Keeping Your Dog Safe and Happy in the Summer Heat

As first seen on the Bedford-Katonah Patch

As the temperatures continue to inch upward, my dogs spend most of their time wandering from the deep shade beside the training studio to the enticing cool of the frog pond.

Balder, still young enough to muster some dramatic bursts of energy, expends most of it during our early morning romps. The rest of the day is spent sprawled next to Whoopsie, patiently waiting for the relief of sunset.

I don’t envy dogs during the summer. Trapped in fur coats without the ability to produce a cooling sheen of salty sweat, dogs pant to regulate body temperature. And while I’m not a huge fan of sweating, it certainly beats panting.

Checking the weather for the next few days, it looks like another weekend of sweating, panting and frog pond dipping…temps in the 90s and plenty of scorching sun. Here are a few tips to keep your fur-clad kids safe and comfortable during a summer heatwave.

Water Water Water
Dogs have a rough time keeping their body temperature in check. To help your dog stay comfortable, have water bowls available at all times and if possible fill a small kiddie pool for your dog or puppy to wade in. Hard plastic pools are best; your dog’s nails may pop an inflatable. Look for one with a drainage hole and refill the pool each day— it will double as a giant water dish, so keep it clean!

Air Conditioning
Humans are not the only ones who love air conditioning. For those blessed with central air, you may notice little change in your dog’s energy level or mood…until you take him outside. The heat will hit your dog like a ton of bricks and he’ll hurry through his routines in order to get back to his air conditioned den.

Not very wolf-like, but there you have it. The only downside to this uniquely modern doggy lifestyle is energy management. Indoors, it feels great and your dog wants to go, go, go. Outside, it’s stifling and he wants in, in, in.

Confined, restricted and a little bit bored, your dog may start to misbehave by barking or chewing. Older dogs may revisit puppyhood issues, becoming overstimulated when people come and go. Plan a few adventures to get you and your pampered pooch out of the house. Be sure to pick a place with plenty of shade and maybe a water feature. Take walks in the early morning or evening, after the pavement has cooled. Lay your hand on the surface to check the temperature.

Two keys please
All dogs love a car ride, mine included. I love taking them with me. They always jump in the front seat while I’m gone and they always take up the same seats: Balder drives, Whoopsie rides shotgun. For the past few weeks, however, I’ve had to sneak out of the house, carefully cupping the car keys to avoid the telltale jingle that screams “CAR RIDE!!!!”

Cars heat up shockingly fast. On an 85 degree day, your car can reach 125 degrees within 30 minutes. If you must bring your dog, carry an extra set of keys so that you can leave the air conditioning running while you’re gone. But be aware that this is not an entirely safe solution; dogs have been known to press the AC button while they roam around the interior. With the windows shut tight, the consequences can be disastrous. Leave your dog home whenever possible.

For more summer tips, including tips on pool safety, you can download my newsletter online. Have fun and stay cool—no matter how many paws you walk on!


Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Leash

In the long, intertwined history of people and dogs, the leash and leash walking are relatively new inventions, designed for convenience and safety. Humans walk in straight lines, confident in the belief that they are in charge because they are holding the leash. But restricted, linear walks are unnatural to dogs, who prefer to meander and explore. Dogs pull on the leash in an effort to increase the meandering. Humans pull back to increase the restricting. This combination of pulling away and pulling back puts pressure on the dog’s collar and he starts to choke and feel very, very anxious.* Here are some quick tips to make your walks more pleasant:

* Roaming ahead teaches your dog that he is walking you. He’ll make directional decisions and react to other dogs, people or nuances. Teach your dog to walk with you, not in front of you.

* When walking near roadways or crowds use a hand held or hands free lead. Long or retractable leashes encourage pulling and reactionary behaviors such as barking, lunging and jumping.

* If your dog pulls, consider using a No-pull harness or Head Collar or correction collar to shape cooperative walking skills. Speak to a professional to help you select what might be most appropriate for your dog.

* Use treats and rewards to encourage your dog’s attention. Consider using a clicker to highlight the moments your dog is paying attention to you.

* If a sight or sound distracts your dog do not look at your dog or respond in the moment: stay calm, setting the example by simply ignoring it. Walk faster and encourage your dog to follow you.

Dogs spend a lot of time hanging around the house – it’s safe and comfortable but a bit limiting. Share the world with your dog by learning how to walk together.

*Excerpt from Sarah’s syndicated column on the Bedford-Katonah Patch.

A Tail of Unconditional Love

The little computer screen had finally projected sunny after a solid straight run of rain—a happy sight just weeks after our move. The kids blasted out of bed, eager to head down to the lake as my husband collected his papers and promised to help when he came back.

As I pushed my three canines out the back door to enjoy their new enclosed backyard, I was happy to appease my inner dictator who was demanding another day of unpacking, weather regardless!

Safety 101: Teaching Dogs to be Good Neighbors

As a professional dog trainer, I see all kinds of dog behavior and I will be the first to tell you that most bad behavior is simply bad training. But I’m also a mom and sometimes my momma instincts override my trainer’s cool. This weekend, my son was threatened by a neighborhood dog and I felt heart-stopping fear followed by deep frustration. This didn’t have to happen.

A Page from the Dog Trainer’s Diary

What happened on a recent visit to train a canine version of Bonnie and Clyde.

Next week, I will address getting a dog or puppy to match your lifestyle.  Pure breed or rescue?  Young puppy or older dog?  How much does the breed influence the temperament?  Male or female?  Please forward me your questions to help me shape my article! Meanwhile, here’s a page from my Dog Trainer’s Dairy.

Meet Rocky, a Cane Corso, with a boxer’s name and attitude. He’s big. He’s bold. He barks with authority. And he’s only 14 weeks old. Uh-0h.

Walking Your Dog: Who is Training Who? The psychology behind the modern day leash walk

The psychology behind the modern day leash walk

Thanks to those readers who commented or emailed me on my article, “Winter’s Perils.” It was a great way to get to know some of you and a fitting introduction to my new bi-monthly column, “Ask the Trainer.” This new format will let me shape my column around your dog training questions and concerns.

Based on sheer volume, it seems the number one concern among my readers and clients is leash pulling.

Dog Trainer, Dog Trainer…Who do I choose?

Treat your dog like family, not just a member of the pack.

Recently, I was trying to finish up some last-minute work projects while my 7-year old daughter, Lindsay, studied the guest list for her imminent birthday party. Did I order the cake? Were the balloons definitely going to be purple? Should we call?

Frustrated and hoping a small project would distract her, I told her to look the numbers up in the phone book. And just like that, we had one of those generational moments. She had no idea what a phone book was. The times they are a-changing.

The Dog Trainer’€™s Dark Side

The hardest thing to control in life, is not a dog…it’s your temper. 

I’m proud to admit that I have a reputation for patience. Whether presiding over the first chaotic moments of a new group dog training class, sitting in a client’s kitchen listening to a long list of canine misbehaviors or guiding my daughter through the complex and sometimes volatile social strata of first grade, I manage to keep my cool.

Training a Dog to Love their Bath

The kitchen door slammed and there they were: my two children. Soaking wet and covered with mud. In April. I was wearing a fleece vest and Ugg boots, they were half-dressed, squirting each other with the hose. I’m so mid-life.

Setting my coffee cup aside, I hoisted my wet, wriggly toddler in one arm and took my daughter’s hand. It was time for an early afternoon bath.

The sound of the bathtub faucet alerted Whoopsie that there was water happening. Crowding into the upstairs bathroom, she looked longingly into the tub...

Shar Pei Meets Vizsla: A Page from the “Dog Training Diary”

One of my favorite things to do in my private dog training practice is untangle knots. Not the knots in leashes or long lines, but in the complex relationships between clients and their pets.

Sometimes the knots are simple…the “I just got a puppy, now what do I do?” type of call. Others are more complex: hair-raising tales of furniture destruction, car chasing, non-stop barking and seemingly incurable housebreaking problems. 

This week, I'd like to share a story about the multi-dog household—another common dog training issue...

The First Time

I had had enough. I tweeted, I posted, I answered emails and phone calls and then…I had enough. The weather icon on the bottom of my computer screen was showing nothing but happy little sun faces for the next several days so I made an executive decision: this family was taking a day off—midweek—and going to the beach. We were all playing hooky–from camp, from work, from Facebook.

Aesop the New Dog

Meet Aesop, the dog trainer’s dog. Eighteen months old, unreliably housebroken and occasionally a bit clingy, Aesop needs a little work. But he’s got something that can’t be taught: a gentle, devoted heart.

Oh—and us. Aesop’s definitely got us. Big time. Here is his story and how we all decided to let our hearts be buried in the fur of yet another dog.

Born Dog #58225 in a breeding kennel in the Czech Republic, this beautiful dog was repeatedly passed over by buyers because of a miniscule imperfection: an ear divot, a small nick in the upper corner of his ear. Buyers of champion German Shepherds demand perfection and that tiny flaw made Dog #58225— kennel-named Ezopp—hard to place. 

Holiday Tips For Dog Lovers

My daughter is very imaginative. One minute she’s a leopard, the next a frog and a 30 seconds later, she’s a dragonfly. And woe is me if  my day is on overload and I fall behind on the transformations. “Moooooom,” she’ll say somewhat impatiently, “I’m a SEAGULL now. You’re not paying attention.”

Dogs, too, enjoy our undivided attention and predictable routines. When the holiday season interrupts the regularly scheduled household programming, dogs can become unsettled and anxious. Here’s how to keep your pooch—and your family—on an even keel during the hubbub.

Wordless Wonders

My son is going for the gold. He’s determined to break the world record for the oldest toddler never to utter a word. Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5, so I’m okay with his wordlessness, but still… no “mama,” no “dada,” just a complex combination of bellows and hand signals that convey his immediate desires with startling specificity. He’s only 2 1/2 feet tall, but he’s figured it out: why use up valuable brain cells learning to talk when you can bring an entire household to its knees with one perfectly timed, glass-shattering ARGHHHH! And maybe he’s fine-tuning the theory of relativity, who knows.