I am Heather Thomas and I am a qualified behaviourist based in Bath, I am hoping that these small articles will help you to understand more about your animals and their behaviour! I hope you enjoy them.
As it is heating up at the minute, I thought I would talk about running….. I have been running now for about 16 weeks or so as part of my rehab for my snapped ACL Gin-cident (that’s a story for another time). With the weather hotting up recently I have started to find it very difficult to run and I struggle to keep going even when it’s hot even at 7.30 am. This will get to dogs hang in there- So I was out for a run just a few weeks ago and came across a very young Labrador puppy, this puppy came round the corner followed by his owner, and she was also running. I was about 20 mins into my 30 min run and was so hot and bothered I wanted to give up, bear in mind I was wearing a very lightweight t-shirt and shorts. This little puppy was no more than 4 months old and was struggling with the heat too; this was evident by the tongue flapping around out of his mouth.
(Never the less I said hi to the puppy and in my mind, I was seriously concerned for the puppies’ future. There are many reasons for this, not just to protect the physiology of the young puppy but behaviourally too, I hope that I will answer the whys and what for below). I continued my run and thought; I wonder if the owner knows the dangers, not just about the heat but about lots of other reasons why you should not run with a young puppy….
Why shouldn’t I run with my young puppy?
*Growth plates: Growth plates are forming for your puppy which fuses joints together; these continue to form up until they are about 1 year old in some cases. This is dependent on breed. Over exercise may prevent the growth plates from fusing together correctly and cause long term joint issues.
*Joints: Putting too much strain on joints at a young age may make them overused and cause issues for them such as hip dysplasia.
*Socialisation: If your puppy is too busy running they may not notice things around them and therefore they may not be properly socialised
*Allowing your puppy vigorous running will just ultimately build them up to need it more (it’s a little bit like going to the gym), so they will expect this every day.
How long should I exercise my puppy?
*The old school rule is 5 mins for every month of their life, but I always like to understand what the exercise is before I put a time on it, if it is just lead walking then you could go for longer for example than running around a field. I also recommend that owners do a mixture of sedate exercise and high impact for short stints; this is so that your puppies’ muscles and development can adjust to both. It will also help your puppy regulate their behaviour from high arousal to low arousal.
How hot is too hot?
*If it is too hot for you it is definitely too hot for your dog
*Try the foot check and pop your bare feet on the ground for a few minutes and see if the ground is hot
What can I do in the heat to keep my dog cool?
*Cooling coats and mats: cooling coats can be a great way to keep your dog cool in the heat, there are various types some you need to get wet and some have a gel inside that keeps them cool a bit like the cooling mats. Cooling mats work well in the house so that your dog can cool themselves off with.
*Carry water: Always carry water and make time for a pit stop water break, so your dog keeps hydrated- this is also good for you too!
*Avoid peak times: Try not to walk during the heat of the day, if it is really hot all day don’t walk them instead engage in activities in the garden instead.
*Walk-in woods or where there is water available: try to walk in shaded places and places with water- think of it as less of a walk and more of an adventure and exploring – your dog can have fun playing near the water and investigating the woods instead.
*Don’t put them in the car for too long: try to walk somewhere closer to home to avoid travelling times that are long. Do not leave your dog in a hot car ever!
*Games: Don’t play ball games or Frisbee during the heat this may over heat them.
* Frozen treats: Make some cool treats for you pooch by freezing Kongs filled with treats and making them some popsicles. Be sure this is in moderation and they are supervised with them.
*Paddling pool: Keep your dog occupied with a pool in the garden to cool off in; you can encourage play in the pool with toys and treats.