As the days start to get longer in the spring, our calendars seem to fill up with all sorts of leisurely spring and summer activities. From hiking and biking to beach trips and pool parties, many people enjoy taking their dogs along for some of the fun. However, all that sun, salt water, and chlorine can be tough on a dog’s coat and skin. A little extra grooming during the warmer months can help make sure those crazy days don’t harm your pet.
All Four Feet on the Ground
If you take your dog with you when you bike or jog, bear in mind that he doesn’t wear protective footwear like you do. Hot pavement can burn his paw pads. The best way to avoid this problem is to only take him with you when the pavement is its coolest, which is typically early in the morning or late in the evening. As a safety precaution, apply some paw wax to your dog’s paw pads. It will act as a barrier and prevent his pads from drying and cracking.
The same paw wax you use for walks on the blacktop can also give your dog protection from hot sand on the beach and from jagged rocks during hikes. The wax will add to his foot traction as well. Check your dog’s paws for scrapes and cuts whenever you return from an outdoor activity. Wiping them with a cool, damp washcloth will help keep them clean and lower your dog’s body temperature if the weather is especially hot.
Brush, Bathe, Repeat
Make sure you stick to your regular routine for bathing and brushing your dog during the summer months, especially if he spends time swimming. As you perform these grooming activities, always be on the lookout for fleas and ticks. Summer is the season in which these parasites thrive, and grooming time presents the perfect opportunity to check for them. A flea- and tick-repellent shampoo may be helpful in keeping these pests at bay, but be sure to carefully follow the directions on the label.
Outdoor baths may offer a pleasant change of pace on a warm day, but be mindful of the temperature of the water. Freezing cold water can shock your pet’s system even in the middle of July. Harsh garden hose settings can also feel unpleasant for your pet. A smart alternative is taking a bucket of tepid water outside with you and using a cup, not a hose, for rinsing.
Think Before You Clip
If your dog has a profuse coat, you may be tempted to give him a short haircut for the summer months. There is no harm in doing this as long as your dog’s coat is meant to be trimmed; double-coated breeds should not be shaved. Although it seems natural to assume that a dog with a heavy coat may feel too hot in the summer, his fur actually works quite well at protecting him from the heat. It also prevents sunburn. If your dog has shorter hair, it is smart to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors with him during the day.
Don’t Forget Those Ears!
Ear care is one of the most important summer grooming tasks. Hot air and humidity create an ideal breeding ground for yeast and bacteria in your dog’s ears. If he enjoys swimming in the summer, he may face a higher risk for ear infections. Weekly cleanings are enough for most dogs, but wiping your dog’s ears after each swim is a smart preventive measure. Oh—and the more your dog shakes the water off of himself after a swim, the more he helps prevent an ear infection.
Tammy Gagne is a freelance writer who specializes in the health and behavior of companion animals. A two-time Dog Writers Association of America writing competition nominee, she has written more than pet care books for adults and children. She lives in New England with her husband, son, and myriad furry and feathered creatures.