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If you’ve been following along in the series, we have guides to running with your dog in the fall, winter, and spring. Now, we look at summer, the most wonderful of seasons for outdoor adventure, which means that you can take running with your dog to a whole new level.
Terrain and trails that were off-limits in the winter snow or spring mud are now yours for the exploring. Whether you are a seasoned runner or just getting started, we’ve got some great tips for running with your dog in the summertime.
Lots of Options
Perhaps the best part about summer is the seemingly unlimited options you have for routes, terrain, and trails. Summer can be a great time to build endurance, or, if you are just getting started, it’s a perfect time to get accustomed to running with your dog.
In many areas, runners seem to pop out of the woodwork with the beautiful weather, and you are bound to find a running group or a set of dog-friendly trails in your area. Perhaps best of all, you have many more hours of daylight to work with, so those early morning or after-work runs that seemed impossible in January are all of a sudden yours for the taking.
Dogs are most sensitive to exertion—and to heat—in the beginning and end stages of their lives. Make sure you know your dog’s abilities before you get going, and it’s never a bad idea to have your dog checked by your vet before you start a serious running routine, particularly if you are getting going in the summer months.
Take it easy at first and make sure your dog has plenty of time to cool down and drink water after a run. If you have a dog with a continuous-growth coat, consider a nice summer cut to help keep her cool on your runs. Also consider the color of her coat—dark-coated dogs may tend to overheat more quickly.
Take note of your dog’s general condition after your first short run, including how long she takes to get back to a normal rate of breathing, and what her resting and working heart rates are. These are good facts to know because it will help you understand when something isn’t right. (Read on for tips about how to monitor your dog’s heart rate.)
A Quick Check
When I run with the summer with my dog, I keep a close eye on their well-being and condition before, during, and after a run. I also never run in extremely hot or humid weather—it’s a bad idea for people and dogs. A dog will accumulate the most heat on her chest, so I use my hand to feel how hot she is to the touch at various points during our run. Ears are also a good indicator of how hot your dog is. Have a floppy-eared dog? Choose a shady spot and turn those ears inside out for a few minutes after a run to help her release heat!
After exercising, you will want to cool your dog down until she is no longer hot to the touch on her chest. You can accomplish this by a combination of a good cool-down walk, a quick swim in a safe-for swimming lake or pond (a favorite in my house), some cool water to the chest, or some time in the shade. A cooling vest is also a great idea to keep her cool on the go, and can be used for walks, runs or hikes.
While you are checking her heat levels, take account of her heart rate. You can do this by either counting the beats as you feel her chest, or you can use an artery in her neck, if you are able to feel it. An easy way to do this is to count how many beats in ten seconds, then multiply that by six to get her heart rate. Know what your dog’s working and resting heart rates are, so you can monitor her as you run and make sure your runs don’t become too taxing as you add miles.
Make sure she has access to water before, during, and after your run and monitor her intake. Your dog should always have a cool, wet nose, even after a run.
As you might imagine, the greatest dangers in the summer months are overheating and dehydration, which will affect both humans and dogs. The best way to avoid heat injuries is to know your dog well and to have a plan for what to do in the event you or your dog fall victim to either.
Signs of Dog Heatstroke
When dogs overheat, their behavior changes. They may excessively pant (one of the only ways they can release heat), be unwilling to move around, have reddened gums, or begin to vomit or have diarrhea. Many times, dogs with heatstroke have been left in cars or left outside in the sun for long periods of time—but this generally won’t happen on a companion run where you have a good eye on your dog.
However, if you start to notice these signs, cool your dog down immediately by running cool water on her, or getting her inside with air conditioning and make sure she has plenty of water to drink. Severe heatstroke can be fatal, so consult your vet if you believe your dog is suffering from heatstroke.
Signs of Dog Dehydration
It’s important to make sure your dog is hydrated long before you hit the trail (and remember—hydration is important for you too). She should always have water available to her during the day. Dogs who suffer from dehydration are lethargic, have a dry nose, thick saliva, and may show signs similar to heatstroke. Luckily, dehydration is easily preventable and dogs will take advantage of their water bowl if one is available.
Signs of Dog Sunburn
Dogs are at risk for sunburn, just like people. Their skin can get red and inflamed and begin to peel. You can absolutely use sunscreen on your dog (and you should!), and focus on the lips, nose, ears, and belly, or any place your dog has pink or exposed skin.
Because dogs are bred for specific traits and characteristics, some just aren’t cut out for intense summer activity. Some dogs are notoriously miserable in the heat and it’s important to know your dog’s limits. If you have a winter sport dog with a fabulous weather-proof coat (think any type of husky or Alaskan malamute) know that summer might be a challenge.
The size of your dog will also dictate how well they can handle the heat. Smaller breeds will have to work harder to keep up with you, and summer months can be especially taxing. Very large dogs will also tax their bodies due to their sheer size. Plan your exercise activities accordingly, and always err on the side of caution. Just like people, it will take time for dogs to acclimate to the hot weather.
Dogs with flat faces, like pugs and bulldogs, are also sensitive to hot weather. Take precautions with any exercise with these breeds in hot weather.
In the summer, your greatest concern will be the heat. Because climate varies across the United States, some areas are much more of a concern than others. Wherever you are located, remember that the best thing you can do for both you and your dog is to stay hydrated, and have a plan for getting out of the heat.
The Northeast, upper midwest, and Pacific Northwest are paws down the best climates for summer running. The weather is warm but rarely dangerous, the nights stay cool, and it rains enough to keep everything lush and green. Further, those fresh mountain and glacier-made lakes are perfect for a post-run cooldown. Because these areas are also some of the coldest during the winter, people are eager to get out and enjoy the weather, so there are lots of options for dog-friendly trails and even some dog-friendly races!
The south, midwest, and southwest are beautiful in the summer, but daytime temperatures can be prohibitive for any type of exertion. In some areas, it’s not advisable to run during the day, but the cooler mornings and evenings can be great options to get some safe miles in with your dog. In these areas, be especially watchful for signs of overheating, and be sure to take it slow.
Now that you know some of the tricks of the trade for a successful summer run with your dog, gear up with some of these essentials to make the most of the season.
This leak-proof water bottle is great for the trail. It has a clever leaf-shaped accessory that folds out to act like a bowl. Made with food-grade stainless steel and dishwasher safe, this is definitely a product to consider for summertime running.Shop on Amazon
Harnesses are great walking essentials to help spread any tension from the leash across your dog’s body, but they can also be useful in keeping good control over your dog when the unexpected situation arises.
The Tuff Mutt harness is durable, with a customizable fit to conform to your dog’s size. This harness has two options for attaching the leash—depending on your activity and your dog’s habits—and has reflective fabric for better visibility.Shop on Amazon
The Kurgo K9 belt has a lot of functionality packed into a small, lightweight belt. It features two sliding leash clips, reflective fabric, zippered pockets, a water bottle, and a poop bag dispenser. They might have thought of everything!Shop on Amazon
This handy dog backpack is built for summer comfort. Made with mesh fabric for breathability, it is designed to fit multiple shapes and sizes. It features a large pocket and reflective fabric for maximum visibility.Find on Amazon
Depending on your climate, you might want to consider a cooling vest for your dog. The Ruffwear cooling vest uses a combination of shade and evaporation to help keep your dog’s body temperature safe.
All you have to do is wet the vest, strap it to your dog, adjust the size, and you are ready to explore.Shop on Amazon
It’s always a good idea to be prepared. You never know what you might encounter out on the trail. This first aid kit comes with all the basic necessities to treat cuts, scrapes, and strains. It is lightweight and can be attached to a dog day-pack for ease of carry (or you can just as easily leave it in the car).
It also includes a booklet to help guide you if you need to dress a wound or treat an injury.Shop on Amazon
This cooling collar is lightweight and convenient for keeping your dog cool on a summertime run. It has a built-in hole for your leash, so is easy to use while running.
To use, simply wet and attach. And don’t worry, it can go right in the washing machine when you’re done.Shop on Amazon
In the summer months, it’s always a good idea to carry water if your running route takes you any distance away from the house. These fabric bowls are ideal because they are lightweight and easy to pack in a running belt or dog-backpack.
This port-a-bowl dries quickly for storage, is made of durable nylon, and is easy to clean.Shop on Amazon
Many runners prefer a hands-free option for running with their dog. This hands-free belt has a small pack for accessories (keys, phone, dog poop bags), and uses a bungee to keep the right tension on the leash.
It is constructed with rugged, weatherproof fabric and has reflective stitching for visibility.Shop on Amazon
Even though we are lucky to have light late into the night during the summer months, it’s never a bad idea to be visible, especially if you get caught out later than you expected.
This LED vest is adjustable, battery-free, and easy to put on and take off.Shop on Amazon
Some dogs will be more sensitive to the sun than others, but all are at risk for dry skin and sunburn if they are exposed to the sun for too long. This Snout Screen helps to heal dry, cracked noses and also provides a protective layer against further exposure. It is safe to eat (in case your dog wants to taste test) and should be applied to noses, exposed skin, and any pink skin.Shop on Amazon
For more information about running with your dog, read one of the related Rover articles below.