This past Sunday, we ended up on a gravel back road, on a nice sunny day. Even though the weather was not at all hot, the sun affected all the dogs on our short hike. When we got back to the van, all the dogs drank water heavily. The temperature was about 17 degrees C or about 63 F. Not hot at all. Even though I was slightly cool during the walk, it snuck up on me when the dogs were as warm as they were when we got back to the van.
We walked on a gravel road along a thickly treed area on one side and a swampy area on the other. We had Emmett, Miranda, and AJ with us. I walked as Ernie took pictures of the countryside. All three dogs had harnesses on which are so much more comfortable for them to hike in and for me to control them as we walked. You can see in the picture that I am wearing a hat. The wind was cool and since I don’t like it blowing in my ears 😉 I wear hats a lot. Two years ago, I had a toque on on July 1st, but just for the morning. It was cool when I walked the dogs.
This first “hike” of the year reminded me to always remember to pay attention to how my dogs are feeling. Sometimes humans don’t take weather conditions or other situations into account when considering their pets. It can catch you off guard and affect your pet’s health. And of course our dogs can’t tell us how they feel. They rely on us to watch their reactions to things, no matter how subtle those reactions may be. Sometimes we must do some learning about how dogs communicate with us to be able to understand what they are trying to tell us.
Over the years I have found that it is important to introduce dog slowly to changes in temperatures. This applies to cold as well as hot weather. For many years I have competed in disc dog trials which most often occur during extremely hot temps, and have performed shows for audiences where the dogs are running.
If dogs have not been slowly accustomed to warmer weather, no matter how much or little activity they are doing, they won’t be able to tolerate even a little of it without getting tired or overheated. It is so crucial that dog humans understand this and take precautions when exercising their dogs.
Often I have seen people cycling on hot days on pavement with a dog on a leash beside the bike. Of course, I have no way of knowing how far they are going or have gone, but this can be a set up for problems for the dog.
So even though our “hike” was very short, my out-of-shape dogs all got hot. Not too hot, but hot. Taking very short walks in warmer weather is what I will do to accustom them to the heat of summer. We start out in the evening or the early morning, and walk a block or so, depending on the dog’s age. Then slowly I will increase it to longer walks in the cooler temps of these times of day. I am careful to never walk my Kuvasz AJ at any time of day during a sweltering day. Her age and preference for cooler weather prevents it. The Australian Shepherds seem a bit more tolerant of the heat for some reason, even though they have a coat of similar thickness to the Kuvasz.
When I was competing in disc, the dogs were much younger and fitter. I don’t know the science behind why the fitter dogs can tolerate more heat, so I can’t explain it, but that is what I found. But we had to build up to it, and as the dogs got older they had less heat tolerance. Even though their fitness and younger age helped with their tolerance to the heat, but it doesn’t make them totally immune to it.
Caution is ALWAYS recommended with dogs and hot weather. I’m still going to enjoy walking and hiking at any time of year, but I will be extra careful with my dogs at the beginning of the hiking season.