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Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Heat

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As cycle tourists, we are at the mercy of what the weather gods dole. Spending the majority of our time outside, we feel every rain drop, gust of wind, watch each sunset and sunrise, and bake under every hour of hot sun.

Europe has been experiencing a massive heat wave this summer and we’ve spent weeks cycling in weather hotter than pushing towards 100F.

We try to wake around 5:00AM in order to take off by 7:00AM. Tough as it is to rise so early, it’s even tougher when the temperature refuses to drop below 75F at night and the mass of mosquitoes at the ready to barge into your tent prevent you from opening the vents for some air to flow.

By 8:00AM, the temperatures have already preheated to a scorching 90F.

Since dogs don’t sweat like humans, the breeze that cools Dave and I while we cycle does nothing for Sora. Her only way of cooling off is to get her to cooler temperatures, whether in the shade or in water.

Cycle traveling requires anywhere from five to eight hours (or more!) in the sun and heat. It’s beyond uncomfortable for Dave and me, and I can’t even imagine adding two fur coats and the inability to sweat into the mix. When the temperature soars, we prioritize Sora’s well-being over distance. Here are some of our tips for keeping your dog cool in the heat. 

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Exercise

We never allow Sora to do any sort of heavy exercise if the temperature rises above 80F. If we planned a short day of riding, we walk her in the morning before we leave, or we simply wait until the evening after we have set up camp.

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Chill Out

Despite her dislike of water and being wet, Dave and I force Sora into bodies of water to soak her paws and wet her fur. Throughout Austria, we found water stations that often had hoses attached. We’d simply wet her fur with the hose and rub the water in to get to her skin. A lot of heat exits dogs through their paws and chest, so wetting these areas with cool water is a quick way to cool their temperature. Avoid ice cold water, as the change in temperature can shock a dog’s body system.

Cooling Towels

When we know we’ll be away from a any source of water for a long period of time, we place a wet towel on  Sora’s bed to help regulate her temperature. If we stay indoors and have a freezer available, we’ll put the towel in there so it stays cooler longer.

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Sun Shade

Sora’s trailer doesn’t provide much shade when the hot summer sun sits directly above us. To block the sun, we brought along a white pillow case and several packs of strong magnets. We attach the pillowcase on the inside of her Burley Tail Wagon to prevent the sun from penetrating the trailer.

Stop Often and Always in the Shade

We stop regularly, and always in the shade, to check on Sora’s panting level and offer her water at least once per hour. Excessive panting is a sign of overheating. Regular five to 10 minute stops to take her out of the trailer and allow her to walk around and get some fresh air help regulate her temperature.

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Water, Water Everywhere

We never leave anywhere with Sora without bringing water along when the temperatures rise. She has her own 16oz Klean Kanteen water bottle that we keep in her trailer and take with us when we go for a walk in the city or a swim at the beach. Her Kurgo Zippy Bowl folds into a small size and clips easily to a belt loop or her leash to make for easy transport from place to place.

Slow Travel

Cycle touring into a furnace daily isn’t exactly the sort of adventure we envisioned when we planned our journey. On hot days, we simply shorten our distance. Some days, this might mean we only ride 15km. With the temperatures reaching 90 degrees by 8:00am, we just don’t have the energy to ride much longer.

Photo by Chelsea Gale
Photo by Chelsea Gale

Brush Regularly

Since our living spaces (her trailer, our tent) are so small, we are more aware of Sora’s shedding patterns. We know when she experiences a major coat blow out, thanks to the large clumps of fur that float around in our tent. We’re much better about brushing her on tour than we are at home.

Brushing Sora regularly helps her keep cooler in the hotter days. We brought along a Furminator and try to brush her once every couple weeks. We know we’ve waited too long when, after finishing brushing her the scene appears to resemble the murder scene of a small creature.

Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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You may never have thought about the importance of sun protection for dogs, but like humans, the sun can lead to damaging eye conditions and skin cancer. Read the article to see how you can prevent sun damage to your dog.

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