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Keeping Your Canine Cool This Summer

black dog drinking from fountain outside

The sun is up—and your heat-alert level should be up, too. Especially if you own an older dog that is less likely to tolerate extreme summer temperatures. If your dog is panting heavily, salivating, or foaming, he may be having a heat-related problem. Get your dog to a cool location, provide small drinks of cold water, and, if he doesn't improve within a few minutes, contact your veterinarian. Here are some other tips...

Groom him for summer. A shorter summer clip is fine for many dogs, but resist the urge to give your dog a buzz cut. His fur is part of his natural insulation system that keeps hot air out during summer. Also, shaving your dog's coat too short can put him at risk for sunburn.

Make sure he has a shady spot to relax in. If your dog spends a lot of time outside in the summer, provide him with a sun-sheltered area—or a pet door, so he can go inside when he wants. Like you, your dog loves a shady spot on a baking-hot day.

Think inside the house. Keep your dog indoors when you go out for more than an hour. If possible, restrict him to rooms with either air conditioning or a fan—but make sure the fan is out of his reach.

Keep his bed cool. Remove cushiony bedding from your dog's crate or bed. He may be more comfortable lying on the cooler bottom rather than on blankets or fleece. You can also take a look at the new-fangled cooling mats in your local pet specialty store. Some of them use water-activated crystals to keep the mat, and the dog lying on it, cool.

Provide plenty of fresh water. You're not the only one who enjoys a nice drink of refreshing water on a hot summer day. And if you take your pooch out for walk on a hot day, be sure to carry water and a drinking bowl for him. Speaking of going for a walk...

Save walks and exercise sessions for cooler hours. Schedule walks for early morning or after the sun goes down. Your dog will appreciate the cooler temperatures.

Never keep your dog in a car on a hot day. Even if you're parked in the shade with the windows down a little, the temperature could rapidly rise to a dangerous level.

Keep toilet lids down. This is the time of year when dogs are tempted to drink the cold water from toilet bowls. So keep the lid down and always try to avoid chemical cleaners and fresheners that stay in the bowl.

Check the ground for hot spots. Blacktop can get scorchingly hot for your dog's pads. Touch the surface yourself—if it's too hot for you, it's probably too hot for your dog.

Hose him down. Try a gentle spray of cool water. Keep in mind it may take you a few tries before your pooch enjoys the experience. If all goes according to plan, he'll feel happy and refreshed once he's all nice and wet.

Check out the latest cooling collars. Your local pet specialty store might stock cool collars. Just fill them with ice and, while the ice melts, it helps keep your dog cool and refreshed.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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