Dog’s Eye View: I’m melting, I’m melting
I take my dog with me whenever I can. I also participate in dog sports that require me to manage my dog in my car for an entire day. I’m always researching ways to keep her comfortable when I must leave her unattended inside my car. Hot cars or trucks can create a coffin for someone left inside. We hear about these devastating cases throughout the year. For some of us, leaving our dog at home is either not an option, or we are taking a road trip for adventures with our canine buddy.
Here are some ideas on how I manage my dog in my car. It starts with planning and spending some money and packing up hot weather gear. Remember you are doing this to keep your dog safe, but if you break down on the road or in the backcountry and your car won’t start guess what? It will save your hide too.
A good windshield cover is essential. You can buy several of the cheap ones and cover side windows to reflect heat away from the inside of your car. There is a product called Aluminet Shade Cloth. You can order it in various sizes to fit over the windows of your car or truck. It reflects the sun’s rays out while letting in the breeze. A stash of bungee cords and tie straps are a must. You can also purchase a vent lock for a hatch back car to open the back up for additional airflow. A battery powered fan is handy to keep the inside air circulating. A fan with rechargeable batteries is somewhat expensive, but that investment has paid me back time and again. There are less expensive ones out there but be sure you know how long those batteries will last.
If your dog will ride in a kennel crate during the summer, use wire crate. That allows the air to circulate very well and you can leave the windows rolled down. A wet towel or two draped over the crate will help cool the air as it dries out. And don’t forget a chill mat, made with various materials that can be sized to fit your dog’s crate. If your dog will wear a vest or coat there are great products out that will help keep your dog cool. These include cooling bandanas, cooling vests and cooling coats.
I have purchased a wireless digital thermometer. I attached the sensor to the front of the crate, and I can keep watch on the temperature inside my car and make sure I’m back to my car before it reaches higher than 80 degrees. For my small dog with a short coat, that temperature is comfortable. She can stretch out on a chill mat and maintain normal body temperature. The sensor will only transmit a short distance, so it’s not reliable for long periods of time or great distances. Sometimes walls can interfere with transmission too. What I found out is that it doesn’t matter how much gear you have but how long you leave your car parked with your dog inside.
In our dry climate, hydration is a life saver. Don’t forget plenty of fresh cool water. If you use plastic water bowls, be sure you change out the water every time you use it. Those plastic containers, when heated in a closed vehicle, can release chemicals into the water.
For those with experience in outdoor dog sports, we know that our dog’s performance is affected by how they feel on any given day. If I am melting before running an agility course or traversing an outdoor nose work search area, then I’m not at my best. Our dogs deserve the same consideration because we take them along and they cannot choose to find their own cool resting place. Don’t let your dog melt inside your hot car or in the back of an open truck bed. You can search the internet for some of the items that I have found to be extremely helpful.
On a final note, if you see a dog inside a hot car, before you break a window, peek inside to see if cooling gear is being used. I have a cool mat, fan on, and sometimes a little battery-operated desk cooler. Plus, I’ll have windows covered with shade covers. These last several weeks of 90-degree weather, I’ve left my dog at home to be safe. If you think the back of your truck will be cool enough, then slip your pants off and sit down back there. Get my point? Now go play outside.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants as well as certified nose work instructor through the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.
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