If there is one thing every Australian knows to be true, is that for the better part of the year, it gets hot. Really hot. The heat and humidity is not in itself a bad thing. It does however add an extra element of consideration to daily dog walks, which are important for all owners who live in warm to hot climates to consider.
The number one thing to keep in mind, especially in the case of dogs who are sensitive to over heating, is that if you are getting hot, your dog is probably felling it 10x worse. Unlike humans, dogs do not have the ability to cool their bodies through sweating. Their number one cooling method is to pant, and if this is inhibited, they can over heat very quickly. The RSPCA provides some good tips on recognising the early signs of heat stroke, and what to do if your dog is affected.
The following however, are some tips and tricks to stop your dogs from getting to the point that you need the above information. After all, prevention is better than cure!
Tip #1 – Exercise during the cooler hours of the day
Anyone who lives in a hot climate will have heard this tip from a young age, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. Be sure to adjust your walking times to match the seasons and avoid extreme parts of the day. During Australian summers, we tend to exercise our dogs either in the morning before 10am, or just before the sun goes down. In the Winter months, the mid-day temperatures are less extreme, but we still try not to walk them when the sun is at it’s highest.
Tip #2 – Moderate their activity levels
On warmer days, consider keeping high energy dogs with the tendency to run themselves ragged on the leash, rather than free running. Keeping them on the leash allows you to moderate their physical exertion levels and stop an overly enthusiastic dog from pushing past their limits. I use this method with Peppa (the spaniel) mainly, as she is a serial nut case and would sooner suffer a heart attack than stop running when there are scents to smell and lizards to chase. In hotter periods of the year I tend to limit her free running to around 15 mins per session, and supplement the rest with a longer on-leash walk, or walking multiple times a day at speed for shorter times. This helps me keep control of her heat exposure and avoid the risks of heat stroke after spending too long exercising in the sun.
Tip #3 – Educate yourself on at least basic dog first aid
Knowing how to prevent things like heat stroke is one thing, but often, these things sneak up on us, and suddenly you are dealing with a potential medical emergency. Again, organisations like the RSPCA provide some general tips on what to do immediately while if you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke. It is always advised to seek vetinary assistance asap if your dog has heat stroke symptoms.
Tip #4 – Carry water and a drinking bowl on long, hot walks
Generally, if I intend to be out for more than half an hour I will always carry a bottle of water to share with my dogs. There are a few different models of dog friendly water bottles out there, but I find a collapsible silicon bowl like one pictured below (pink) does the trick really well. The clip means you can just attach it to the lead and forget about it, and the dogs like it a lot better than other ones I’ve tried.
Dog Life Hack: If you don’t yet have a dog friendly bottle and/or don’t feel like buying one, a little trick I used to use is to fill an unused plastic poop bag with water, roll down the sides and hold it like a bowl while my dogs drank out of it. #cheapskatebutgenius.
Tip #5 – Consider cutting fur shorter in the summer
If your dogs are of the long haired/”foo foo” kind (e.g. Poodles, Spaniels, Maltese, Pomeranians) consider giving them a shorter hair cut in the summer months. Peppa has super thick, long hair, so in summer we tend to cut it into a shorter “sport” cut to help keep her cool, and reduce the risk of ticks and seeds getting caught up in her fur as she runs through long grass. Sure, she doesn’t have the typical “Cocker” look with that cut, but would you believe she once had to have surgery after some seeds got caught in her fur and caused painful cysts under her arms and in her right eye! Needless to say these days we value her health and happiness over long and flowing skirting!
Tip #6 – Stay Shady
Keeping to shadier routes on sunny dogs is not only good for keeping pooch cool, it will also help protect your skin from harsh rays and keep you looking beautiful!
Tip #7 – Change up your activities
Activities like swimming and indoor games are great on super hot days. If you live near a beach, lake or dog friendly pool, swimming especially is a great alternative exercise which gives them their daily dose of cardio with much less impact on their joints. Just make sure the water is clean and free of toxins!
Tip #8 – Slip Slap Slop!
Anyone who has ever lived in Australia probably knows this phrase, and it should apply to dogs too! Dogs with sensitive skin could benefit from a good layer of sunscreen and some protective clothing. I don’t personally use this tip with our dogs, but those with shorter snouts and finer hair can often get sunburned just like humans! So consider applying sunscreen to their noses and bodies before heading out on your adventures.
Tip #9 – Take regular breaks
With our elderly dog, we need to be very careful not to over work him and therefore tend to walk at a slower pace and take regular breaks throughout (e.g. stop and have a sit on the grass every 15mins or so). With younger dogs you wouldn’t need to do so quite so frequently, but if they seem to be panting excessively, it can be good to force them to stop and catch their breath in the shade!
Tip #10 – Spray cool water onto their coats
I find this to be a great little trick to compensate for their lack of natural sweating. Spraying water on their coats is not only instantly refreshing, but also acts to simulate the cooling benefits of sweating as humans do.
Do you have any tips you think should be added to the list? Comment below with what has worked for you, and don’t forget to share with friends so we can all keep our dogs happy and healthy in the summer sun!