Keeping Hot Dogs Cool This Summer


It’s hot here in Northern California. And it’s just the start of a two-month annual period of the extremely high-temperature, dry weather we get here in the northeastern Sacramento Valley. I’m not crazy about it, but my dog Otto REALLY seems to hate the heat. Once the mercury hits 90 or so, he finds the coolest, darkest place he can find to hide out from the heat.

In his first summer – we adopted him in mid-June 2008 – Otto almost wore out his welcome with my husband even before his temporary ID tags had faded. The dog spent the first week digging down into any cool, moist place he could find – which happened to be under plants we were watering and inside of raised flower and vegetable beds we had painstakingly planted. Fortunately, I had been trained by the best – WDJ’s Training Editor, Pat Miller – and knew that we had a management problem, not a training issue, on our hands. I could see that Otto was just trying to get cool, so we needed to give him a “legal” place to do so.

(Why not let him in the air-conditioned house, you might ask? Because we don’t have one! We have a house, of course, just not one with air conditioning. In my office, I have what is locally known as a “swamp cooler” — more accurately called an “evaporative cooler.” It’s a powerful fan that pulls air through moist mats of aspen shavings and forces it through your home; you have to crack some windows or a door to let air escape. When it’s running Otto is welcome to join me as I work, but when I’m not in the office, he has to find other options.)

Otto’s best defense against the heat is his sandbox: it’s 4 feet by 6 feet and filled about 10 inches deep with nice clean sand, and situated in the shadiest corner of the yard. I wet the sand when I’m watering the garden in the morning, and Otto knows just how to dig a nice hole for himself and hide out in the damp sand throughout the day.

We have to alter our usual daily schedule out of deference to the heat. Throughout the rest of the year, I often take Otto along when I walk, or take my mountain bike for an afternoon ride on our abundant local trails; now, it’s just too hot for vigorous exercise at any time other than close to dawn and well after sunset. That is, too hot for a hot dog – people are still out running and riding bikes, but it’s just too hot for dogs, who are much closer to that egg-frying pavement, and barefoot to boot! We take our longest walks at night, and take more frequent, short trips to the river, where Otto loves to wade back and forth through the shallow water. (I’m hoping in this, his third summer, he finally gets comfortable with swimming. He loves the water, but only when his feet can touch the ground. When the water gets too deep for that, he looks panicky and heads for shore.)

I usually feed Otto twice a day, but in the heat, he really loses his appetite. We’ve switched to a once a day schedule, and I feed him late at night, when it’s cool. Only then will he dive into his food with gusto. When it’s hot, he just picks. OF COURSE, I make sure he’s got many sources of cool water – bowls in my office and the house, and a big bowl and a deep bucket outside. And I change the water frequently, making sure he’s got lots of incentive to drink as much as he needs.

What are you doing to keep your hot dogs cool?