When it’s too hot to trot – how to keep your active dog happy
Here at K9 Trail Time, we spend most of our time encouraging people to get out and get active with their dogs but with the heatwaves we’ve been experiencing this summer, that’s just not sensible advice to be giving anyone with a dog.
Although it’s usually a case of getting out super early to avoid the worst of the heat, at the moment it’s been too hot overnight and into the early hours of the morning to even consider running and sometimes walking has been out of the question too.
We always like to keep the dogs happy though and as we currently have 5 dogs in the house, one of whom is a puppy, there are definitely things we do to help keep them occupied so we don’t all go out of our minds!
Number 1 – Take them for a swim
We absolutely love swimming as an activity for the dogs, not just when it’s super hot, but as part of a well-rounded programme of exercise. As some of you may know we have access to a hydrotherapy treadmill which provides a great way to get them walking against the resistance of the water and keeps them in tip-top condition.
If you don’t have access to a proper hydrotherapy centre then the next best thing is a safe body of natural water – do make sure you’ve checked it out for safety in terms of water currents, weeds and the toxic blue-green algae that we can get in more static, shallow open water lakes and ponds.
Teaching your dog to swim with you can be both really good fun and great exercise. We run a specific dog triathlon event called Tri Dog in the autumn and you could even set yourself a goal of getting fit to enter that, it’s a great weekend of fun racing!
Number 2 – Try some brain games with them
Brain games for dogs are becoming more common and they’re usually associated with food so make sure you take into account any extra calories you might be adding to your dog’s daily allowance if you’re going to use lots of treats, particularly if you’re not doing a lot of physical activity.
The types of games you can play are hiding food either in a specifically designed toy, snuffle mat or around the house or garden for them to find. You can create a box of paper and different textured objects along with a few treats to encourage them to search through the materials to find the treats. If you’re doing this one, make sure that everything in the box is safe and not a problem if it gets ripped up or destroyed!
Brain games are also a great all-year-round activity for older dogs and we used to get the snuffle ball out and have fun with Judo when he wasn’t able to join us on longer walks.
Do make sure if you’re going to use food and toys with your dogs that you supervise the activity too. With 5 dogs in the house, we always have to keep an eye on what everyone is doing, as they all learn at different speeds and the faster learners finish the game and gobble all the treats the quickest!
Number 3 – Learn some new exercises with your dog
We love anything that compliments what we do with the dogs to keep them fit and healthy and much as the same with humans, dogs also need to do strength and conditioning activities to encourage strong core muscles and proprioception which is awareness of paw placement.
We work with our canine physiotherapist and have been studying canine conditioning for a number of years now but you can do some research of your own and there are plenty of really simple activities which you can do to help your dog learn where to place their paws and to build a strong core.
Examples of activities are:
Scattering some poles on the floor for them to pick their way through
Find different surfaces for them to walk on such as bits of carpet, plastic tarpaulin, rubber matting of different thicknesses and bits of different textured bedding
Set up a few raised poles around your garden (we use brooms where we don’t have specific equipment) for them to pick their paws up over
Encourage them to circle around a pole set up in the garden to increase flexibility in both directions
We also have a simple gym step box which we use to get the dogs to walk over, along and use for them to stretch towards some squeezy cheese
Even something as simple as lifting your dog’s paw gently one at a time to get them to shift their weight can be really beneficial for core strength
Remember not to push your dog to do anything they are struggling with physically and always look for signs of discomfort and fatigue because although these activities are low energy, they are actually very hard for some dogs and are totally unnatural to them. They will have to work their muscles and brain to concentrate on placing their feet and shifting their weight as required by the different activities.
We hope that has given you some ideas for things you can do with your dogs whilst it’s hot like this and we’d love to see how you get on with your dogs, do post some photos in our K9 Trail Time Community Group, which you can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/k9trailtimecanicrosscommunity/
Until it gets cooler we’ll be swimming, playing scatter food games and having fun in the back garden – keep safe everyone!