Dog’s Eye View: I’m melting, I’m melting!
I take my dog with me whenever I can. I also participate in a dog sport that requires that I manage my dog in my car for an entire day. I’m constantly researching ways to keep Skippy comfortable when I have to 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, spending some money and packing up your hot weather gear. Remember, you are doing this to keep your dog safe, but if you break down on the road or in the back country and your car won’t start, guess what? It will save your hide too.
A windshield cover is really 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,, 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 without letting your dog out. A battery-powered fan is really 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, the best one for summer is a wire crate. That allows the air to circulate very well. You can wet down towels or an old sheet, drape it over the crate, and as it dries, it will help cool the air. And don’t forget a chill mat. These are made with various materials and 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.
Purchase a cheap temperature gauge to start with. I keep a sticky thermometer on the rear window of my car by my dogs’ crate that reads the interior temperature. For the past few years, I’ve kept one attached to the door of her crate to log temperatures during some of our trips. What I found out is that it doesn’t matter how much gear you have, but rather how long you leave your car parked with your dog inside, so I have invested in a wireless digital thermometer. I put the sensor on top of Skippy’s crate, and I can keep watch on the temperature inside my car and make sure I’m back before the temperature reaches more than 80 degrees. For my small dog with a short coat, that temperature is comfortable; she can stretch out on a cool mat and maintain a normal body temperature.
Don’t forget plenty of fresh water. If you use plastic water bowls, be sure you change the water every time you leave the house. Those plastic containers, when heated in a closed vehicle, can release plastic chemicals into the water, not a good idea for keeping our buddies healthy.
For those with experience in outdoor dog sports, we know our dog’s performance is affected by how they feel on any given day. If I am melting prior to 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. You wouldn’t dare leave a young child in your car under warm-weather conditions. Don’t let your dog melt inside your hot car. You can search the internet for some of the items I have found to be extremely helpful. Now, go play outside!
One final note: if you see a dog inside a hot car, call 911. Do not try to break a window to get the dog out. Leave that to law enforcement. They are the only ones who can legally break into a car.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 25 years of experience. She has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado
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