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When is it too hot to walk your dog?


When is it too hot to walk your dog

It’s that time of year again where we’re constantly reminded of how dangerous the hot weather can be for our dogs. We’re reminded for good reason, our dogs can be susceptible to heatstroke, but we also shouldn’t live in fear of taking our dogs outside during the summer months.


Individual dogs will cope differently with hot weather, just like some people can tolerate warmer weather while others feel the effects much more strongly. Knowing your dog and their tolerance levels is important in keeping them safe and well in hot weather.


Adjusting your routine to walk in the cooler hours of the day can mean your dog still enjoys their exercise safely.


In the extremes of summer, this may mean

  • Walks before 9am and after sunset

  • Walking in shaded areas or near water

  • Resting during the day at home

  • No games of fetch


How hot is too hot?


We often assume midday is the hottest time but actually mid-late afternoon can often see peak temperatures, so don’t assume that just because it’s past 3pm, it will be cool enough for your dog.


How hot is too hot dog image

We all want to be out enjoying the lovely summer weather and we of course want our dogs to join in too, but it can be safer and kinder to leave them at home while you’re out in the sunshine. Taking them on long walks or even to sit outside for a picnic or a day at the beach can seem like a lovely idea, but if it means a long duration out in the sun or lots of exercise, leave them at home instead.


We have probably all seen endless posts on social media about hot pavements and treating dogs with heatstroke, but for those who may have missed it all, here’s a quick summary …

Pavements:


Pavements can get VERY hot


Hand on pavement for temperature test

As can other surfaces like Astro-turf. You can do a quick test by holding the palm of your hand on the surface, if it’s too hot to hold it there for more than 5 seconds, then your dog really shouldn’t be walking on it.


While their pads are pretty hardy and cope with a lot, they can be burnt by very hot pavements, especially if walking along them for long durations



Not only this, but the pavement will also radiate heat which it’s been absorbing throughout the day. This means it could still be very hot towards the end of the afternoon, even if it feels cool enough for your dog to stand on, they will feel a lot of heat coming off the surface and onto their body


This is especially noticeable for smaller dogs or those low to the ground, we may not feel it because we have longer legs (and we’re not crawling along close to the floor!) but for our dogs, their bodies are in much closer proximity to the heat radiating from the ground


Heatstroke

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

There has previously been strong advice not to throw cold water over a dog who is suffering from heatstroke, with the theory that doing this will cause the body to go into shock. Instead you should cool the body slowly using lukewarm water


However, current research is now contradicting this and strongly suggests cooling the dog as quickly as possible and by any means possible is highly recommended

  • Since the body is already in shock from heatstroke, it’s far more important to cool it fast

  • This is quite a contrast to previous advice, but actually dunking the dog in cold water is not a bad idea!



Warning signs of heatstroke include:

  • Heavy panting

  • Excessive drooling

  • Dog appears lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated

  • Collapsed or vomiting

If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, take them to the nearest emergency vet immediately.


Cars

Don't cook your dog sign

We’ve all heard it a million times “dogs die in hot cars”, this is a huge risk in hot weather but even on cooler, sunny days, a car will heat up quickly.


Never take a chance with leaving your dog in the car on a hot or sunny day, even with the windows open, the car will soon turn into an oven.


It’s never worth the risk!



Just a 2 degree increase in your dog's body temperature can lead to heatstroke and fatalities can occur in less than 15 minutes.

  • Your dog can get heatstroke, even if you leave water in the car

  • The temperature in your car can still rise to dangerous levels, even if you leave the window open, park in the shade or put a sunshade on your window.

  • Your dog can get heatstroke during your journey from sun coming in through the windows - put up sunshades when driving and ensure there is cool air flowing through the car

Safe exercise


With those hot topics out the way, we can think about some ideas for safe exercise during hot weather spells. Some dogs will choose to sleep and prefer not to do much at all, in this case, let your dog do nothing! There’s no benefit to making your dog go for a walk or engage in activities if they’re actually happier to just sleep and keep themselves cool at home.


For those dogs who still need their exercise and can’t cope without doing some activities even in the heat, you can adapt your walking or other games to make them more suitable for the hot weather.


Scentwork


Dog doing scentwork

Repeatedly throwing a ball for your dog to fetch isn’t a great activity even in cold weather but it’s a very high-risk activity in hotter weather.


It puts a lot of strain on your dog’s body and will rapidly increase their body temperature. It has very little benefit in terms of health or your dog’s brain activity, so stop chucking the ball for them to chase and do something much more productive with it.



Hiding a ball, or teaching more advanced scentwork skills, not only gets your dog using his brain much better, it will also tire him out far more than fetch will.


This can be a great short session activity but still have the benefit of your dog feeling tired and relaxed after…


  • Hide a ball or toy during your walk and send your dog to find it. Start easy and gradually hide it in more difficult places. You could play this for a minute or two a few times on your walk, then take a break and encourage your dog to use his walking time to sniff and explore the environment

  • Hide treats or toys in your house or shady garden when it’s too hot to be out walking. Your dog will be working hard to find the items so just play short sessions (a minute or two is plenty) and encourage them to rest after

  • Teach scentwork skills using an online or in-person course, this is a great way to teach more advanced skills and have some new training ideas with your dog


Trick Training


Dog balancing a ball on his nose

When we’re so focused on our dogs needing daily walks, we don’t often leave much time for other activities with them. The hot weather is a great opportunity to replace walks with some fun training or other activities

Learning is tiring so spending a few minutes a couple of times a day working on some new tricks or behaviours can keep your dog tired and relaxed when they can’t be out walking. You can find step by step video tutorials for Novice to Champion level tricks in our Online Academy


Enrichment


There are endless enrichment ideas out there, these could include games you play with your dog or ones you leave for them to occupy themselves without your assistance.


For example

  • Shredding boxes

  • Sniffing for treats in blankets or snuffle mats

  • Lickimats

  • Frozen kongs

  • Enjoying frozen treats … the list goes on!


Just remember to mix it up, don’t always make it harder and harder, give your dog some easy wins too and don’t hesitate to join in and help your dog if they need it – teamwork is a great bonding exercise.


Pools and Water


Dog playing with the hose

We all know how refreshing it is to splash around in cool water when it’s hot outside, and it’s no different for many dogs who love water. Paddling pools can be a great way to cool off or taking your dog swimming in safe rivers or lakes.


Don’t forget the dangers of water intoxication and especially take care if you’re playing with the hose. Dogs can ingest a lot of water or still suffer from heatstroke when playing exuberantly with the hose or in water.


When done safely, exercise or games in water can provide a great enrichment and exercise opportunity!


Five signs that your dog may have water intoxication
  • Vomiting

  • Loss of coordination (this can include falling over or swaying)

  • Bloating

  • Tiredness

  • Pale gums

How to stop your dog getting water intoxication
  • Monitor your dog carefully while they're playing in the water. If they look like they are swallowing a lot of water, take them out and allow them to relax.

  • Limit the amount of time dogs spend playing in the water to 10 minutes, allowing them to go to the toilet in between swimming sessions and catch their breath

  • Always carry fresh drinking water with you when at the beach. Swallowing a lot of salt water can lead to salt poisoning which has the same symptoms as water intoxication.


Assistance Dogs


For some people, their dogs are crucial to giving them independence and support in daily life. Having their dog with them is the difference between leaving the house or not, so what are the ethics surrounding working dogs in the hot weather?


Dog with shoes on

Put simply, working dogs are no different to pet dogs in terms of their ability to cope with the heat and their risk of heatstroke.


We must also remember many assistance dogs will be working hard when accompanying their owners out and about, this means they could be more at risk of getting too hot because they are physically and mentally working harder.


However, these dogs may also be working in safer environments (e.g. air conditioned buildings), in which case, walking a very short distance from the car to the location is unlikely to do them any harm. Be mindful though and don’t use your dog’s job as an excuse to walk them around in the heat.


Putting boots on your dog to protect their feet from hot pavements in order to allow them to continue working, may seem like a good idea, but you have to ask yourself, if it’s too hot for them to walk on the pavement, is it not too hot for them to be out?


Burning paws on pavements is not necessarily any more of a risk to your dog than exercising, walking and working in high temperatures. Their feet may be protected but they are still at risk of heatstroke.


Assistance dog in a shop

While it may mean your dog isn’t able to accompany you as much as usual, it’s far better to be cautious and leave them at home rather than risk exposing them to an unnecessary risk of heatstroke.


In hot weather, common sense goes a long way … walk early or late when the temperature has cooled down, but if your dog is happy to miss a few walks and chill at home then take the opportunity to allow them to do this.



Use the hot weather to play some new games or enjoy some different bonding exercises with your dog, not being able to go for walks can provide a great chance for finding other activities together.


Written by Naomi White

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