With hot summer weather here it can be a challenge keeping your four-legged friend cool and happy. Ben Randall shares his tips on how to keep a dog safe in a heatwave.
With Britain entering a heatwave, the timing of today’s question couldn’t have been better:
‘I’ve recently adopted a dog and everything is going brilliantly — but it’s suddenly occurred to me that as the summer comes, I’ve really no idea what to do if my dog gets too hot. Please can you share some pointers?’ — EK, via e-mail
In these columns so far we’ve looked mostly at behaviour, such as stopping a dog barking at the doorbell, how to get a dog to walk to heel and how to get a dog to stop going crazy at delivery people. But after a lifetime spent with dogs and honing my Beggarbush (BG) methods, I’m delighted to answer a question like this one. Remember, if you want to ask your own question please just email email@example.com.
We tend to think of it being the big, heavy dogs with thick fur as being the ones who struggle in the heat, but I think all dogs suffer in hot weather, just as people do. And actually, that’s not a bad way to think about it: there are plenty of heat-related problems that we share with our pets, but also several which are specific to them. Here’s what you need to be aware of, and what to do.
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How to keep a dog cool and comfortable in hot weather
1. Keeping a dog cool in a heatwave when you’re are home
For those of you who have sunworshipper dogs – like mine! — monitor how long they stay out in the sun. The saying ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’ says it all: the dog might not be mad, but you would be if left your dog out in the middle of a hot day. I always exercise my dogs first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and if it’s exceptionally hot I don’t even take them for walks.
Instead, prepare a space in the garden for them to get a bit of exercise — and I mean ‘prepare’. Wash down the garden and patio with a hosepipe before they go out to exercise, as the temperature can really build up. You’re probably aware that a patio can get incredibly hot in the sunshine, but in the middle of summer even grass can get hot enough to be a problem, especially if you’re on clay-based soil. Be your dog’s guinea pig: a good rule of thumb is to walk barefoot on the area yourself – if it’s okay for you, it’s okay for the dogs.
Testing things yourself extends to spraying the hose to help them cool down. Water inside a hose left out in the sun can heat up to scalding temperatures — I’ve heard some horror stories — so before you hose your dog down, run the hose through with water first. If you make a point of running it empty before putting it away that will help.
At night, things will be easier. Just as you’d want for yourself, find a cool, dark area with a breeze coming through the window, or an electric fan set up if you can.
Also invest in some cheap paddling pools. They don’t last long but pop them in the shade under a tree and the dog will have somewhere to cool off. Also, regularly empty and refill them — the dogs will drink from them, so it needs to be kept fresh.
2. Taking your dog out and about in blazing summer heat
If you do have to take the dog out and about or into town, be even more wary about the temperature of the ground. You’ll invariably have shoes on so won’t notice it, but pavements and walkways away from home will be just as hot, and won’t be watered like your patio can be – a simple walk to the shop or pub can burn your dog’s paws, and the last thing you want in this weather (okay, in any weather) is to be taking them to the vet.
Whatever you do, don’t assume that if the dog isn’t complaining then it must be fine. A dog’s pain threshold is completely different to ours, and they’ll put up with things like heat and hot floors to a level that far exceeds humans. You only have to look at how they’ll run through pretty much anything — brambles and worse — when you’re out for a walk, ignoring all the scratches, delighted with themselves and ready for more. They’ll just keep going, so bear in mind that they need protecting from themselves.
3. What your dog should eat and drink when it’s hot
Obviously, water — lots of it, in and around the home, kept topped up and fresh — by which I mean changed at least 2x a day, partly for the heat, partly because of any contamination that can breed. You should also consider moving the water bowl to as cool and shady a spot as you can find, but if you’re doing that then make sure you show your dog multiple times where it is. Otherwise your dog will go to the normal spot and it won’t be there.
Their meals should be normal, but cold things to eat can be a real boon. Ice cubes won’t hurt — unless your dog starts going mad playing with them, like some do — while it’s a good tip to put a carrot or some other treat in the freezer, to give the dog something cool to chew on.
4. How to keep a dog cool on a car journey
Wherever possible, stick only to short journeys when it’s really hot — though clearly with the British summer holidays kicking in, many of us are off around the country and have to take them with us. When it’s hot, need to think about the safest way to transport your dog: cars with air con are a must, for me, but if you’re the owner of a car without air-con be extra careful.
Open all the windows to get the airflow going — the window half-opened might feel okay for you in the driver’s seat, but it could be awful in the boot, particularly if your dog is being transported in a crate or safety harness.
The worst case scenario is a motorway traffic jam, since it’s more or less impossible to stop. With that in mind, think about time of day you travel; early mornings and late nights after sun have gone down lessen the effect of the heat and usually the traffic too. I quite like the clip-on window shades — one of those in the back window or on the sunroof is a good idea. And just as at home, make sure your dog has lots of fresh water fully available, in a non-steel bowl.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk