A dog parent can help ensure that safe summer adventures outdoors with dogs begin and end with fun for everybody – dogs and humans included.
With comfortable late summer weather to look forward to, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the cooler mornings and delightful evenings and include your dog in your outdoor plans. Whether it’s a hike on park trails or a swim in a pool or a nearby lake, you’ll need to consider common-sense safety precautions as you make your outdoor plans. You never want to say at the end of a bad day, “If only I had known…”.
These are the topics we’ll cover:
- Cooling dogs down in the heat
- Signs of heat stress dog parents must know
- Critters that bug your dog
- Rules for safe swimming
- Playing safely in the water
So let’s dive right into the 5 Essential Formulas for every dog parent.
Essential Formula #1:
Under the Sun-What a Dog Parent Needs to Know About Cooling Dogs Down When Summer Days Heat Up
What better companion than your dog on a walk through the park on a beautiful summer day? But before you decide to invite the dog to join you on that summer outing, consider whether the time outdoors will be as enjoyable for the dog as it is for you.
Here’s a checklist of things that will make a difference to your dog:
- Will you be outdoors for a walk or a hike during the hottest time of day?
- Are there shady places for the dog to rest, drink, and cool off?
- Does the dog have the opportunity to slow his pace? Can he stop, sniff, and take his time to explore off the beaten path?
- Is water accessible or will you carry enough water to keep the dog cool and hydrated?
Remember that the pads of a dog’s feet are in direct contact with surfaces like pavement or rocks.
The temperature of asphalt in direct sun can cause serious and painful burns to the dog’s feet. If the air temperature is 77 degrees, the asphalt temperature can be 125 degrees, hot enough to cause serious burns in less than a minute.
If the air temperature is 87 degrees, the pavement could be as hot as 143 degrees!
Find out if the pavement is safe for your dog. See if you can press the back of your hand firmly on the surface for at least 7 seconds. If it’s a comfortable temperature for you, then it’s safe for your dog.
Some surfaces can be too slippery or uneven for a dog to feel secure. Suddenly stepping into a deep hole can result in a broken leg.
Plan ahead to take along everything you’ll need for your dog’s safety and comfort.
One of the most important essential formulas guides every dog parent through rules for loose leash walking. To make the walk an enriching experience for the dog, give him opportunities to satisfy his curiosity. The dog’s leash should be long enough so that he can explore. It should let him investigate the smells, sights, and sounds that get his attention. A practical leash is made of a soft, flexible material that’s easy to handle. In an open area with no traffic or crowds use a leash that’s 12 or 15 feet long. It gives the dog more opportunity to investigate.
Retractable leashes are unfortunately far too common.
These leashes teach dogs to pull against the constant pressure. They create resistance to the leash and result in frustrated dogs that have been trained to pull.
Retractable leashes are dangerous in an emergency. The built-in delay in human response time means that you have no control over the dog. Also, the fine cord can seriously cut and burn hands and legs if either you or the dog become tangled.
Use a comfortable harness that doesn’t abnormally restrict the dog’s shoulder movement. A non-restrictive harness has a leash attachment at the dog’s back (not in front).
A good collar choice for leash walking is a martingale style. These collars are safer. Although dogs can’t wiggle out of them, they will not restrict a dog’s ability to breathe. Collars that restrict your dog’s breathing by choking are inhumane since they inflict pain and punishment without any valid training purpose.
To keep your dog hydrated, bring a travel water bowl and plenty of water.
Consider using a cooling vest or mat for longer outings.
A healthy energy snack for both of you is a perfect way to enjoy a rest break together.
A dog parent knows that dogs come in all shapes and sizes. From giant to miniature, from lean and tall to short and muscular, with many variations in between.
For dog parents, decisions about your dog’s activities must take into consideration his natural characteristics, unique abilities, and preferences. Always consider your dog’s age and health before you begin a new activity. Remember that older dogs may be arthritic and long walks on uneven terrain could be painful. On the other hand, youngsters who are still growing and developing may not pace themselves. Therefore they can be vulnerable to fatigue and injury.
Some dogs just aren’t built for prolonged strenuous physical activity. Certain breeds have a very short muzzle or a “flat face”. Think about pugs and bulldogs. Their anatomy makes it harder to breathe, especially during physical exertion. These short-faced breeds struggle in the heat more than other breeds. So watch these dogs closely and keep their heat exposures to a minimum.
On the other hand, some dogs such as retrievers, hounds, and spaniels have body types suited to outdoor exercise. Nevertheless, make sure they take rest breaks and stay hydrated.
Before undertaking strenuous activities with your dog, consider these questions: Have you done enough to gradually build up your dog’s physical condition? What’s your dog’s exercise tolerance? Is there a routine of daily walks and physical activities like running, chasing, fetching?
When it comes to physical activity for your dog use the same guidelines and caution that you’d use for yourself.
Your dog’s personality and essential formulas for loose leash walking
The last thing you want to see is a dog straining into a collar at the end of a short leash. The dog is gasping for air as the human at the other end of the leash struggles to resist. Obviously, it’s frustrating for the dog and disheartening for the human. Furthermore, this is the opposite of a pleasant walk with your dog!
High-energy dogs with extroverted personalities have a lot of enthusiasm. And that means that they’re more inclined to pull on the leash. Curious and observant, outgoing pups benefit from lots of movement and the opportunity to sniff and explore. In fact, the parents of these outgoing personalities have to be as alert to the environment as their dogs are.
Extroverted personalities are eager learners and easy for a dog parent to train if you go about it proactively.
Scolding reactively after your dog jumps on another person just confuses the dog and doesn’t help the dog understand you. For example, if you have ever tried to reprimand an energetic and overexcited dog, you already know that it feeds the excitement. For that reason, trainers handle excited and high-energy dogs with a more scientific approach.
Dogs with introverted personalities are not necessarily shy or timid. They simply don’t want to be rushed or forced into engaging with a stranger until they’re ready. The best approach is to give a timid dog the agency to make his own choice whether to advance or to retreat.
It is both kind and humane to give introverts the freedom to retreat.
Let them decide when and if they want to interact with someone. It’s up to the dog to make the first move, not the person. If the dog retreats when someone approaches, then the person must immediately discontinue attempts to engage the dog. It’s not unfriendly to back away. On the contrary, it’s empathetic.
Never subject a reluctant dog to the well-intentioned but misguided friendliness of someone who insists, “I love dogs,” or “All dogs love me!”
Does it sound like a lot to remember? No worries! I made you a set of 8 printable posters! Each one of the 8 posters has a short reminder tip about one of the safe summer takeaways. And naturally, you get a cute dog picture on each poster, too!
Essential Formula #2
At Home and On the Road A Dog Parent Must Watch for Heat Stress in High-Risk Places
Parties and Crowds and Noise! Oh, My!
Would an excited and noisy crowd be a high-risk place for your dog? That depends on the dog’s experiences, personality, and natural inclinations.
Specifically, if you push an anxious or timid dog beyond his ability to cope, he may try to escape. When a dog can’t get relief from a fearful event by retreating, the fear gets worse. Although some might blame the dog, a bad outcome is usually the result of human error. Since it wasn’t the dog’s decision to attend the event, a human has to claim responsibility.
Therefore, bringing your dog into a noisy, busy environment, means taking responsibility, just as you would for a toddler in your care. Observe changes in your dog’s body language that indicate discomfort. If you see stress signs, then immediately let the dog retreat to a comfortable distance away from the source of his stress.
A dog parent must give the dog freedom to retreat
Sometimes dogs have a negative reaction to a person or place or event. Remember that continuing to expose a dog to an unpleasant experience doesn’t solve anything. In fact, dogs feel worse, not better if they go through the same bad experience again and again. A dog may appear to get better, but the appearance is misleading. Actually, a dog can shut down emotionally if he doesn’t have the freedom to retreat. Dog parents help their dogs through fear and anxiety by building self-confidence instead of resorting to force.
Buckle up the dog, too!
Gotta love a summer road trip! Over the years I’ve done lots of traveling with my dogs and now I want to share what I’ve learned from experience. First things first. Is your dog safely restrained inside your vehicle? If not, your vehicle is a high-risk place for your dog.
One of the essential formulas for a dog parent is probably obvious but it’s still important to state it. Just as you would for any other passenger in your vehicle, put safety first. Buckle up the dog, too.
In a crash, an unrestrained dog is just as likely to be killed or injured as an unrestrained human. Furthermore, add the risk of a panicked dog escaping and getting lost or killed in traffic.
An average dog is about the size of a small child. Can you imagine letting a child ride unrestrained? Yet, people who love their dogs like family expose them to risks that are unthinkable for a human passenger. Dogs are equally vulnerable.
How to safely restrain a dog in a vehicle
Depending on the size of your dog and the capacity of your vehicle, you have choices when it comes to how to restrain your dog safely. Learn more here about safely restraining dogs in vehicles.
At an outdoor event, prevent overheating and find shade and water for the dog. Ideally, take breaks in air conditioning or use a fan for cooling.
Small dogs can be restrained in a travel crate secured with a seatbelt. If you have an SUV with room for a crate, larger dogs can travel in a crate also.
Alternatively, you can protect your dog with a crash-tested travel harness. Travel harnesses attach to the vehicle’s seatbelt and are specially constructed to withstand impact and protect the dog’s body. A regular walking harness isn’t up to the task of safe restraint in a collision.
Sights that make me cringe and want to look away:
- a dog’s head and shoulders hanging out the window of a moving vehicle,
- a dog sitting in the driver’s lap,
- one or more dogs darting about the interior and barking at passing vehicles or pedestrians,
- and, most horrible of all, a dog in the open bed of a pick-up.
“Is it ever OK to leave a dog in a vehicle on a hot day?”
When I asked dog parents that question, the answers were unanimous. No, no, no! Never! The only answer to that question is a firm NO!
One dog parent said that she would never dream of leaving her child alone in a car regardless of the weather. So she certainly would never consider leaving her dog alone in the car!
The temperature inside a car increases rapidly. Let’s look at some numbers every dog parent must know.
If the outside temperature is 75 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle increases to 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature has already reached 120 degrees. And when the temperature outside is 85 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle rises to 100 degrees in less than 7 minutes. Dogs left in cars for longer than one minute are at high risk if the outdoor temperature is higher than 60 degrees.
Leaving the windows cracked open or telling yourself you’ll “just be a few minutes” won’t change those temperatures. Flat-faced breeds are at even greater risk because their breathing is already compromised by their anatomy.
If you must leave your parked car on a hot day when you’re out and about, then take your dog with you when you leave your vehicle. If you can’t do that, then protect your dog by leaving him at home.
Heat Exhaustion: A Preventable Crisis
Heat exhaustion and fatal heat stroke happen fast. But the positive side is that both are totally preventable when you know the facts.
Strenuous exercise without a break can quickly lead to heat exhaustion. Avoid exposing a dog to sun and humidity without frequent rest and cooling, since it can quickly cause life-threatening heat distress.
A dog can get overheated with little warning. It would be a mistake to assume that a dog will know when it’s time to take a break.
Gradually cool the dog down while you rush to the vet
When symptoms appear, the dog is already in trouble. Get the dog to a veterinarian as fast as possible for emergency treatment. It’s critical for a dog parent to immediately start the gradual cooling down process:
- Move the dog to a cool place out of the sun.
- Increase airflow with a fan and if possible air conditioning.
- Apply cool, not ice, water to the dog’s body, especially the head, belly and neck.
- Replace cold towels as they absorb heat.
- Apply rubbing alcohol to the dog’s foot pads.
- Give small amounts of cool, not cold water.
Cooling down a dog in heat distress will take longer than you expect. Continue gradually cooling the dog for an extended time while you keep him out of the heat, quiet, and resting.
Cooling a heat-stressed dog too quickly is dangerous.
Watch for these signs of heat distress and act quickly:
- Rapid panting
- Bright red tongue
- Thick sticky saliva
Get immediate emergency veterinary treatment for a dog in heat distress.
Heat distress is an emergency every dog parent must prepare for
It takes only minutes for a healthy vibrant dog to suffer an agonizing death from heatstroke. Yet no dog needs ever to experience this cruel killer because it’s 100% preventable.
Heatstroke can cause permanent damage, so when you see these symptoms, act quickly before it’s too late.
Get immediate emergency veterinary treatment while you start the gradual cooling process.
Facts you should know about preventing heat distress
- Dogs left indoors with no air conditioning or ventilation are at risk for heat distress.
- Flat-faced dogs are highly sensitive to heat.
- Panting isn’t enough to cool an overheated dog.
- Avoid exercise in hot weather and keep the dog hydrated when you’re outdoors.
I know it’s been a lot to wrap your head around so far! So I made a set of printable posters for you as friendly reminders for a busy dog parent. They’re free! Help yourself!
A Dog Parent Guide to the Inside Buzz on Critters that Bug Dogs
Dogs are naturally curious. They are intrigued by novelty and especially by other critters that buzz, fly, and hop. But a dog parent can prevent a nosey pup from messing with trouble, and act fast if he encounters n angry stinger.
Stings Happen! Ouch!
One minute your dog is enjoying the outdoors, sniffing, and exploring. Suddenly he’s whining and pawing at his nose and mouth. Redness and swelling around his face and mouth are a sure sign that your nosey pup has been stung by a bee or a wasp.
Bees leave a stinger behind so scrape it off with something flat like a credit card. If you squeeze instead of scrape, you could actually force more of the toxin into your dog’s body.
The sting is going to be painful, however, it’s important to be alert within the first 20 minutes for symptoms that your dog is having an allergic reaction.
If you see that your dog is having an allergic reaction, immediate?
A dog parent knows that a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening and so will look for these symptoms:
- severe swelling,
- difficulty breathing,
An allergic reaction is a medical emergency. Always consult your veterinarian before administering medication. Benadryl usually helps relieve the symptoms, however, check with your vet first for the correct dosage for your dog. Even for milder symptoms, your dog should be checked by your veterinarian.
First aid guide for a dog parent to help the pain and swelling from a sting:
- Apply a paste of baking soda and water or give the dog an oatmeal bath.
- Cover the sting with an ice pack or use a towel soaked in ice water.
- Make sure the dog stays hydrated and soak his dry food to soften it if the swelling affects his mouth.
- Use anti-itch topical creams and consult your veterinarian for more ways to relieve itching.
What a dog parent must know about poisonous toads!
Often a dog parent doesn’t think about toxic toads, yet in certain parts of the South where they’re more common, it’s smart to know what emergency actions to take if your dog is exposed to the poison that these toads secrete.
Toxic toads are more common in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Hawaii. They’re most active in hot, humid summer months. You’re more likely to encounter a toxic toad after it has rained and during the evening, night, and early morning.
Here’s why they’re dangerous. Curious dogs may chase or bark at a toad if they catch sight of it. If the toad is threatened, it defends itself against bigger and stronger enemies with its powerful self-defense mechanism. The toad secretes a deadly poison from a large gland on its back. If a dog comes into contact with it, the poison is quickly absorbed into the dog’s system.
A dog parent must take Immediate action and get emergency medical treatment if the dog has any chance to survive.
As a dog parent, you’ll see signs within minutes of exposure to the toad toxin:
- dark-red mucous membranes,
- excessive salivating,
- pawing at the mouth,
- vocalizing, whining, yelping in distress.
The dog will become disoriented, circle, stumble, and fall, and may have seizures. There will be an increase in breathing rate, anxiety, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
If your dog is exposed, immediately flush the dog’s mouth with clean running water. Direct the dog’s head down as you flush out the mouth to prevent the dog from swallowing poison.
Be very careful not to come into contact with the poison yourself. If the dog is having seizures, direct the water away from the throat to prevent the dog from drowning.
Toad poisoning is a medical emergency! Fast action and aggressive medical intervention may save the dog’s life. Unfortunately, there isn’t an antidote for toad toxins.
Making a Splash-How a Dog Parent Plays Safe with Swimming Dogs
Taking your dog to the pool, the lake, or the beach is not only lots of fun, but it’s also a great way to exercise outdoors and stay cool.
However, whether or not your dog is enthusiastic about playing in the water, you’ll need to pay attention to keep your dog out of trouble. Dogs that love to play in the water don’t know when to take a break to prevent fatigue.
Remember, even natural swimmers are at risk for exhaustion and muscle fatigue that could result in drowning.
Don’t assume your dog is okay just because he’s enjoying himself. Everything can change in a heartbeat.
Are all dogs natural swimmers?
Some dogs, like Labs and Newfoundlands, are built for swimming and they’re quite good at it. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm won’t protect them from fatigue so you’ll need to intervene and require rest breaks.
Many dogs, however, such as Pugs, Dachshunds, and Bulldogs are not built for swimming. They may refuse to even put a toe in the water! Some dogs are just not big fans of swimming. Maybe their body type makes it difficult. Or maybe they just don’t like to get wet! In any case, the rule of thumb is to let the dog choose without coaxing or forcing.
Manage your dog’s activities and play safely in the water.
Pool rules for a dog parent.
Before he plays in the pool, teach your dog how to get out without help. Show him how to get to the steps and practice finding them from different places in the pool. For his safety, your dog has to be in control of his ability to leave the pool.
Always use a properly fitting life jacket with a handle to protect your dog from muscle fatigue. Use the handle to assist a tired dog out of the water. Never leave a dog unsupervised in the pool.
Dogs in open waters
If you venture out into more open waters, take precautions to protect your dog from being overcome by currents. Use a strong waterproof long line and a properly fitted life jacket designed specifically for use in open water. If necessary, be prepared to pull the dog out of the water by the handles on the life vest.
Dogs on the beach
Playing on the beach in deep sand can be hard on joints and ligaments.
Keep in mind that dogs work much harder in deep sand. If they’re making sharp turns at speed they’re at risk of injury.
Lots for a dog parent to remember, right? How about a free set of Safe Summer Tips Posters to remind you?
Essential Formula #5
Lifesaving water facts for every dog parent
Fetching from the water-sticks or balls?
Does it make a difference whether your dog retrieves a ball from the water or if he retrieves something flat like a flying disc?
According to experts, it does make a difference. Here’s what they say. When a dog retrieves a round object, he’ll open his mouth wide. Dogs retrieving from water with wide-open mouths are at risk for taking in excess water. That’s why dogs that work in the water for sport or water rescue are trained to swim with heads high and mouths closed.
Taking in excess water over a short period of time can have serious, even deadly, consequences. See the section about water intoxication below.
Drinking from a hose or sprinkler-Yes or No?
Finally, here’s one more thing you need to know about your enthusiastic water-loving pup. Water from the garden hose is a major attraction for some dogs, so it may seem like innocent fun to let them bite and chase the stream of water from the hose.
A little-known risk to dogs when they bite at the hose and at sprinklers is that they can swallow excessive amounts of water in a short time. Keep reading to learn why taking in excess water is dangerous for dogs.
Every dog parent must know about the unexpected danger of water intoxication
Water intoxication occurs when a dog takes in more water than his body can process. The mineral and electrolyte balance in the dog’s body is disrupted. This sudden imbalance can quickly cause death.
Small dogs are more vulnerable. It takes less water intake to impact a 10-pound dog compared to a 60-pound dog. However, energetic swimmers of all sizes are more at risk than dogs that go into the water with less enthusiasm.
Symptoms of water intoxication include staggering, dizziness, nausea, pale gums, salivation, fainting, and seizures. If you see these symptoms act fast!
Get veterinary treatment immediately! Time is of the essence! Alert your vet that you’re on the way.
How to prevent water intoxication.
- Retrieve only flat objects so that the dog does not have to open his mouth wide to take a round object, risking taking in too much water.
- Be careful that your dog isn’t swallowing water while he is retrieving.
- Never leave a swimming dog unsupervised.
- Insist on frequent breaksand rest periods with no retrieving.
- Always use aproperly fitting life jacket with a handle so that you can get your dog out of the water quickly.
Blue Green Algae blooms appear in late summer.
What is it? Blue-Green algae are bacteria often growing in ponds, lakes, and even pools during hot, dry weather. Algae blooms are more likely to appear in mid to late summer in low flow water.
Why is it dangerous? One reason the toxic algae are so dangerous is that they are not always visible. So blooms can actually be present in water that appears safe. You or your dog can be exposed unless you’re super vigilant.
Exposure can have disastrous results. Toxic algae can cause fatal liver failure if ingested by dogs playing in the water. Be aware that blue-green algae are also toxic to people. Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death.
What to look for: The bacteria can clump together and appear blue, green, brown, or red on the surface of stagnant water. Sometimes the surface appears iridescent. But it can also be invisible. So if there’s any doubt, avoid the water that you suspect. Ironically, it can smell disgusting to people but attractive to dogs.
Preventing exposure & what to do if you think your dog is exposed
If your dog likes to play in the water, avoid locations where algae blooms can grow. Keep your dog on a leash when you’re near ponds or low flow water so that you can prevent unintentional exposure. Don’t let your dog drink from ponds or standing water.
Immediately rinse your dog off with clean water. Direct the dog’s head downward if you flush out his mouth so that he doesn’t swallow the water.
There you have it!
Five essential formulas for every dog parent so that you can enjoy a safe summer with no regrets. Congratulations on getting this far in this long post! The knowledge you’ve gained will empower you to be your dog’s strongest advocate, to protect his welfare in every situation.
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to grab your free poster set. Each one highlights one of the safe summer tips you learned about. Here you go!