Although the traditional dog days of summer should end on Aug. 11 according to the Farmers’ Almanac, in Northwest Florida those hot, humid days can last well into September.
For canines, the summer days prove brutal, with heat creating challenges for pets and owners alike.
Professional dog trainer Christina Flynn offers suggestions for keeping dogs cool during peak summer heat along with ways that owners can keep their dogs occupied inside during the hottest time of the day.
“The most important thing is when you exercise (your dogs), it’s at the very coolest time of the day, and even then only 30 minutes,” Flynn said.
Flynn is director of Pets Behave, a dog training school located on County Line Road on the Walton County side, just east of Bluewater Bay and Seminole community.
“The thing that bothers me the most is when people take their dogs out in the heat of the day, and (the dogs’) feet get burned,” Flynn said, adding that dog owners may need to get up earlier in the summer to walk their dogs.
Much like children, dogs can also enjoy water activities.
“Pets Behave has a swim program,” Flynn said, “so dogs can have lessons.” Some dogs, she continued, are natural swimmers, but some need flotation assistance.
“Even if you don’t have a pool, one of those little splash pools are really good,” she added.
All pool activities should be monitored.
During the heat of the day while the dogs are inside, the key is keeping them stimulated. Mikayla Bristol, a Pets Behave trainer, said she uses two types of dog puzzles for her pack.
“I put down a towel and sprinkle it with treats,” Bristol said. “I roll up the towel and tie it into a loose knot.”
The dog must loosen the knot in order to retrieve the treat.
Bristol also has purchased puzzles that resemble food trays and feature little, lidded compartments. Treats are loaded into each mini-cubby, with the lid secured. Dogs are challenged to open the compartments, with the treats serving as motivator and reward.
Bristol said these toys can keep her dogs busy for up to an hour at a time.
Another indoor activity, Flynn said, is nose work.
“Nose work is something dogs really like,” she said. “That’s a great thing; all dogs love sniffing.”
Ideas for nose work include hiding a favorite toy, asking the dog to find it. This game may require some interactive work on the part of the owner.
One cooling option that Flynn discourages is shaving a dog.
“That’s a total misconception,” Flynn continued. “Because fur is an insulator, if you shave it, you lose that insulation and they are going to get hotter.”
Flynn also warned about leaving dogs in a vehicle during the summer.
“If they’re left in a car for more than 10 minutes, sometimes less, they’ll die of the heat,” she said. “They die very quickly.”
Signs of heat exhaustion, Flynn added, include excessive panting and sometimes drooling. She recommends that dogs always have access to fresh water.
For more information about keeping dogs cool, visit the American Kennel Club website.
For information about dog activities check out Pets Behave.