A Proven Hot Weather Policy for Professional Dog Walkers
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In hot weather, a normal walk for a human can be extremely exhausting for a dog. When the weather is very hot, dogs still need to go outside. However, it is important to take extra safety precautions when the weather is less than ideal.
Although the dogs may love to walk, they won’t tell you if you are pushing them too hard. When I first started dog walking, I was guilty of pushing dogs too far without really realizing it.
I thought, well, dog walking is my job, and dog walking is what we do. It just didn’t seem right to cut a dog’s walks short! In reality, the dogs would have been fine, and in some cases relieved, to get a shorter walk with indoor playtime to finish out the visit.
Keeping Dogs Safe in The Heat
In hot weather, watch for excessive panting, tired/droopy eyes, the dog’s tongue being wide at the bottom, rapid heart rate, lifting their paws, and vomiting. These are signs the dog is in need of a break, water, relaxing in the shade, indoor playtime, or even medical attention.
It is important not to stray too far from home in excessively hot weather. Carrying water and sticking to the shade on walks is also important for the safety of the dog. Understanding the specific breed, age, and other limitations of the pup in your care is essential, and these are outlined in detail in The Hot Weather Chart section below.
If you see a dog slowly lifting their paws up, make your way to the client’s home right away. If the dog is small, pick the dog up. A dog lifting their paws means that the pads of their paws are starting to hurt. This could also be a sign that they are beginning to overheat.
While dogs have sweat glands in their paws, it is not efficient enough to cool them off on a hot day. A dog’s paws can blister, peel, and be severely damaged by walking on a hot surface. Remain vigilant, and ensure you are not putting a dog in danger by walking on a surface that is too hot.
Some people think a dog’s paws can withstand extreme weather, but that is simply not the case.
Pugs or other Flat faced Dogs (Brachycephalic) Can NOT Handle Hot Weather
One of the most important things for any dog walker or pet sitter to know is that flat-faced dog breeds, such as pugs, boxers, and french bulldogs, cannot tolerate heat, especially during exercise. Walking too far with these types of dogs is extremely dangerous in hot weather, and may even be life threatening.
Flat-faced dogs have difficulty breathing and cannot pant efficiently. This is because their snouts have been bred shorter which causes the nostrils to be smaller, the muzzle and airways to be shorter, and does not allow the dog to intake air efficiently. Since the parts that make up the dog’s airway are pushed closer together, they tend to have constricted airways and cannot cool themselves off.
The technical term for dogs with a shortened snout is Brachycephalic, but I like to refer to these types of dogs as flat-faced because I think it is easier to remember.
Let’s go through a list of common flat-faced breeds, and show pictures of each breed so you can recognize them when out in the field.
- French Bulldog
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Boston Terrier
- Brussels Griffon
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- Japanese Chin
- Lhasa Apso
- Chow Chow
How to Use the Hot Weather Chart
To determine the risk level the weather poses in a certain situation, I really like using these hot and cold weather charts to get an idea of what is too hot or too cold for a dog, based on:
- The size and age of the dog
- Factors that can increase health risks
- Factors that can decrease risk
- The outdoor temperature
The charts we use were originally provided by PetPlan Pet Insurance, but we added a few items we have learned based on our experience.
You can download the hot weather and cold weather chart by clicking on a link in the description below.
Let’s take a look at the charts and cover how to use them. Both the hot and cold weather charts work in the same way.
This section shows the level of risk on a scale of 1 – 5, one being no risk, and 5 being a potentially life-threatening situation where you should avoid prolonged outdoor activity.
The next section shows the risk level based on temperature and the size of the dog.
Small breed, which generally means weighing around 20 pounds or less. Medium breed, which is generally between 20 – 60 pounds, and large breed, which is any dog weighing over 60 pounds.
The last section shows various factors that can increase or decrease risk, and how many points to add to or subtract from the danger level. Be sure to include all of the factors, and add or subtract points for a totaled sum. For example, if a dog is both obese and brachycephalic, you would add two points to the danger level.
How I Set My Dog Walking Policy
I laminate this chart and give it to my sitters and dog walkers at orientation. I encourage each sitter to use the chart to determine:
- If it is safe to take a dog for a walk
- If the sitter should shorten the walk by 1/3 or 1/2
- Or if they should opt for a quick potty break and do indoor playtime instead.
I also recommend giving a copy of this chart (and the cold weather policy chart) to your clients at the meet & greet. That way everyone is on the same page.
Feel free to copy this chart to make it match your branding or use ours directly.
Communicate the Change With Your Client
No matter the decision by the pet sitter or dog walker, any changes to a visit should be communicated to the client.
I train my sitters to always tell a client, in their visit update, if they needed to shorten a walk and did indoor playtime instead.
A good company is based on transparency and any good client will understand you are looking out for their dog and keeping them safe in hot weather.
Surface Temperatures on a Hot Day
Let’s take a few moments to talk about how various surfaces can greatly vary in temperature on a hot day. Specifically black asphalt, white asphalt, and green grass.
I took my temperature gun outside on a 80° F day. I found that:
Black asphalt was 120 ° (40° hotter than the outside temperature)
White concrete was 105° (25° hotter than the outside temperature)
Green grass was 77° (3° cooler than the outside temperature)
120 degrees is really hot for any prolonged contact with a dog’s paw. Be careful when walking a dog across black asphalt, and quickly scoot across if you absolutely must cross. I recommend avoiding black asphalt on hot days, and sticking to green grass or shaded sidewalks.
A dog’s paws can be blistered and damaged from heat, causing serious pain and immobility.
The 10 Second Rule
If you need to cross a street that is made of black asphalt or white concrete, be sure to test the temperature.
An easy way to test to see if a surface will be too hot for a dog’s paws is the ‘10-second rule.’
- If it is safe to do so (be careful of traffic when testing busy roads), reach down and place your palm on the hot concrete or asphalt.
- If you can’t keep your hand on the pavement for at least 10 seconds, that surface is too hot.
- Look for an alternative route.
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