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Keeping Cool

Most pets are quite capable of adjusting to great temperature variations given the opportunity and freedom to make their own choices. The roaming dogs in Romania could survive temperatures of minus 20 degrees in the wintertime to plus 40 degrees in the summer. Roaming allowed them the freedom to choose where they should go in order to make themselves comfortable. Only mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun so we humans unintentionally place pets in dangerous environments.

Given a choice, few dogs would wish to travel in our cars and simply winding the windows down a little is just not enough when the sun is blazing down onto the car roof. Even for short trips, a car is still too hot until the air-conditioning begins to reach pets panting in the back.

Panting is their only way of regulating their body temperature so if I do take Winston in the car I drive with the air conditioner working full blast until I see him settle down at the back without any sign of distress. We must remember that if we have the temperature comfortable for us in the front our dogs in the back will feel hot unless we are on a longer trip. Also, do make sure you keep your air-conditioning gas topped up so that it is working properly.

I have the back seats of my car laid down to give him more room but blocking off the floor vents. In order to make it cooler faster in the back I just use the dashboard vents.

Even for a short trip, it is impossible to guarantee a shady parking place so I find it better to leave Winston at home, unless I am taking him directly to an area for a walk.

This is not only my decision. If I walk towards the gate Winston is there like a shot to go for a local walk but if I walk towards the car, he hangs back so he can stay in the garden. This is giving him the choice and he certainly appears happier when I return home looking as if he has probably been sleeping comfortably.

When we go for daytime walks, I have now reduced the distance. It does not take long before Winston shows sign of flagging and simply walks behind me. He shows little interest in any form of play as he does on the early morning or late evening walks.

To give your dog a drink whilst out walking and you have a bottle of water but no bowl then use an excreta bag that we all should be carrying and roll the neck down like a polo necked jumper. If you then pour water into the bag, it will make a good substitute for a water bowl.

We all seem to be attracted to water and certainly taking dogs swimming is one way to let them keep cool. Some simply paddle about like Winston or others like to swim and chase sticks or balls thrown into the sea.

Though I have a swimming pool Winston has no interest what so ever of swimming in it. On the other hand, when we look after Kathryn Hollings dog Osito he is always jumping in. As soon as he arrives, he comes into the house with his legs and tummy soaking so I know he has been lying on the safety table on the pools ladder.

Winston does not like swimming but in the shallows of the river estuaries, he sometimes goes beyond his depth and has to swim. My hope is that he will eventually loose his fears and will enjoy swimming. Gradually he is getting better but it is slow progress unless I use the vet’s method.

Often owners swimming in order to encourage their dogs into the deeper water find that when they come close their dogs panic and try to climb up the owner’s body scratching them as Winston did to me. If this happens, do not continue with this method as it is building up fear because we tell them to get off and they then swim for the shore. After this experience, they are very reluctant to enter again.

Sometimes it is necessary to teach a reluctant dog to swim so vets use a special stretcher that has four holes in it for the dog’s legs. Placing the dog onto the stretcher with its legs through the holes when lifted the dog cannot do anything. Slowly lowering the dog into the water and giving encouragement and food, it can learn to loose its fear. This is why vets use this technique if their patient has weak limbs or back problems and it is in urgent need of exercise therapy.

Teaching Trufa to swim was easy because I taught her when she was a puppy. I simply found a nice rock pool where she could not touch the bottom. Then with one hand, I lowered her into the water and with lots of encouragement and praise, she swam to the bank without any fear.

Quite a number of people tell me their dogs do not go into the pool so there is never a need for some method of escape if it does not have steps. Winston tried to get the ball off Osito one day and as he turned, his legs slipped into the pool and he fell in. Fortunately, he climbed out using my plastic table that I have fastened to the ladder.

I do know of one person who went to the shops and on their return found their dog-swimming round unable to escape as they too only had a ladder instead of steps. The dog was sodden, tired, and very frightened. Accidents do happen.

For safety for any animals in my garden, I have placed on my pool-ladder a plastic table covered with rubber for better grip. I then drilled many holes so the air could escape from under the table. Through two of the front corner holes I threaded rope and after slotting two legs between the ladder and the pool wall the rope is then tied down to the steps lower down to stabilise it.

As Winston does not use the pool, he does prefer to stand in the sprinkler to cool down. Osito initially feared this because of one of the basic of survival rules that if you are uncertain of anything coming towards you back off. Water shooting out of the sprinkler towards him was making him weary.

To cure this problem I put the sprinkler on just ever so slightly and tossed the ball and a titbit into the spray. With the proximity and competition of Winston, Osito soon chose to overcome his fear and walked onto the spray to retrieve the ball. For this, he received copious amounts of praise. I only needed to do this once, as I wanted Osito to sleep on this happy experience so the next time he will remember that the sprinkler is not a threat.

If you are not keen on DIY then I do have a manufactured ramp specially designed for swimming pools needing only two screw holes drilling to fasten the stabiliser cables. If you would prefer one of these, please give me a call.

Let’s be cool out there.

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