Training Your Dog Can Be Cool
It’s not always easy to maintain your dog’s training in the summer heat, and this is especially so when you are working on/with performance or motivation dependant criteria in your dog.
If you talk to people who actively use their dogs for working tasks such as hunting, police or service work, scent detection roles, etc. you come to realise just how important it is to manage your dog’s heat exposure in order to maximise his/her performance. Many government agencies spend huge dollars building, running and maintaining air conditioned kennel facilities to house their working dogs. The Australian Federal Police spent over $10M on their state of the art facility upgrade back in around 2007-2008.
Whilst a cool crate in an air conditioned area is ideal it is rarely feasible. Friends of mine involved with scent detection work in Israel were telling me recently about how a single handler could have 3 or 4 dogs working a scent detection role at any one time, and the dogs would come out of an air conditioned dog trailer to work a number of cars, only to be quickly swapped out for a second dog in order to keep the motivation and working ability of the dog at a zenith.
Many people with working dogs have used these vests to cool their dog’s core temperature down, therefore keeping their dogs able to perform optimally despite the heat. Silver Eagle Outfitters make a range of dog coats, mats and blankets to help keep dogs comfortable in trying heat.
K9 units in the US and other areas employ some pretty high tech gadgetry in order to ensure their dogs are kept comfortable and ready to work. These Hot-N-Pop intelligent alarm systems ensure that valuable (in every sense of the word) law enforcement dogs are not damaged due to excessive heat exposure.
From the same company as the product above, this simple and affordable piece of kit can help for those of you transporting dogs on long car trips with the use of airline type crates.
This link will show you a portable air conditioning and heater unit that is what all the well heeled pooches will be rocking this summer.
Of course, there are many ways that you can keep your dogs cool in summer, and not all of them are expensive or highly technical like some of the items above. The humble half-shell kiddie pool filled with 2 inches of water (and some large ice blocks if you wish) is an excellent way to keep your dogs cool.
It is always a good idea to keep multiple sources of water for your dogs, and ensure that the water sources are not left out in the sun. Active dogs can often tip over a water source, and we certainly don’t want our dogs to go without water in the midday sun. The same goes for good sources of shade – the sun moves and therefore a yard that has shade when you leave the house in the morning may not necessarily have any shade at all when you return in the afternoon.
If you have a dog that is particularly prone to being heat affected, or your dog’s activities require that they work in high heat environments then it is recommended the you carry in the car some electrolytes such as ‘Recharge’, which is a liquid you mix with cool fresh water and provide to your dog immediately after stressful exercise as his/her first source of hydration. Once recharge is consumed by the dog it is important that they have access to plenty of cool, fresh water (sans recharge) in order to allow them to take advantage of the effects of the supplement.
Although widely considered common sense, it should also be noted that the coolest times of the day are the safest to exercise your dog when in a heat wave. Many a seemingly brief game of ball during the middle of a summer’s day has ended at a vet surgery with a dog being cannulated and fed IV fluids to alleviate heat exhaustion.
Should your dog experience heat exhaustion remember that there are some simple guidelines you should follow to avoid causing further damage for the dog:
• Get your dog/s into the shade as quickly as possible
• Do not let your dog guzzle large amounts of water at a time. Drinking cool water alone will not fix the problem but it is a start.
• Cool NOT icy cold water is the way to go for a heat stressed dog. A garden hose or bucket can be used to cool the undersides including the groin paws, ears and arm pits. Improvise using a wet towel, jumper, t-shirt, bandana to cool underside if a hose isn’t an option given your situation or location
• Pack ice in wet towels and use on underside and head to help cool dog
• Get the dog to a vet, even after he seems to have cooled down. Heat stress doesn’t always show it’s full effect immediately and it is better safe than sorry.
So there you go people, plenty of food for thought for all dog owners. Those of you that participate in drive based training, or own particularly driven or energetic dogs also have reason to be even more observant.
What signs do you look for when checking for heat exhaustion in your dog?
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K9 Services International