Canicross is very much a part of our regular fitness routine with our dogs. So, as the warmer months are upon us, how do we keep our dogs safe in the heat and how hot is too hot when it comes to exercising with our dogs throughout the Summer?
Our dog’s health and wellbeing is our number one priority so we take a look at seven ways in which we can still maintain fitness throughout the warmer months, whilst keeping our canine athletes safe.
When it comes to keeping our dogs’ fitness levels up over the summer months, we need to be aware of many more factors than we do during the cooler months. It’s also a chance to slow things down, get some brain work accomplished alongside some shorter runs as the weather dictates our activity levels for our dogs.
The first considerations are the heat and humidity, so avoiding peak temperatures is a must. Early mornings or late evenings can be better times to run. If necessary, a missed walk/run is needed and that is ok. Alongside your dog’s ability to cope with the heat, as with us humans, some can tolerate heat more than others, so understanding our dogs and watching them for early signs of discomfort are equally as important.
So, what can we do to ensure we stay safe whilst enjoying our exercise and keeping fit?
1. Shortening your route is very much about keeping your dog safe; ideally you won’t want to be out too long in the warmer weather. Keeping transport closer by in case you need to get more supplies to help cool your dog down or transporting them somewhere fast.
2. Solo runs rather than group runs may be more beneficial as you can call what time you go out (maybe “stupid o’clock” in the morning is more suitable to your dog but not your social group). You may have to miss out on a pack run here and there but for the safety of your dog it is worth it.
3. Keeping our dogs well hydrated throughout the day can ensure they have the ability to cool down more effectively (through panting) so do ensure they have access to water in plenty of time BEFORE your exercise as well as after.
4. Head to shaded areas (woodland) with water sources available. Even if you need to drive to a more appropriate area to exercise, this would be preferable that walking in the sun throughout.
5. Canitrekking (hands-free off-road walking) can be a safer option to maintain fitness over the Summer. Slowing the pace right down, taking that shorter route within the woods can be equally as beneficial as a run. A walk with plenty of sniffing and stopping can be as joyful for our dogs as a fast run, so take the time to slow it down.
6. Practice commands in your garden and work on mental fitness instead. Here’s a great idea for some left and right command training. Working on some harness conditioning training or some steady command training whilst on a Canitrek can be just as enriching for your dog.
7. Swimming is a great way for your dog to continue exercising in an environment that will keep them cool. Being mindful that they don’t ingest too much water/ keeping them safe from toxic algae, etc is a consideration when we head into water outlets in the summer months too. Common sense will take priority here.
Alongside all these precautions, as Canicrossers we should familiarise ourselves with the EARLY signs of overheating in case our dogs are showing subtle changes in order for us to do the right thing before it progresses to a serious level.
Our recent podcast episode with Anne Carter and Emily Hall from Hotdogs goes into detail regarding spotting the early signs of overheating and covers many of the FAQs around canine heatstroke, so do take a listen to the episode or read the blog post.