This is the time of year when we get days and days – sometimes weeks – of dry, hot weather, with temperatures exceeding 100°F during the day, and only cooling off to the mid 80s at night.

When we have to leave the dogs home, I leave them indoors, with the ceiling fans and cooler on. We have an air conditioner in our new home, but we almost always use the evaporative cooler instead. This is a low-tech device, frequently used in super-dry parts of the country, that essentially sucks air through pads of wet wood fibers and blows this moist, cool air into the house; the evaporation of the moisture lowers the air temperature in the house as much as 20 degrees. As hot as this super-dry environment is, I count myself lucky; it’s much less expensive to run an evaporative cooler (essentially a large fan with a small water pump inside) than air conditioning.

boy and dogs northern california

One way or the other, though, steps have to be taken to keep the dogs cool; stories abound of dogs being stricken by heat stroke. If they have ample, deep shade and lots of cool water, most healthy dogs can get through it, though debilitated dogs may lose the ability to withstand the extreme temperatures. (Of course, even healthy dogs who are subjected to exercise in this heat, or left without sufficient protection from the heat, can succumb from the heat stress. See WDJ articles “How to Prevent Heat Stroke” and “Heat Stroke in Dogs” for more information.)

My senior dog Otto has great survival techniques for coping with the heat. He finds the shadiest places in the yard, and digs holes under plants that are watered daily by the sprinkler system, planting himself into these holes and laying low. My younger dog mostly pants and scratches at the door to come inside. “Help! It’s hot!”

Last week, we had a third dog to keep cool, my son’s black coonhound, Cole. He’s used to the much more moderate temperatures in the San Francisco Bay area, where a cool fog is pulled over the entire region any time the temperatures in my valley rise to the “wicked hot” level. Cole pretty much insisted that we go find some nice wet water to get into.

I was more than happy to oblige him. Doing so also made my grandson, visiting for a month this summer from Boston, very happy. He’s an active six-year-old boy – is that an oxymoron? – and nothing makes him happier than throwing rocks into water, unless it is throwing sticks and things for dogs to fetch in the water.

I am incredibly lucky; I live in an area that is rich in open spaces where dogs are allowed to be off-leash – and most of the time, it seems like there is almost no one out there enjoying these spaces with me and my dogs. The Feather River flows through my town, and fills both a huge lake upstream and some smaller, shallow man-made lakes downstream of the Oroville Dam, giving us any number of access points where we can enjoy the water all by ourselves.

boy and dogs northern california

All the swimming has been helping Woody get enough exercise, which I’ve been trying to limit because of a recent toe injury; he somehow broke a rear toenail on July 4. Of course, this required yet another emergency visit to the vet (I’ve lost track of how many times this dog has been to the ER…more than he’s been to his regular vet, I think), for a local anesthetic enabling the vet to trim away the broken nail, clean and wrap the paw, antibiotics, and pain meds. The red, raw nub of his nail bed, unprotected by hard nail, has been getting progressively – and painfully – worn down by Woody’s incessant activity, and that’s with me trying to keep him as sedentary as I can. (He also holds that paw up when he goes out to onto the dry pasture to potty, and when crossing the gravel driveway.) Swimming once or twice a day seems like the best solution for now, and serves all of our hot-weather needs.

How are you guys getting through the heat of summer with your dogs?


  1. I live in NYC and the heat, hot pavement, and humidity has been particularly bad this year. My 12-year old, 85-pound, black American Shelter Dog has worn a cooling coat for years to help him stay comfortable in the heat. I always walk on the shady side of the street and take bottled water with me for him to drink and to wet down the cooling coat if necessary. He loves nothing better than to find a shady spot and nap on the grass in Central Park.

  2. My two year old Cockapoo gets a very close groom during the summer months in Pensacola and her daily walks are reduced to about a half-mile. She likes to lay on the a/c floor vents to stay cool, other times on the cool tile floors. Then there’s always a our swimming pool out back where she gets on the second step to cool her paws and tummy!

  3. My little girl is a 13 1/2 year old black Mini schnauzer and get hot in a heartbeat. She stays inside most of the time; We go out when it is a bit cooler right nos. I live in Hot Springs, AR where the humidity is horrible. I walk her in the morning wight after it is olight out. In the afternoon I wait until there is plenty of shade for her to get in. I live in an area here next to a national forest so there are a lot of trees. I go slowly with her and she is off leash hre in this subdivision where there is very little traffic and she knows the area well. If she gets hot we stop for her to cool down in the shade. I only walk her a quarter mile in the AM and sometimes in the PM. Have done this for a number of years due to her age. She appears to be doing well.

  4. Here in Tampa my pack of Yorkies are too close to the ground to walk on these hot days. Early mornings at a slower pace is about all we can do. Later in the afternoon they get the crazies and husband takes them on the Lanai pavers to fetch for a few min. Finishing off with a quick dunk in the pool. Such small dogs can get exercise in the house but it’s just so much more interesting going out for a good sniff and a walk. I always place my palm on the sidewalk or street to make sure it’s not too hot for their paws. I watch people walk their dogs across black top & wonder how the dog feels about it?

  5. This time of the year, I have found that the only option for my dogs staying active (as only 1 is a swimmer) is to start our hikes at 5:30 AM. Then we are done before it gets beastly. I do worry about algae, which can grow even in quite large ponds, and become unhealthy. Mine also seek out the cooler, damp areas outside, although they are more willing to spend time indoors at this time of the year. Last year when my elderly AC died a mini split system was installed, and the electric bill is less than half of previous summers, which is a huge relief.

  6. The same here . I live on the Bay and swimming is our go to exercise at this time of year where temps can reach 95 with 100% humidity. Indoors there is lots of Enrichment and games . Only short walks in the late evening.

  7. We just moved from that Bay Area you mentioned up to the Sierra foothills where it is a lot hotter! Our 12 year old Golden’s prefer to stay indoors but they also dig to get a cool spot under a plant on occasion. We have driven to a ford on a creek about 1/2 mile away to let them cool off as well as to the American River.

  8. My two cattle dog/ hound mix dogs and I live in Lake Co Ca. Where it seems to hover around 100 degrees most of the summer. We have 3 acres of fenced property with a few large walnut trees for shade. I try to keep the ground around them watered to give cool places to lie down, they have a pretty large doggie swimming pool and my husband and I have a large semi in ground pool surrounded by a deck. My girl dog likes to crawl under the deck lie up against the cool side of the pool or under one of the trees on lookout for any wayward ground squirrels brave enough to come onto our property. My boy dog will lay out in the sizzling sun until I make him move at which time he will usually climb into and lay for 30 minutes or more in “his” pool. I won’t take them to any of the many nearby lakes in the summer because of the dangerous algae though we do try to get there earlier in the spring for some swim and fetch time.

  9. Diana pawPrints has figured out my old dog Caesar’s trick. She lays on the concrete path on the north side of the house right in front of one of the vents for the crawlspace. the air is very cool under the house and so she has instant AC from the air exiting from under the house through one of those vents. That’s where she lays for her afternoon siesta. She also has a few spots in the yard where she has been digging herself a cool hole to lay in. Thankfully it hasn’t been that hot (yet) and not for very long. It cools way down at night when she naps on her Coolaroo bed in the middle of the yard where she can survey her domain at a moment’s notice.

  10. My COVID bubble is 3 friends I met at our local dog park early in 2019 when our dogs were one. I was the only one with a fenced yard but 2 have moved so now we have 3 dog parks to rotate between. Mine has a pool, greatly appreciated by hound mix Jeffree whose pink feet make summer sidewalks a stovetop of horror. We share homemade ice cream, my fresh peaches, ribs, chips and watermelon while Ruby, Finnegan, Juneau and Jeffree play. We are all 60-ish and one of us just lost her mother to COVID so we remain fairly content to be in lockdown in a world gone mad.

    • Such a sweet image of friendship, with love of your dog park friends and the dogs’ dog friends, and a lunch menu that has ME in Pavlovian dog mode (salivating)! I don’t know (beyond friendly waves and occasional talk of the weather) the wonderful “regulars” at my closest off-leash dog park area, but found I missed them these past six months. Your comment made me realize the common ground we all share; of dogs, and their people. Thank you-