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How to Keep Your Dog Cool While Hiking, Walking or Running

How to keep your dog cool while hiking

People love to spend time outdoors with their dogs, but they often forget to consider their various health risks that their dogs face when doing so. A dog’s body functions quite differently from humans, particularly on how their body cools itself. Dogs do not have pores in their skin that breathe, sweat and coll them as we do.

A dog can only dissipate heat through his tongue by panting and also through the pads of his feet, so you have to keep in mind what it means for him to stand on the hot ground or run on boiling asphalt.

Keep in mind that something as simple as a cool breeze on a hot day may give you the relief that your dog is not experiencing.

What type of climate is your dog breed for?

How to keep your dog cool while hiking

If you’re planning on taking your dog hiking there are a few things you should consider before departing on your journey. One of the most important preparations you should make is panning on how to keep your dog cool while hiking.   

Consider this: all of today’s dogs, over 300 recognized breeds throughout the globe, are descendants of a select group of Grey wolves.

These are durable northern animals with thick, heavy, water resistant double coats, built to happily endure a harsh and frigid climate few people could even imagine without complaint.

If it weren’t for this one small group of wolves about 14 thousand years ago, domestic dogs as we know them wouldn’t exist today. 

Through thousands of years of evolution and hundreds of years of human selective breeding, we now have many types of dogs that can tolerate much warmer climates happily, like the Mexican Chihuahua, Peruvian Hairless or African Basenji. 

That being said, most dog breeds today are better suited to handle cold temperatures than thrive in hotter climates.

So your dog happens to be a Labrador, not only the most popular dog in America today but also originally bred to endure icy Canadian waters. 

Maybe he’s a Chow Chow, born in the freezing weather of southern China. Or he is a Husky. An Alaskan Malamute. A German Shepherd Dog. A Saint Bernard. So on and so on- all bred in colder climates, none originally intended to handle long, strenuous hikes on hot days.

If you’re the proud owner of one of the hundreds of cold weather northern breeds out there, how are you going to keep your dog cool while hiking?

Was your dog bred for, and was he intended to tolerate long hours in the heat? Or was he bred to work in a colder climate?’

Perspiration: How Dogs Sweat

Dogs don’t sweat like humans, and it wouldn’t much help if they did. Many dogs have thick coats of fur designed to keep water out, preventing it from disturbing the oils on their skin beneath.

Though they do have some sweat glands on the surface of their paws, a dog’s main method of heat exchange is done through panting. If you want to keep your dog cool while hiking, never muzzle a dog long during the summer heat- as this prevents your dog from perspiring properly.

7 Tips on How to keep your dog cool while hiking

  • Pick the right time to hike
best time of day to hike with your dog

Hiking with your dog generally shouldn’t last all day unless your dog is healthy and able to do so. 

Every dog is different so it is up to you to ultimately decide how long your hike lasts. 

The afternoon, in the middle of the day, is the hottest part so avoid hiking in the afternoon. Choose to leave early in the morning and return before the sun reaches max height in the afternoon. Or plan to start your hike later in the evening allowing yourself enough time to get back before dark. 
  • Offer plenty of fresh water frequently

Dogs perspire by panting, and will pant more often when they are hot. The more they pant the more water they lose, the more they will need to drink. Consider getting them a saddle bag with a detachable bag system that you can store their water in.

Offer water frequently. Small amounts of water given often is safer than letting your dog suck down a whole bowl of water at the end of a strenuous hike. 

  • Avoid hot surfaces

Whereas we wear hiking boots and often don’t even think about the ground temperature, our dogs probably aren’t. 

Scalding surfaces such as hot pavement or sand can easily cause injuries. Try holding your bare hand to the ground for 5 seconds. If the ground surface becomes uncomfortable for you, it’s too hot for your dog. 

Avoid trails with lots of sand, direct sun light and pavement. If you can’t avoid such terrain consider getting your dog a light pair of hiking boots. Use caution when putting hiking boots on your dogs feet. Remember that is one way for them to cool off. Hiking boots are not recommended to be used on hot hikes.  

Water resistant hiking dog shoes

  • Tough waterproof ant-slip soles
  • Comes in various sizes and colors
  • Easy to put on and take off!
  • Thick rubber soles for protection from hot surfaces

Sand

Wooden Decks

hot deck lumber when hiking and keeping your dog cool

Pavement

  • Hike near water
hike with water nearby to keep your dog cool while hiking

When hiking on hot days try and pick out a trail that is close to water source such as a lake, stream, pond or even a small creek.  

Hiking near water will allow you the opportunity to let your dog take a quick soak and cool off quick. There are often trees near streams, creeks, lakes and ponds so you’ll get a chance to catch some shade and cool off too!

  • Be weary about shaving your dogs coat

Many owners naturally think less dog fur will help keep their dog cool while hiking, which only makes sense in human terms. 

In reality, many breeds with double coats (ex. Siberian Husky) will overheat if their undercoat is removed, as it is designed to keep them cool during the Summer.  

shaving dog before hiking

The topcoat often guards from UV rays and insects, and shouldn’t be removed either.

Shaving a double coated dog will not help keep him cool, it will in fact only make things worse. Many Vets advise that you do not shave your dog but simply trim it with scissors.

  • Be aware of the climate you're hiking in

Where you might think you can handle anything the sun has to offer, you also aren’t wearing a fur coat attached to your body. 

Ask yourself ‘what was my dog bred for, and was he intended to tolerate long hours in the heat? Or was he bred to work in a colder climate? 

Some dogs just weren’t meant for long hikes in the summer. Research your dog breed thoroughly and decide if he was meant for warmer or colder climates before venturing off on a hike on a hot summer day. Your dog will let you know if its time for a break to cool down or not. If he is needing to break frequently it will best to hike in cooler weather. 

  • Use caution with feeding times

If you have a day planned for hiking with your pup be sure to feed him no less than an hour before you go.It is recommended that you feed them no less than 2 hours after the hike as well. There are no studies to back up this caution but it makes sense. If you do happen to take off right after feeding be sure and go easy at the start of your journey.

General warnings about hiking with your dog

  • Check with your vet before long hikes

The vet may want to confirm your dog’s overall health, musculoskeletal condition and, in particular, his heart and respiratory system. Before you take him on a long hike. Shorter early morning hikes at a comfortable and slow pace shouldn’t be an issue though.  

  • Don't jump right into strenuous hiking

Until you have conditioned your dog (and yourself) with regular exercise and built up his cardiovascular system to have strength and stamina, don’t take him on strenuous hikes that involve hard hills and treacherous trails. 

Stick to the flat beginner type trails that you will both enjoy until your both ready to move up to harder hikes. 

  • Exercise consistenly

Sporadic intense exercise carries a much higher risk or serious injury than regular workouts. Be sure to keep your pup in shape during the week and walk neighborhoods or parks with hills. 

Keep the distance you walk making sure not to fluctuate from 1 to 4 mile trips. Find a happy medium and walk 2 miles consistently every week. 

  • No hiking for puppies

Puppies should not jog or do extensive exercise until they are about two years old. 

Younger dogs should not be putting strain on growing joints and bones by running and hard and uneven surfaces. 

It is not uncommon to see younger dogs trailing their owners on hikes which is ultimately the owners decision. 

  • Overweight dogs shouldn't be hiking

If your dog is overweight he should go on a diet and lose some weight before hitting the trails. In particular, an overweight dog should not do much running that involves quick turns because it puts stress on joints that are already stressed by those extra pounds. 

Plan Ahead and Prevent Overheating

The coolest times of the day are often in the mornings and evenings, when the sun hasn’t reached its peak. On top of this, your dog will have a harder time regulating his body temperature if it is extremely humid outside.

Be vigilant for any signs of overheating: Remember, your dog can’t vocally tell you how he is feeling. To keep your dog cool while hiking, you’ll have to be constantly aware of his behavior!

  • Avoid hot pavement or sand, but also try not to cover up a dog’s paw pads with doggy boots or socks.
  • Never force a dog to wear a muzzle that prevents the dog from panting for long in the summer!
  • Removing a dog’s coat a leading cause of heat stroke. Trim their coat do not shave.
  • Check the weather forecast before embarking on your trip.
  • Offer frequent breaks in the shade. These will offer your pup a chance to cool down and ensure he doesn’t overheat.
  • Before a hike, add some water to your dog’s dry kibble, or feed him wet dog food.
  • Plan a hike that follows a river safe for your dog to swim in if possible.

Chill Out Ice Bandana

Ruffwear Cooling Vest

Cooling Vest

SIGNS YOUR DOG IS OVERHEATING

  • Increased Stress
  • Heavy Panting
  • Extreme Drooling
  • Seeking Shade or Shelter
  • Increased Thirst
  • Weakness, Lathargy or Anxiety
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Red or Pale Gums (indicates shock)
  • Blue Gums (Visit your Vet IMMEDIATELY)

If your dog should develop heat stress, get him wet all over to help cool him off and call your vet immediately. This is a true emergency to your dogs safety. 

NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A HOT CAR

never leave your dog in a hot car panting keeping cool

Though it should be simple common sense to any pet owner, countless pets overheat and die year after year because their owners left them in a hot car. Even with the windows open, cars can heat up very quickly!

Even though the window is open in this picture the dog is still panting in order to cool himself. 

You can never be too careful about leaving your dog in the car. Even with the windows down it can get extremely hot.