Is it too hot to walk your dog? Here’s how to make your summer strolls safe

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  • “No dog ever died from missing a walk,” says Helen Masters, a fully qualified dog behaviourist, rehabilitator and trainer based in Kent. While many dog owners have a walking routine fitting round their work or family schedule, summer heatwaves should call us to question when is it too hot to walk your dog. Helen refers to the summer of 2022, when it was already 30ºC at 9.30am.

    “If it’s hot like that, either walk your dog at 5am or much later in the day at nine or 10pm,” she advises.

    James Hargreaves, of Lunar Canine Academy in Carmarthenshire, adds: “Don’t do your usual distance. Ensure your walk is slower and calmer. The heat can take a lot out of a dog, the same way it does for us.”

    Warning signs

    How much the heat affects dogs depends on their breed, type, age and fitness – as well as how much they are acclimatised to higher temperatures. The brachycephalic dogs, such as bulldogs and pugs, with flat faces and small nostrils, will struggle more as they typically have breathing issues and the exertion required on a hot day will exacerbate this.

    However, all dogs are affected by heat to some extent because they do not sweat like we do, meaning they can only expel heat through panting or the pads of their feet. Heat stroke is a major concern. If your dog is showing any of the following signs, get him out of the heat, apply cold water all over his body, and take him straight to the vet.

    • Body temperature above 40ºC
    • Excessive panting, with dark or bright red tongue, sticky or dry tongue and gums, excessive drooling
    • Staggering, stupor, and at worst seizures, disorientation, lethargy and anxiety
    • Rapid heartbeat, wobbly legs, collapsing

    Still unsure whether it is too hot to walk your dog?

    If you are in doubt about going out in excessive heat, your dog will be just fine missing the odd outing. But summertime doesn’t mean no walking for weeks on end, but rather just being cautious and choosing when and where to walk your dog appropriately so that he can stay comfortable, healthy and fulfilled. After walking, hose the dog down thoroughly with cold water – always letting the water run through the hose first as it can be boiling if left in the sun – and he should recover quickly.

    Hose Gun | Amazon
    This hose gun has eight spray modes so you can find a setting your dog likes best. You can also put shampoo in the soap bottle where it is automatically mixed with the water if you want to give your dog a bath.

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    Where to walk your dog in the heat

    Roads and pavements are a no-no in hot weather. If you need to walk on the road to reach soft ground, then save the walk for the evening when the tarmac has cooled down. The RSPCA recommends a “five-second test”. Put your own hand on the ground and count to five. If it is too hot for your hands, it will burn your pup’s paws. Although pads are hardened and tough enough for dogs to walk on any surface, they can still burn. Signs to watch out for include:

    • Limping or reluctance to walk
    • Licking of chewing of feet
    • Darker pads than normal
    • Pads sore, red or blistered


    “Woodland is infinitely cooler but you can still be caught out at peak periods,” says Helen.

    “Walking in covered shade is still not advisable on hot days, not only for heat stroke and exhaustion, but any stagnant standing water will be brimming with harmful bacterial whether ingested or paddled in.”

    James recommends walking “first thing in the morning, or late in the evening” under the shade of woodland, with accessible running water.

    “During our pack walks, we collect the dogs in the morning and walk them in a shaded woodland area with a continuous water source throughout the walk, whether that be a river, lake or stream,” he says. “Alternatively, if a water source isn’t available, carry water so that you can supply your dog with a drink during the walk. There are multiple ways of doing this, there are bottles with built-in water troughs, there are also collapsible bowls, and all of these can be practical options to keeping your dog hydrated.”

    Bonza collapsible bowl at amazon.co.uk
    Available in six colours and three sizes, these collapsible bowls can hold up to 1.5l and has a handy clip to attach it to your bag.

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    Emwel Foldable Water Bottle at amazon.co.uk
    This handy bottle holds 550ml. All you need to do is flip out the drinking tray, press the button to release the water and again to recycle any excess that isn’t drunk back into the bottle.

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    If you’ve ever hot-footed it across burning sands at the seaside, you’ll know just how scorching sand can be, so the five-second test applies here too. But beaches can be a great place to walk your dog in the cooler hours of the early mornings and evenings during a heatwave, as he can paddle in the surf, making the most of the cooling water and sea breezes. Take plenty of tap water with you, to prevent him trying to quench his thirst with saltwater, which could make him sick as well as dehydrated.

    However, there is often no shade at the beach, so make sure your walk is an appropriate length. If you need to drive to the seaside, air-con is a must and don’t leave your dog in a car at any time on a hot day, even if you’re just nipping out to buy an ice cream – there’s always a queue in summer. If your car is parked in outside temperatures of 24ºC, within 10 minutes it will be 38º, rising to 50ºC within half an hour. Dogs die in hot cars.

    Bear in mind that many beaches do not permit dogs, especially during summer months, so check out your chosen route before going and take plenty of poo bags.

    Essential dog items for the heat

    When you’re working out how to keep dogs cool in the summer, don’t forget that they don’t have the luxury of stripping off on a hot day. On the other hand, they may appreciate a cooling jacket, which works by evaporation to absorb body heat.

    Ruffwear Dog Cooling Vest at amazon.co.uk
    Wet it, put it on and go. This vest has three-layer construction for maximum cooling and it works by cooling by evaporation (in the same way that human sweating works). Available in six sizes.

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    You should apply dog-friendly suncream to dogs with thin coats, or white fur/skin, to prevent burning.

    Flies and other biting insects are at their worst in summer, especially around pools of stagnant water, so a fly repellent is another suggestion. Helen Masters uses horse fly repellent to protect her dogs.

    Take a doggy water bottle with you, to enable you to give your dog a drink if he is panting more than normal. Special bottles have a built-in bowl so you can use it on the go.

    Emwel Foldable Water Bottle at amazon.co.uk
    This handy bottle holds 550ml. All you need to do is flip out the drinking tray, press the button to release the water and again to recycle any excess that isn’t drunk back into the bottle.

    View Now

    If you normally take a ball or frisbee to play with your dog, hot days would be the time to enforce a more sedate walk. Some dogs find it impossible not to dash around chasing balls however hot they may be, and this is ill-advised in high temperatures.

    There are also several cooling devices to help your dog enjoy the summer at home, such as dog cooling mats or paddling pools for dogs. You may also want to give him a cooling elevated dog bed for the summer months to encourage more restful sleep on sticky nights.

    Pecute Dog Cooling Mat at amazon.co.uk
    This mat works by absorbing your dog’s body heat. It is waterproof, scratch-resistant, and wear-resistant. Available in six sizes.

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