Cesar at the original DPC many summers ago
By Cesar Millan
As I work with people to teach them about dogs, one of the phrases I hear most frequently is, “I had no idea.” For example, one thing a lot of people don’t know (before I tell them) is that you should never give a dog affection or comfort when it isn’t in a calm, relaxed state.
This just tells your dog, “I want you to be the way you are right now.” Tell a nervous dog, “It’s okay,” and you’ll create a permanently timid dog. This happens because, in our modern world, humans have become disconnected from Nature, and so things that just make sense when you’ve observed a lot of dogs for a lot of years are not obvious to most people.
Another example: there's something that you’ve probably done for your dog in hot weather to cool them down that can actually be very bad for them.
What do humans do to cool down when it’s hot? We like to get wet, whether it’s a dip in the pool, running through the sprinklers or just splashing cold water on our faces. And where do we like to get wet? From the top down.
The reason that water cools down human skin is because we don’t have a lot of hair. Even really hairy humans are barely covered compared to dogs. And, while hair and fur are actually the same thing (fur is just the word for animal hair), they act in entirely different ways on humans and dogs.
With hair, the water can get down to the skin and evaporate back out, which is what cools us off. Fur, though, actually helps keep the water away from the skin and keep it from evaporating. It’s like throwing a blanket on top of your dog so that, instead of cooling them down, you’re cooking them.
To cool a dog with water, you have to do it from the bottom -- on their paws, chest and stomach. The only place that dogs sweat is through their foot-pads, so water works there to cool them down. The water will run off their chests and, for most dogs, their fur is sparsest on their stomachs.
Here are five other things you can do for your dogs in hot weather:
Make sure that your dogs have plenty of water to drink.
Watch for signs that your dog is over-heated. The faster the breathing, the hotter your dog is. The tell-tale signal is that everything gets bigger: the mouth is open wider, the tongue is farther out and the chest expands and contracts more.
In hot weather, this can be an indoor alternative to the walk strictly for exercise, but it’s not a replacement. You should still have at least one walk early enough in the morning or late enough at night when it’s cool enough to be safe.
The pads on a dog’s paws are very sensitive, and a lot of surfaces, like concrete and asphalt, can quickly burn your dog’s feet. Try to keep them on grass in hot weather, or invest in dog boots if you have to walk on a lot of artificial surfaces.
On their own, the first way that dogs will avoid the heat is to seek shade and lie down in it -- under a tree or under a porch. But it’s important that it’s shade with airflow. A doghouse isn’t necessarily ideal, because they often don’t let air in. If your dogs have to be outside in the hot weather, make sure they have a shady but open place to take refuge.
Summer is here! So, let’s make sure that we do everything we can to help our dogs cope with the hot weather.
Stay calm, and keep cool!