How to Beat the Heat with your Dog
After surviving 8 summers in Madrid, here are my top tips for keeping your dog cool.
Change Your Routine
On the really hot days, our dogs get walked at about 7am and 11pm with a quick toilet break at lunch time. Even with the earlier and later walks, it’s still hot, so we focus on a lot of sniffing and slow walking, rather than going for a run. The footpaths heat up quite a bit too, so we try to find grassy patches or walk in the shade. We’re lucky to have a fountain across the road from the flat, so every walk ends with a quick swim.
Too Hot For Paws?
When you go outside, press the back of your hand to the ground for 5 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them. Even if it’s not extremely hot, you can still help to protect their paws with a wax paw balm or boots. Even baby socks or Vaseline will help.
Make sure there are plenty of water bowls available to your dog, in different areas of the house. When you go for a walk, even if it’s just a short one, make sure to bring water with you too. You can get collapsible water bowls that are handy to carry, or water bottles with a bowl attached. Adding water to their food will also help to increase their water intake, as well as feeding boiled meat, raw food or tinned food rather than just dry kibble. If you decide to offer them ice in their water, make sure to offer a second bowl with regular water too in case the ice water is too cold for their taste.
A lot of dogs who are struggling with the heat won’t enjoy sleeping in cosy, fluffy beds, and might choose the floor or bathroom tiles instead. I like to put a damp bath towel in the freezer for a few hours and then put it on the floor for the dogs to lie on. They go crazy for it! You can also buy cooling mats, but I’ve seen mixed reviews on them, with many people saying that their dog just chooses to ignore them and they can be quite expensive. We have two of them, and neither of the two dogs, or the three cats use them. Mats and cool towels are a better option than cooling vests because the dog can choose to use them, whereas with the vests they’re stuck with them whether they like it or not. Elevated beds are also a great choice for hot weather as they allow the air to circulate underneath. You can also put plastic ice blocks for picnic boxes in or under your dog’s bed, as long as they’re not a big chewer.
Instead of feeding our dogs from bowls, I normally use interactive toys or Kongs. You can soak your dog’s kibble in water, then stuff the toy with it and freeze it. These toys are great, because they can be stuffed with something that each individual dog loves. I like using tinned food, meat, tuna, cream cheese, peanut butter… Anything you can think of, really! The great part of this, is that not only does it keep your dog cool, but it keeps them occupied for hours and gives them a mental workout. Many dogs are inclined to eat less when they’re hot too, so this will give them a little encouragement.
Stay at Home
If you’re reducing your walks and physical exercise outside the house, it’s only fair to balance it out with more fun at home. If I order something online, or get some cardboard boxes, I like to create a little olfactory course for the dogs. It’s like an obstacle course, but for their noses! Make as much of a mess as possible with the boxes and paper, toys, and anything else you can get your hands on, then scatter food for them to find. To make it more interesting, mix up little pieces of chicken or cheese with the food before you scatter it. It’ll keep them busy for ages and they’ll want to sleep more afterwards.
As much as I love big, open, bright windows, they’re a nightmare in the summer for letting the sun shine in. During the day, keeping the curtains drawn or the blinds closed will make a huge difference. We haven’t got air conditioning in our current flat, so it’s the little things like this that really help.
An Apartment with a Pool
When Cailín was a pup, she had a habit of tipping over her water bowl to lie in it, so we bought a paddling pool for the terrace instead. Once they got used to it, we had two very happy dogs, and one very wet floor!
Ice, Ice Baby
A great way to keep your pets refreshed and occupied is by filling a balloon with water, then freezing it. Cut it open and pop it in a bowl, and it’ll keep them occupied for hours. You can even place toys and treats inside the balloon. Alternatively, to reduce plastic, just put the water in a lunchbox, then knock it out once it’s frozen.