Aug 10, 2017

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER 

It is very important to know that your furry best friend does not necessarily enjoy the extreme heat this time of year. How hot is too hot you might ask. Anything over 70 degrees in the direct sunlight may cause your dog to overheat. Dogs with longer, thicker coats, black in color, dogs that are out of shape, or overweight have better chances of overheating. It is our duty as good pet owners to make sure our dogs are in a ventilated crate or dog carrier with good air movement. If your dog needs to be outside in this kind of heat, placing them in the shade is best. I like to train in areas where there is a big tree that will keep me out of the direct sunlight. The direct sun has a lot of power that really makes a hot day a scorcher. If dogs and heat were not an important subject, we would not make it illegal to leave our animals in extreme heat or cold conditions without proper ventilation.   If you ever see a dog in a vehicle that has all the windows rolled up and the dog is locked in without water or proper ventilation, please call the police and rescue this animal. I would hate to know the outcome of this incident if you did not.  

When we are working with our dogs, we are typically just walking. In the summer heat, I try to avoid running most of the time. Spring and summer air is full of pollen, rag weed, and other pollutants that can make it difficult to breathe. You yourself may experience seasonal allergies in spring causing heavy breathing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. This can be similar for dogs when they get into the thick, tall, covered foliage. The air can be very dense making it very hard to breathe and obtain oxygen. The dog starts to use his or her mouth more than their nose; similar to us when we are “stuffed up.” This dense air causes the dog’s tongue to hang out making it very hard to use their natural capabilities, like scenting the bird. When they do find a bird, the dog must use their mouth to pick it up. This may be more difficult for them because they are already panting. Panting actually is the dog’s way of helping himself cool down.

Another great way to cool your best friend down is to do a little water training. I like to use fresh or frozen birds to prevent dogs from blinking or chewing them.   A nasty bird, when used for training, can make it worse for you and also create a bad habit.   Chomping and chewing on birds is just another habit that can be avoided. Before a big run, or after, to help cool them down is your best chance to create a much better water entry for your dog. Or, you may have to get in and assist in teaching them to swim.

Believe it or not, young dogs need to learn to swim. It just doesn’t happen overnight. Some dogs just do not like water at all.   If possible, walk in with them to let them know it’s safe or let another friendly dog out that likes to swim to show that it’s ok. Shallower, less deep water is also certainly better than a huge drop-off.   What commonly happens is that a dog is doing what I like to call “puppy paddling” which is when the dog is just trying to touch the bottom with the hind legs while the front two legs are paddling at the top making more splashes and the dog is looking up. At some point, the dog will have to learn to level out. There are some tricks to teach that, but let me get back to dogs and overheating.   Things to watch for in cases of an overheated dog are vomiting, drooling, being wobbly and falling over. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, you must get them in a cool place and cool them down.   You should immediately give them water. Also try to pour water on chest, stomach, and hind legs, to cool them down. A good way to check on this is to check a dog’s temperature to see how hot your dog really is. A normal temperature should be 101 degrees. When you see a rise in temperature by a few degrees, it’s time to cool down. If the dog doesn’t seem to be cooling down, you should call your vet to get your dog in.

When working with your dog in the summer months, the best time to work with him/her is early mornings or late evenings. Sometimes, if it’s really just way too hot; stay home. Work on training inside where it’s cool. You can work on obedience, place board, or delivery to hand items in and out of the mouth anywhere you would like. Doing these trainings inside will make the field work better in the future.   The trouble of this is, a dog will work and work until you stop them because all they really want to do is please you. If you don’t make the correct decision of recognizing when your dog has had enough, he or she will end up overheating. If you are questioning your time limit, better to be safe than sorry. It is in both of your best interests to make sure you are keeping them safe and cool. Below is a list of signs to watch out for to keep your dog safe.

Signs to watch for so your dog does not overheat:

  1. Panting is a sign your dog is working to cool itself off
  2. Dehydration causes the saliva to thicken
  3. Rapid heart rate
  4. Vomiting
  5. Producing only a small amount of urine
  6. Diarrhea
  7. Shakiness, weakness, or collapsing
  8. High Temperature

In conclusion, by following some of my tips, I know that you and your best friend can have a safe and productive summer! It’s more difficult to fit it all in as you need to do shorter sessions, but making sure that you are consistent with your training in the summer will ensure a very happy fall for both of you.