail so you can spot them first and lead them by at a safe distance.

Car, never EVER leave your pet in a car.  Have you ever sat in a hot car even when its 80 degrees out with all the windows up..its unbearably hot and can heat up very fast.

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Mr Emmitt ponders the meaning of life, or maybe just which trail to follow…

Acclimate your dog to the summer weather.  Just like us, dogs can adapt somewhat (much slower than we can) to the heat.  Hopefully if you walk them daily the usual change in seasons will acclimate them naturally, but if you move to a hotter climate or go on vacation somewhere hot, be aware that your dog may need time to adjust to the sudden spike in temperature.

I hope these tips are helpful!  Now get out there and enjoy the summer with your four legged friend!

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2 responses to “Exercising your Dog Safely in the Heat of Summer

  1. Great post! Even up here in SE Alaska my dogs are prone to heat-related issues. My black lab has short fur but she is sometimes more sensitive to heat than my husky – I think this is because she doesn’t pace herself and won’t stop unless I do. She won’t even detour for a drink unless I tell her to! You really have to know your dog and watch them in hot weather. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Totally, they just love being out and sometimes just don’t know when to quit! My lab mix is like that about water… too many other exciting smells and things around to be bothered with drinking! We have actually taught him “water” as a command so he will drink! Hope you and your pups stay safe and cool out there this summer!!

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