Coooo-ee tiger, it is hot! When a heatwave hits - like it is doing as I write this blog - it's taps aff, head to the beach and soak up those rays. We always take our dogs when we can, but there are times when we have to make do with what we have at home.
So if you are at home on a scorching day, here are 5 easy, cheap and effective ways you can ensure doggo stays nice and cool.
1. Pea Water
Please don't skip ahead here, as I"m afraid there may be the danger of misunderstanding what I mean by pea water.
Frozen peas can be a good way to cool your dog's drinking water down, whilst also supplying them with a nice healthy treat! (Dogs with kidney problems shouldn't be fed peas - check with your vet first if in doubt).
Just pour a few frozen peas into the bowl and voila, instant chilled pea water. The peas do tend to sink, but are still perfectly edible (by your dog - don't be disgusting. Put them in their dinnerbowl).
There's also no problem with putting ice in your dog's water. There was, some time ago, a big hooha about this, with many claiming it can make your dog ill. It has been proven time and time and time andtime again that there's no danger in giving your dogs icy water, but as ever they should be monitored to make sure they aren't over-drinking or drinking too quickly.
2. Wet Towels
3. Paddling Pool
We bought a cheap as chips paddling pool like this one recently, although you might have one in the attic or shed, used once then forgotten about!
We got so we could fill it with balls and throw in dog food to give them an activity whilst eating - it slows them down, and adds a bit of fun!
However with the sun out, it converts to its original usage as a pool quite easily. We filled it up to its recommended level and encouraged the dogs in by throwing kibble on the water. This went down very well! What dog doesn't love a splish splash with added food?
The good thing about getting a cheap one is that if pooch has a particularly shard claw and bursts it, you're not too badly out of pocket.
4. Hose Pipe Fun
5. Frozen Banana Yoghurt Natural Treats
This is one our pups love.
Slice up a banana in the posh chef-y way, that is, at a slight angle to get oval-shaped slices, and not just straight down into circles.
Pop them onto a tray lined with baking parchment and stick in the freezer for a couple of hours. They'll come out solid and you can feed them to your dog like this. However, for a delicious twist, pop some natural yoghurt on top to make the pups feel like they are at a Tapas bar.
Remember the basics for keeping your dog cool. Overheating and sunstroke are very real dangers and can quickly kill a dog:
Don't leave your dog in the car in this heat, even for a minute, and even if your windows are down. If there's no breeze, the car will soon turn into an oven.
Keep a cool breeze running through your home if possible. Open windows at opposite sides of your building to ensure airflow.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and always have water available for you and your dogs on your walks.
Don't cover your dog crates with anything heavy - in fact, as you can see from the pic, crates make great doorstops to let the air through when not in use! This is especially handy if you don't have a stairgate in the house, and want to leave your doors open for a breeze.
And if all else fails, a dog laying by the back door is surely a happy dog!
You all have probably seen that meme on Facebook of an old looking dog in a flat cap, reminiscing aboutwhen he was a pup he had one toy, and it was a stick.
Throwing a stick for your dog is one of those iconic images that movies and TV shows are filled with. But it's not as harmless a pastime as you may think, and as many dog owners have found out to their horror it can be one of the most dangerous things to do with your dog pal.
Time and time again we are warned of the risks of throwing sticks. Apart from chewing and swallowing sharp splinters, the risks include a stick landing and poking up from the ground like a spear. A running dog can easily impale their body or throat on it, especially if the ground is wet and slippy, leading to horrific and life threatening injuries.
The danger is so real that the Kennel Club have banned images of dogs holding sticks in their mouths in their annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition, and say on their website: "We believe in happy and healthy dogs. Dogs playing or chewing on sticks may cause serious injury so we only want to see dogs playing with dog toys that are considered safe by vets and Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme dog trainers and instructors."
"I've thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem."
Look, here's Ben Fogle disagreeing with us and most of the vet world:
Even if, like Ben Fogle, you have thrown sticks for your dogs all your life, you should still stop now. Just because nothing bad has happened, doesn't mean nothing will - is that a risk you are really willing to take with your dog?
Oh Ben Fogle. What a diddy.
The dangers of your dog impaling themselves on a stick is real and documented and if your stomach can take it, a quick Google will show some of the terrible damage a simple piece of oak can cause.
It's a manageable, recognised risk, so let's look at alternatives.
Rubber Balls and Launchers
Our go-to outdoors toy has always been the rubber ball. We use the smaller foamy balls rather than tennis balls because Sprocket and Indie have teeny totsy mouths and can't manage a big tennis ball. We tended to use ball launchers like this Chuckit one, but it got to the stage where Barky McBarkerston wouldn't let us walk in peace so it has been quietly retired to the cupboard, coming out only on special occasions.
The K-9 Kannon
We invested in a Hyperpet K-9 Kannon Mini bought from the excellent Harry's Treats in Portobello. It's a small gun that shoots out a ball using the science of a humungous elastic band, as demonstrated by the handsome young man of a model in the image.
It can fair blast the ball some distance, and would save a heck of a lot of shoulder-aching from using a launcher. You can also shout "Get to the choppa" in a terrible Austrian accent and people will accept you for it. The only problem for us is that Sprocket is afraid of the Kannon, so it has had limited usage recently.
Sprocket is afraid of many things which pop, so this came as little surprise to us. However, the Kannon is very useful for when we have high-energy boarders staying with us (we just have to distract Sprocket with something else!)
We just bought one of these the other day to give it a try as a safer alternative to sticks. It's called a Kong Wubba and is described by its own blurb as a "...fun, interactive toss and tug toy" which is one of the rudest descriptions of a dog toy I've come across, but I guess not everyone has the mind of a teenager.
The idea is that it is tough and durable, with a tennis ball and a smaller, squeaky ball covered in a hard nylon cloth that should hold up to a good game of fetch or tug-o-war.
So far so good - in that it's seen some action between two energetic dogs and has come home in one piece. i'll update the blog when we have used it a bit more, and see how durable it really is.
There are loads of alternatives to sticks, of course, and we haven't tried most of them. Have you?
From rubber fetch sticks to throw, to knotted ropes for tug-o-war, all the way to the top of the range i-Fetch ball launcher for the more laid-back dog owner amongst us, there is surely an affordable option that would allow everyone to move away from the pointy sticks and danger of a nasty and avoidable stabbing of your dog.
Let us have your recommendation for alternatives to sticks below. And if we've learned one thing from this blog, it's clearly don't listen to Ben Fogle.
When I first mentioned to people that Cheryl and I were going on a first aid course for dogs there was, it is fair to say, some mirth. Would I be giving them the kiss of life? CPR? Bandaging them up?
Well actually, yeah!
Dog owners know that they quickly become part of your family, and if something bad were to happen to them, you would be devastated. Now, imagine learning afterwards that you could have helped saved their life if you had spent a few hours learning basic first aid, just as you would do for humans.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it?
Rhodes 2 Safety
We chose to go with Rhodes 2 Safety for our course, led by the informative Kerry Rhodes with able assistance from her Rhodesian Ridgebacks Axl and Chi, two stunners who often stole the show with their cheeky antics!
Rhodes 2 Safety are exceptionally well regarded, and in recognition of their work to bring life saving tips to dog owners were named UK's Best Canine First Aid Training Company in the Business Excellence Awards of 2017.
By chance, our session was being filmed for an upcoming TV show on the best dogs in the UK from Ricochet TV. Now being on TV is no strange thing to Cheryl and I, and you can see us in a variety of shows including a whole half-second in the background crowd of an old RIver Cottage episode during the credits. I had my shorts on and Cheryl had on her hat and I don't wish to blow my own trumpet, but we pretty much made the entire show watchable through being so damn sexy. I'd add a photo but we'd probably break the internet.
"Dammit Jim, I'm a dog boarder, not a doctor!"
It was made clear at the course that only a vet can diagnose and treat an animal. What this first aid allows us to do, however, is get the dog into such a condition where we can get him to the vet for emergency treatment.
So, for example, if a dog starts to choke, the first aid gives us the knowledge and confidence to deal with this immediate problem and give us time to get him to a vet. There are very few times where a choking dog will survive a car journey to the vets without immediate on-site care.
The Course Content
A range of likely scenarios were covered, including choking, bandaging a wound, blood loss and safe removal of ticks - we even bought a shiny new tick remover which looks ferocious!
A particularly good tip which I feel obligated to share for the health of dogs and vets everywhere was muzzle training.
The idea of muzzles can seem somewhat cruel and restrictive, but only if they are used in a poor way and instead of training your dog correctly. Often, when a dog is taken to the vets in pain, their initial reaction is to strike out and bite. It is therefore safer for everyone involved if the dog is muzzled, but if this is a new experience to your dog - and in addition to the trauma and pain they are going through - it is one more thing to worry about.
The solution? Muzzle training. Slowly acclimatise your dog to a muzzle, using positive reinforcement and high-value treats to show them it is a good thing. If you would like to find out more, I'd highly recommend your first stop being the Rhodes 2 Safety blog on muzzle acceptance, which takes you through the steps with video.
Is Canine First Aid Worth It?
We had a great time at the class and met loads of like-minded dog lovers. Having the knowledge is a comfort, and has increased our confidence of dealing with dog emergencies, which puts our mind at ease and, hopefully, those of our customers. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Also, we got to bandage each other and pretend to be Power Rangers at a 1980s disco. How is that not most excellent?