Summer isn’t over. You can tell because it still feels like the temperature of molten lava outside. August and September are often the hottest months of the year! Even though the kids are back in school, Mother Nature hasn’t turned down her earth oven yet.
As a dog sitter in Los Angeles, I take my pack on some sort of adventure every day. More often than not, that means a hike on one of our local trails. During the summer, I take extra precautions with my four-legged friends. One thing we do is suit up! Here are a few items that the team uses to stay cool during our outings.
1. Cooling vests for dogs
Riggins, my dog, is almost all black with very thick fur. Summer is his least favorite season because he gets hot quickly. Just a few minutes in direct sunlight, and his fur is hot to the touch.
To help keep him on the trails doing what he loves — running, sniffing and peeing — he and I have tried out a number of different cooling vests.
Almost every active-dog brand has a summer vest. Some have cooling packets that you pull out and refrigerate/freeze before reinserting, some you soak in water, and almost all are a light color. The color and material is key. You would choose a white linen tunic over a black wool turtleneck for a sunny summer outing right? Turns out your dog should, too!
Without a doubt the most effective cooling vest Riggins’ has ever owned is Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler. You soak the vest in water, and it acts as sweat does on you, cooling the air around the vest and your pup, while letting the water evaporate as it heats up. This vest can easily be “reignited” on the trail by pouring water over it or even taking it off and dipping it in a stream.
To be honest Riggins doesn’t love the Swamp Cooler when he first puts it on, but it doesn’t take long for him to forget what he is wearing and enjoy its benefits. The difference between him wearing his cooling vest and not on a hot trail is significant.
2. Cooling scarfs, bandanas, and collars
Much like cooling vests, there are different versions of these neck-wrap products. You can find the kind you soak in water, and others allow you to put ice in them.
One of my clients, Romeo, opts for a cooling collar to help regulate his temperature in the heat, specifically the Kool Collar. You fill this collar with ice (or a special ice pack if you don’t want water dripping all over your stuff) that slowly melts during your pup’s adventure, helping him remain a cool kid!
Although Riggins’ has never had much luck with these types of items, I always keep a cooling bandana hanging from my hiking backpack. It’s right there and ready if I ever need to whip it out, pour water over it, and tie it around a pup’s, or my, neck.
You already know you shouldn’t take your dog out when the ground is too hot for his feet. To determine if the ground is a safe temperature, touch it with the back of your hand. If you can’t keep your hand there comfortably for five seconds, just skip the trek and stay in your air-conditioned car!
Even with the “five second” test, warm dirt and sand can be troubling for some breeds. If your dog is sensitive to not only the temperature of the ground but the terrain you are on, you may want to invest in booties.
Gin is a sweet Pit Bull who has stayed with us a couple of times. Her mom and dad take the best care possible of Gin and her older brother, Kuro. Both pups wear Ruffwear booties to protect their feet in the summer.
Even if using hot-weather gear, there are still basics to keep in mind while planning a summer outing, whether a quick walk or a long hike:
- Start early and remember you have to come back! When Riggins was young, we hiked a 10.5 mile-trial up the Los Angeles Mountains. Going up was no problem at all, but we didn’t take into account how hot it would be by the time we were ready to head down! The ground got much too hot, quickly, and I ran out of the water I had brought. Thankfully, fellow hikers helped Riggins and me out. I felt horrible putting Riggins’ at risk and learned my lesson.
- While we’re on the subject, bring lots of water. More than you think you need. When it’s hot, it’s also a good idea to stick to trails that have water, either fountains or natural drinkable sources, available.
- Be ready to cool down when you’re finished. Air conditioning, cooling mats (similar to wearable cooling items, but they provide a cool place to nap), frozen broth cubes, and a kiddie pool are all great options for a post-hike treat.
- Don’t be afraid to give up and turn around if there isn’t enough shade, the day is getting hotter faster than you thought, and/or you run out of water.
- Know the signs of heat stroke, what to do, and always know where the closest vet is to your hiking location.
- Last, but not least, if it is too hot, DON’T GO. Heat can be deadly to your pup, and things can go badly fast. If it’s too hot, stay home in the air conditioning and play fun hide and seek games instead!
Read more about having a safe summer on Dogster:
- Don’t Drool in the Pool! Plus More Pool Rules for Your Pup
- Why You Should Never Leave Your Dog in a Hot Car
- 5 Reasons Why I Love the Summer Haircut for Dogs
About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.