Looking after your dogs during the warmer weather | Gelert Behaviour Training

Hasn’t it been great to have some really warm days already? Are your dogs sun lovers or shade seekers?

Whilst we Brits are often guilty of toasting ourselves as soon as the sun comes out (we see it so rarely, it’s SO tempting to really make the most of it) we do need to give thought to our dogs on hot days, they don’t always make wise choices for themselves.

Walks should be very early in the morning or late in the evening, or just missed altogether. There are so many other activities that you can do together with your dog in a cool room or shady part of the garden, there really is no need to walk at all when it’s hot. Lots of dogs like playing with ice cubes, and you can make giant ice lollies in buckets by freezing layers of water and putting treats onto each layer before adding more water to freeze. Many dogs enjoy lazing in paddling pools or a soaking from the hose. There are loads of ideas to be found now, social media is great for sharing fun ideas like this.

Please avoid non-essential car journeys. It’s really tough for dogs in cars with open windows, especially if they are at the very back. It’s not something I really thought about until I took a test for a livestock transportation certificate, and had to look at air flows in trailers to see where would be hot and where would be cold ! Our dogs have little choice about where they are situated in the car and can’t move away if the sun beats down on the rear window or if there’s a draught from an open window, imagine how we would feel if we couldn’t open or close the window to keep comfortable. Sun shades (designed for young children travelling) are a great help. It goes without saying that you should never leave your dog in a car, there are loads of posts on social media about this and one I have recently found very alarming is by a vet who shuts himself in a car on a hot day and commentates on how it feels. It doesn’t make for comfortable listening, I can tell you!

When I took my dogs training, they spent time relaxing in the car between activities, and so I invested in a knitted aluminium sheet to cover the car to keep it cool for them, that was a great investment, it really does make a big difference. I would thoroughly recommend buying one, if you are taking your dog anywhere where they may need to spend time in the car – of course, it only works where it’s safe to leave all the windows open, too. I also have a lock that keeps the boot ajar, but you can’t open it. There are padlocks on each crate, too, just to be on the safe side if I need to go out of sight of the car. I say “when I took” my dogs training because they are all now getting on in years (the youngest two are 12), and in view of their age, I am even more careful in the heat. My two collies in their heyday would work their sheep whatever the weather, on hot days taking chance to flop in a water trough or lie in the shade under a bush. They seem to have forgotten these sensible actions now they are retired and will lie in the sun until they are panting and uncomfortable, and eventually welcome the suggestion of moving to the shade or indoors ! My springer cross is a sensible boy, he moves between sun and shade to keep himself comfortable.

It’s a good idea to place a comfortable bed in a shady spot if you’re spending time in the garden with an older dog, just to encourage them to keep cool, and wetting their coat thoroughly will help as well. There are several cooling jackets on the market containing substances that absorb and hold water, gradually allowing it to evaporate and cool the dog wearing them. They are a great idea, but it’s important to ensure that your dog is comfortable wearing a close-fitting garment – not all are.

As well as older dogs, puppies need extra attention when it’s hot, really for the very same reasons – they just aren’t good at making sensible decisions and will bomb around playing, especially with children, and end up over heating.

I work some shifts for a fabulous independent veterinary emergency clinic, and it’s not at all unusual to see dogs with heat stroke on warm days, sadly. They are nearly always older dogs or puppies, or fat, or squashy faced. Fat dogs have lots of insulating fat, which of course retains heat in their bodies. Squashy faced dogs struggle even more than most to cool themselves down as dogs can only cool by panting, which is hard for them.

What should you do if you think your dog has got too hot?
Firstly, move them to the coolest place you can get to quickly. Don’t be tempted to hose them with cold water. Wrapping in a damp towel and placing by a fan is a good option if possible, as is an ice pack (wrapped in a towel) placed on their head (as the brain is super sensitive to overheating). Always call your vet for advice, and if your dog loses consciousness, you must of course get to a vet as fast as possible.

Please enjoy the lovely weather, but do keep your dogs nice and cool.