Safe Nights for the Dog Days of Summer

During these hot and humid days, the only times caring dog owners typically can walk their canines is either in the early morning or late evening. And putting paws to still-warm pavement after a later sunset means navigating neighborhood streets with more joggers, bikers and other dog-walkers, as well as drivers — all taking advantage of a cooler outing before bedtime.

When trying to squeeze a walk in after dinner and before hitting the hay, you’re tempted to grab your pooch and just run out the door. But before you do, take just a moment to review a few simple rules that will help you and your pet stay safe and healthy on your evening jaunt.

1.    Illuminate – See and be seen!

Even if you know your walking route like the back of your hand, a crack in the pavement, forgotten child’s toy, broken glass, a sharp piece of fallen tree limb, or even snakes are just a few of the potential hazards that you may not anticipate. A simple light just bright enough to illuminate your path at least 7 to 10 feet ahead will avoid unnecessary surprises. And avoid high-lumen torches that could temporarily blind oncoming traffic or bikes.

To see, consider any of the following:

·      Your smartphone flashlight, either built-in or an app. While not ideal in terms of brightness, at least it is the light you most likely are carrying anyway, even if you forget a real flashlight.

·      A retractable dog-leash flashlight. This is the next easiest solution because it is only one item to remember for two of the four safety needs. And these are inexpensive. Just search online for “dog leash with flashlight” or run down to your local pet store.

·      A pet waste bag/flashlight (yes, they make those!) is another great inexpensive combo product, like the Top Paw LED Flashlight Dispenser 

·      A mini-flashlight. These palm-sized personal flashlights can easily fit in a pocket. And they are versatile, good for finding your house key at night when you forgot to leave the porch light on or need to locate your phone, wallet or jewelry accidently dropped in the car.

To be seen, here are a few suggestions:

·      LED collars and leashes. Just like it sounds.  These products include collars, leashes and small balls that hang from either. You can find them in pet stores priced anywhere from $5-15. The light modes include solid on, slow flash and fast flash.

·      Reflective collars and leashes. The advantage is no batteries are required and these are more likely to be worn during the day, too. The downside is that fluffy won’t be seen unless a light source hits the reflector, plus reflective light is not as bright as a flashlight.

2.    Hydrate

Your dog’s bodily fluid level can drop either from low fluid intake or fluid loss (through respiration, perspiration and urination). A walk in the heat combines both and can put your pet in danger quickly.  Fortunately, the solution is simple. Carry water — in anything. Don’t rely on the chance of finding a lawn sprinkler or gutter run-off or the garden hose of someone’s house when you start to notice symptoms. Just get in the habit of bringing water for both of you.

3.    Aerate

On some nights, temperatures may continue to hover in the 80’s for a while after sundown. Dogs keep themselves cool in three ways: panting, sweating and through their paws. You can assist by rubbing some of your dog water on your pouch’s paws (especially if the pavement is warm) and chest. For hairless and short-haired pets, you might even consider a cooling vest that uses evaporative cooling to hold water in fabric that ventilates the dog’s skin.

4.     Communicate

Use commands and leashes. As owner, you are the chief navigator here. Your four-legged companion relies on you for warnings of potential hazards. Keep in regular contact using voice commands as well as leash signals. Remember, all commands, whether audible or tactile, need to be practiced and consistent in order to work when you and your pet need them.

Follow these simple rules, and you’ll enjoy a healthy and happy stroll with your canine on a hot summer night.