Keeping dogs safe in the heat

In our area we are welcoming warm weather after quite a bit of rain and many of us are hiking and walking more with our dogs.

Most dogs love to hike with us but dogs are susceptible to heat exhaustion because they have few very sweat glands and must pant to cool down.  

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, skin that is hot to the touch, vomiting, drooling, rapid panting, distress, loss of coordination, collapse, and unconsciousness are signs of heatstroke in dogs. 

Here are some tips for keeping your dog safe in hot weather. 

  • Exercise dogs in early morning and late evening when it is cool. 
  • Make sure the dog always has access to shade and drinking water and that he is not confined to an asphalt or concrete surface. 
  • Consider providing cooling pads, cooling vests, and paddling pools in hot weather. 
  • Monitor play. Young, excitable dogs may exercise to the point of heat stroke so avoid fetch and other intense games.
  • Avoid using muzzles that inhibit the ability of the dog to pant. For dogs who need to wear a muzzle,a basket muzzle that allows them to drink, take treats, pant, and bark is a good option. 
  • Avoid leaving your dog in the car. Every year, warnings go out about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot vehicle but sadly, dogs (and children) still die in vehicles. A car stopped in hot weather can quickly magnify outside temperatures, making it a deathtrap.  Studies indicate that, even with relatively cool ambient temperatures, the rise in temperature inside vehicles is significant on clear, sunny days and rises most within the first 15 to 30 minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process nor decrease the maximum temperature inside.
  • Use caution when hiking with your dog in warm weather.  Ensure you have lots of water for the dog and that the hike is not too long or strenuous for the fitness level of the dog and the temperature. Dogs often appreciate being able to cool off in a body of water, so look out for safe places for dogs to do this.
  • Keep away from the pavement. In hot weather, pavement can get very hot. The pads of the dog’s feet can burn and blister from walking on it. Additionally, dogs are close to the ground and they can get much hotter than we do.
  • Know your breed’s vulnerability to heat. A 2016 study revealed that some breeds are at increased risk for heat stroke. Chow Chow, Bulldog, and French Bulldog are three of them. In addition, overweight dogs, dogs with a brachycephalic skull shape, and dogs weighing over 50kg are also at greater risk.

There are lots of fun outdoor things to do with your dog, but please keep your dog safe while enjoying yourselves.

Jane Bowers B.A, CPDT-KA, CABC, CDBC

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Playing tug toy

Playing tug with dogs is a great way to reward a dog, to teach bite inhibition, to teach a dog to take and release an item on cue, to tire a dog out and to teach control of arousal levels.

To teach tug-toy, decide what the cue will be for tug-toy. Have ready a toy the dog enjoys playing with-this can be a tug toy, a rope or a Kong™ on a rope.

Pick a time when the dog appears to want to play. He or she may have invited their person or another dog to

play.  Take the dog to a low distraction area and ask the dog to sit.  Pick a cue work for playing tug-toy. Then bring out the toy, shaking it close to the ground or dragging the toy away from the dog to encourage the dog’s interest. The dog will generally pounce on and grab the toy. After a few minutes of play (and while the dog still wants to play) the person stops the play by letting the toy go limp and withdrawing it. Initially, I reward the dog for letting go with a treat.

When the person has practiced stopping and starting tug-toy with the dog and the dog appears to enjoy the game, the person can add the cue for tug-toy.

Give the cue (for example: “tug”) and then bring out the toy and engage in play with the dog, give the cue for break, immediately stop playing by letting the toy go limp and rewarding the dog for releasing the toy, then, give the cue to play again and engage in play with the dog and so on…

I have rules for the tug-toy game which are, (1) if the dog’s teeth contact the person’s skin, the game stops immediately (let toy go limp, remove)-at no time should the play game involve the dog using his or her teeth on the person so it is important to be consistent and calm about this (2) anytime the toy is near the person’s face, the game stops – as long as the person is consistent, this teaches the dog to stop playing when the toy is near the face. If the dog tries to grab the toy out of my hand, I put the toy away for a few minutes (3) if the dogs starts to become overly excited, I end the game to let the dog calm down.