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Archive: Summer heat and dog walks 2015

One of the things I really enjoy about my job is being outside walking dogs for a good part of my work day. One of the things I dislike about my job is often also being outside walking dogs or a good part of my work day.

The good: I get lots of fresh air, enjoy nature including occasionally seeing a pileated woodpecker (which is the epitome of bird watching for a bird nut like me). I am also slightly more fit with all the walking (junk food and fast food cause the ‘slightly’ part).

The bad: I get completely drenched and chilled to the bone when it rains all day during our mild west coast winter putting ‘water proof’ labelling to the test (and it fails usually!). In the summer I am constantly pink from the sun despite the amount of suncreen I use. I also sweat profusely and smell which the dogs find interesting but is awkward when interacting with humans. For the most part, dog walking is rain or shine whether I feel up to it or not and I am not about to let the dogs down even if I would rather be inside.

It has been so hot here lately that I actually began fantasizing about rain. Once it starts raining again I will change my mind, but until then it seems like it will be such a relief. Some dogs are what I call ‘fairweather dogs’ and do not like the rain at all. Chevy, one of my first dog walking clients, gets very moody when it rains a lot and it can be quite a chore trying to get him to stay outside long enough to do his business. I can often convince him to at least pee, but if the rain is really going strong it can be really challenging to get even that accomplished. Other dogs are total troopers in the rain and only the worst storms will stop them from enjoying their walk.

The heat of the summer is another matter. Dogs will often want to keep going even if it is very hot out. Panting is how the dog regulates their body temperature and is a natural response when walking. They cannot sweat like people do (though they do have sweat glands in their paw pads) and need to pant when they exercise. However, when it gets really hot out panting may not be enough and this is when heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur. This is a concern for me when dog walking. I only walk dogs individually (or in family groups) around their neighbourhood so I do not have to worry about driving dogs and hot cars. I do still have to be careful though. I try to keep the walks a bit shorter if they are during the hottest part of the day. For longer exercise walks I try to schedule them in the morning or after dinner, and in the most extreme heat have even cancelled if possible. My one pair, Kuba a Doberman and Marley a Boston Terrier, are a good example. Marley has a flat face and these ‘snub nosed’ dog breeds have an even tougher time than other dogs. We take a lot of what I call ‘shade breaks’ on the walk at this time of year where she tries to catch her breath. Even in the morning a 45 minute walk is pushing her limit. Kuba on the other hand would walk until he keeled over so luckily we have Marley to keep him in check. Once it gets around 30 ° (80 – 100 ° F) the owner often cancels because it is just too hot out for them.

One of Marley’s favourite activities is to roll around in any puddle, mud, or in grass. This is helpful for the hotter weather but the puddles are also drying up at the moment so she will have to wait for some more rain. Luckily her pet parents do not mind the mess she sometimes brings home!

Marley, a Boston Terrier is on her back rolling around in a mud puddle
Marley wallowing in the mud

Another interesting thing I wanted to share is about fluffy pets. Animals will shed seasonally but thicker or longer fur can also work as a protection against the heat, as well as the cold. So if you do have your pet shaved they may have a harder time keeping cool in the summer heat.

As the summer heatwave continues keep an eye on your pets, learn the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and leave them at home if you are doing errands or if you will be out in the sun all day. Your pet sitter can come and let them out while you are out if needed!

Further reading:

I am not crazy, I have read about the fluffy fur thing!

Campaign and check list about how to respond if there is a dog in a hot car –

Originally published June 24, 2015

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