To honor and welcome in the summer solstice or commonly recognized as the first day of summer, I thought it might be a good time to talk about keeping our dogs safe and comfortable during the hot summer days. As a service dog handler, I frequently need to travel in hot weather with Diamond, my German Shepherd. She does not enjoy working in the heat, although she will do so when necessary. Here are a few things I do to help her remain as comfortable as possible while working with me during hot weather.
First, we try to do most of our walking either early in the morning or late at night. These are the coolest hours of the day, so it makes sense to do most walking when the sun is less intense, and temperatures are cooler.
Secondly, if I must have Diamond on hot pavement, I will use doggie boots. Most pet supply stores sell these. Heat rises from the ground, especially on surfaces like cement and asphalt, and dogs absorb and release heat through their feet. Just like boots prevent the dog from absorbing the cold in the winter, they also isolate heat.
Another thing I try to do is keep my dog hydrated. Different dogs have different needs when battling the heat. Keep in mind that darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats. Also, overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration. Carry a bottle of water when going on a walk with your dog. Better yet have your dog carry it for you in a backpack or a vest! The water in the bottles will keep the dog cooler and give the dog a sense of purpose.
Another thing to consider when keeping your dog hydrated is that dogs cool from the bottom up. Make sure to spray the paws and stomach, not just the top of the dog, when spraying it with water. A wet towel does more good on the bottom of your dog than when laid on the top of its coat.
While this doesn’t often apply to Diamond and me, it’s important to remember never to leave our dogs in a hot car. The car retains more heat than an open area, even if it is in the shade. Plus, a dog may get overexcited in the car due to passersby or panic from claustrophobia, making dehydration more likely. On longer trips, make sure you have water for the dog and keep the AC running.
Since Diamond is a service dog, I take taxis or other car services if the weather is too hot. Generally, temperatures over 95 degrees are almost guaranteed to find us calling a ride to our destination. While I can take many precautions when it comes to traveling with my dog in the heat, her health is very important to me. So, if it’s too hot for me, it’s probably too hot for her to be outside for extended periods of time.
Diamond does love the water, so I try to let her have a good swim whenever possible. It allows her to cool off while having a lot of fun at the same time!
Hopefully, these tips help give a sense of what is required to keep our dogs as comfortable as possible during hot weather. While it’s wonderful to bring our dogs with us whenever possible, keeping their health and happiness in mind is always a good idea if the weather is on the warm side!
By: Shanna Stichler