Exercising your Dog in the Summer
Here in the U.S., we will be celebrating the Memorial Day holiday this weekend. Besides being a nice 3-day break, Memorial Day weekend is also traditionally viewed as the unofficial kickoff to summer. It is somewhat amazing how, once Memorial Day arrives, people will almost automatically spend more time outside and generally become more active than in the winter.
Summer is certainly conducive to an increase in exercise. The warmer and longer days provide a larger window of opportunity to get outside and move around with your dog. However, increased temperatures and humidity can pose challenges to both the active human and dog. With all that said, it is a perfect time to remind pet parents about some of the ways to safely exercise a dog during the summer months.
Smart Workout Times. Early mornings are usually the coolest parts of the day, and they are the best time to exercise with your dog in the summer. Plan your schedule so that the majority of your dog’s exercise is finished in the early morning (e.g. before 8 AM) if possible. Although later in the evening can also work, in some locations, there is not much of a heat/humidity break at this time.
Modify Workout Intensity. Heat and humidity can make any workout more difficult as the body will expend energy just to stay cool. As the conditions become steamier, plan an acclimation period where you and the dog can get used to the increase in temperature. Even with acclimation, it is prudent to lower the exercise intensity if working out when it is hot and humid. Another smart strategy is to split up a workout into two or more smaller workouts. This will minimize the chances of your dog overheating and will provide them the opportunity to rehydrate, refuel, and rest before going out in the heat again.
Watch the Surface. Blacktop can get extremely hot during the summer. Your dog is most likely not wearing athletic shoes, so they will notice the heat of the pavement. Try running on grass or a trail instead. Another alternative is to move some of your sessions indoors (e.g. on a dog treadmill or a gym), where the climate can be controlled.
Hydrate Properly. Although dogs don’t sweat, exercising in the heat and humidity will increase their water requirements. A normal dog can require 50-60 ml of water per kilogram of bodyweight. This means that a 50 lb. dog would need around 40 ounces of water each day. For outings in the park or trails, bring plenty of water and have your dog drink along the way. Try the HeyRex Torus bowl, which keeps the water cool and fresh and can be closed to the water won’t spill during transport.
Even if you follow all of the tips above, it is still prudent to carefully monitor the dog for changes in behavior after a summer workout, which can be a sign of overdoing it, dehydration, or worse. It is perfectly reasonable to add some extra rest days if needed as well, to account for the extra stress that the heat and humidity can impose on a dog’s body.