We are often asked how we train our dogs living in such a warm climate. There's no doubt that Missouri summers are hot and humid. While we do cut back on mileage and intensity, our pups still need exercise. So, how do we make it work?
First, we train in the dark. We wake up at 4:00am to train before the sun comes up. This keeps the dogs cooler. Plus, if we have to be on pavement at all, the pavement is not hot from the sun beating down all day. *Did you know that when the pavement is 125 degrees (when the temperature is 77 degrees outside), your dog can suffer skin destruction in just one minute?
Second, we pay close attention to the temperature and humidity. Humidity in our area is key. 70 degrees with 60% humidity is vastly different than 70 degrees with 98% humidity. Humidity makes the air heavier, stickier, and just thicker in general. That thickness causes the dogs (and humans) not to be able to cool as efficiently.
Third, we know our dogs. Some of our dogs have thicker coats. Some dogs are darker than others. Some dogs just tolerate the heat better than others. Some dogs are older, and some dogs are younger. Knowing your dog is key, and knowing what they can tolerate or handle is important.
Fourth, we try to incorporate water. If we are able to run some of our routes near a lake or stream, we do it! The dogs have a chance to cool off and get a drink mid and post run. Our dogs are always offered water post run as well, whether it's warm or not.
Fifth, we find other fun ways to incorporate exercise. If your dog likes to swim, that's a great option. Short shady hikes to explore new trails or fetch sessions in the yard are fun ways to spend time with your dog while helping them stay active.
There are many things you can do to help keep your dog cool, but the key factor is to know your dog. If you have a northern breed dog, remember that in the early summer, they may still have some of their winter coat. If you have a brachycephalic dog, they likely cannot tolerate the temperatures like other dogs.
Your dog is #1. If you have to skip a training run because of the temperatures, do it. The health of your pet is key. Pay attention to how they are handling the heat. Check their paws. Make sure they have water. The bottom line is, your dog cannot tell you in words they are hot. Their well-being is your priority. Keep the exercise short, fun, and just enjoy being with your dog.
Please let us know if there's any other training tips we can provide, and happy running!