We are often asked if it’s ok to run a dog in the hotter months of the year.
How often and when you run your dog boils down to a number of factors.
The temperature isn’t the only thing to watch out for. You must take into consideration the humidity, your dog’s age, their general health and fitness (as well as yours!), their breed and coat, the location, distance and time of day.
You will know your dog better than anyone else and clearly wouldn’t want to put them in a situation where they overheat.
It goes without saying that whilst all of us should watch our dogs for any signs of overheating and address it immediately, it is also our job to avoid it happening in the first place. But do remember, every person and dog is different – just make sensible decisions that put the welfare of your dog first.
The following suggestions are my personal tips for ensuring you and your dog still enjoy running through the summer. By making a few compromises and adjustments you don’t have to neglect your training at all:
- Go out running very early or very late. In other words, avoid the hottest part of the day!
- Pick well shaded areas ideally with natural water stops for the dogs to cool off or have a swim
- Alternatively, pick places with a nice breeze such as the beach – but ensure you avoid the peak times of the day
- Carry water (or ensure it’s available en route) no matter how long you are out for
- Ease back on the distance and pace, taking plenty of breaks
- Cut back on the volume of runs you do per week
- Why not power walk instead of run? You can still enjoy some light exercise using the canicross equipment. But still do this during the coolest parts of the day
- If it’s too hot and humid, give your dog a complete break! Humidity makes it particularly difficult for dogs to cool themselves through panting due to the moisture in the air
- Consider investing in a cooling coat or vest for your dog (your dog can actually run in the Swamp Cooling Coat). Or failing that, provide a cooling pad/mat for them to lie on after a run – a damp towel will suffice if you don’t want to purchase a cooling coat or mat
- Avoid hot pavement as this can burn your dog’s paws
- Ensure your dog is staying hydrated in the days leading up to your run
- Allow your dog to cool down before putting them into the (well ventilated/air conditioned) car
- Keep your dog cool, especially their ‘hot spots’ (their paws, under the stomach and tail and between the legs), by either choosing runs with natural water stops or dousing them with your own water
- Ensure your dog is able to spend the hottest part of the day in the coolest part of the house with access to plenty of water
- Invest in a paddling pool for your dog
- Use a pet sunscreen for dogs with any exposed areas. Make sure you source a sunscreen specially formulated for dogs as zinc oxide is a common ingredient in regular sunscreen which is toxic to dogs if ingested – so do check the label first!
- Keep a regular check on your dog. If they show signs of overheating, get them into a shaded area, offer them water, and allow them to cool down. If you can wet the dog down, don’t do it too quickly or with water that is too cold. And if they display any of the behaviours as detailed in Guy Heilpern’s article, especially heatstroke, do contact your vet immediately.
If you have any concerns about overheating or heatstroke, here are typical signs to look out for: