With many of us British folk headed to hotter climes and with the optimistic hope that we will receive a week of sun on home soil I have received several emails asking how to keep your dog cool on your adventures.
Dogs are different.
Like us, dogs feel the heat but unlike us their internal cooling works differently. Our bodies cool down by sweating and then the sweat on our skin evaporates taking some of the heat away. Dogs have a few sweat glands in their paws but not on their bodies, their method of cooling is through panting or through conduction by lying in cool water.
Panting can indicate illness or fear but is also used to cool the dog by circulating air around their bodies. Often times when we are out on our adventures we forget that our adventure buddy cannot cool down like we can. In the mountains we work a layering system of clothing which we can take on and off as we get hot and cold. Our dog cannot take off their furry jacket. Tug, is a husky with a bit of German Shepard thrown in the mix and has a thick husky coat and although she blows her winter coat, her summer coat is still super furry. Working sled dogs tend to minimise their activity over the summer months, ramping up their training in the autumn ready for winter. On a hot day, I will most likely find Tug lying under a bush for shade. With her in terms of how much exercise she should be doing on a hot day my rule of thumb is if I can comfortably go out in a t-shirt without exerting any energy then it is too hot for Tug to run hard.
With the ease of being able to travel around Europe (and further afield) with your dog now, how do you keep your dog cool on the journey to your holiday destination? I have an older VW transporter van Tug and I have travelled extensively around Europe both in summer and winter. It doesn’t have AC so I rely on the windows being down and when it is really hot or I got stuck in traffic jams I bought an electric fan I can plug into the inverter attached to my leisure battery which she could lie in front of. I also factor in lots of stops for water breaks and regularly keep an eye on her. Dogs can go down with heat related issues very quickly, there are sad stories of people stuck in motorway tail backs whose dogs have overheated and died. This is always in the back of my mind when travelling with her. If I am hot, Tug will be warmer.
On hot days if I am wanting Tug to exert a lot of energy I go early morning or in the evening before or after the heat of the day and let her sleep during the hottest times. Alternatively we look at doing activities around water sources where she can keep cool in the water.
Like us, dogs need water to survive and keeping them hydrated is key to a healthy, happy dog. On average a dog requires 30-50ml of water per kilogram of body weight. This is just at rest. This increases dramatically when a dog is exercising. Just watching a dog running around can be exhausting, imagine how much water that must burn up. If I know my biking, running or hiking route has lots of freshwater sources for Tug to drink from I may not carry extra water for her. If however I am going into areas where there is less water I will always carry extra for her. Tug has a rucksack from Ruffwear which she can carry her own water. However, mid summer it is too hot for her to wear this and I always carry an extra bottle for her. We have recently been experimenting with a new bottle. I will be publishing a review shorty. Needless to say its brilliant. The lid doubles as a water bowl. On some hikes I’ll drink from the bottle while she drinks from the lid.
There are now some interesting products on the market for helping cool your dog. The Swamp cooler vest from Ruffwear, (review coming soon) which you soak in water and then put on your dog works through evaporative cooling, drawing the heat away from the dogs body. There are also cooling mats and paddling pools available. Last summer I was passing through the Netherlands to see some friends and we were hit by a heat wave, temperatures were in the high 30s. Even in the shade Tug couldn’t get cool. My friend dug out her children’s paddling pool and problem solved. Tug spent hours dropping pine cones in and fishing them out.
The summer shouldn’t stop you adventuring with your dog, but don’t forget they struggle to cool down and they do not always stop when they should, life is far too exciting. Always have water on hand and tailor your dogs activities to the heat and how well they handle it. Would love know below how you keep your dog fit and cool in the summer months.