Summertime is full of fun, freedom and hot dogs and we don’t mean the kind you get at the ballpark! Although an exact number is difficult to find it is estimated that thousands of dogs die every year from heat-related causes. A little information and common sense can save lives.
Your dog’s average body temperature ranges between 100 to 102.5 degrees. We have sweat glands all over our body which help to keep us cool, our dogs have very small sweat glands only on the bottom of their feet and on their noses. Try walking around in a wetsuit and a fur coat on 100-plus-degree day and it may give you some insight on how your dog feels. Oh, by the way don’t forget to be barefoot!
Panting is the primary heat releaser for your dog’s body. If the air temperature is higher than their body temperature they can’t cool down.
Watch the feet! If you’re taking your dog out, be sure to put your bare foot or hand on the surface that they’ll be walking on and hold it there for 5 seconds. If you can’t do it they can’t walk on it!
Summer exercise alternatives
Creativity is the word when we think about how to get our dogs enough mental and physical stimulation during these hot summer months. Here are a few ideas that may be of some help for you and your pups.
• Swimming is a great and super fun way to get your dog plenty of exercise in the summer. Some dogs will naturally swim, but we’re not fans of the old “toss your dog in the water and they’ll figure it out” adage. One of the best ways to teach dogs to swim is to take them to a nearby lake where they can walk in and slowly get used to the water. Play in the shallow water with their favorite toy and slowly take them to deeper water, when they can get chest deep and are still enjoying it, gently put your arms around their body and ease them in a little deeper where their feet can’t touch the bottom. Slowly take your arms away and have them swim back to the shallower area. Let them get comfortable at their own pace. If you’re teaching them in a pool use the steps to ease your dog in. If your dog is going to have access to a pool when no one is home, be sure they know how to swim and more importantly how to get out.
If your dog is too scared to swim or is too small to reach the steps but they’ll still have access to a pool unattended, we recommend a Skamper Ramp. It’s a great piece of safety equipment for any home with a dog and a pool.
• Another game that we have taught and used for many years with our own dogs is the “Find It” game. If your dog is toy, ball or food motivated you can give them great mental stimulation that will wear them out. Start by asking your dog to sit, or down, and hold.
Once they’re sitting or laying down and holding, slowly walk a few feet away, place their motivator (toy, ball, treat) on the floor and walk back to them. In an excited voice say “find it, find it” and celebrate like crazy. Repeat that a few times then take the motivator further away but still in sight. As they get better at the game start to hide the motivator behind a chair or sofa, but be sure they see where you put it. Always walk back to them to release them. If they get up before you release them calmly take them back to the starting point. They always need to wait for you to say “Find It!” Make the game harder and harder and watch them wear themselves out after a few tough searches.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Brad Jaffe founded Team Canine in 1999, using non-violent training and modern day psychology to train dogs. Visit www.teamcanine.com for more information or contact them at (602) 954-8353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.