There’s nothing like a Summer pet sit to make you appreciate all the wonderful things about this time of year. We love when a house has a good-sized garden for us to relax in the sunshine, or cool tiled floors inside providing relief when the heat is too much, and best of all we love to spend the long Summer days with four-legged friends! However, caring for a dog in the Summer can mean extra responsibilities as temperatures rise and you have to look out for warning signs that it’s too much for the dog. As we’re in our sixth Summer of full time, back-to-back pet sitting, here are our top, fun ways to keep dogs cool and safe when you’re dog sitting in hot weather. While we’ll focus on what you can do as a pet sitter, with only the owner’s items and set-up, we hope these tips will also provide some new ideas for dog owners too!

Consider the time of your walks

Depending on the intensity of the weather and temperature, it may be safer to not walk your dog at all if it’s looking uncomfortably warm for the dog in your care. At a dog sit in Dartmoor, caring for Bernese Mountain Dog Floki, his thick, luscious fur meant he was in danger of overheating quickly and we spent our week in June together enjoying gentle strolls around the shaded garden instead. If you do go out for a walk, let your dog set the pace and stay alert for any warning signs that they’re becoming tired or overheating. You may have to rise a little earlier than usual to beat the heat, or wait until after sunset when it’s cool again. If you have any doubts at all, contact the dog’s owner – they may advise you to shorten the length of your walk or avoid the risk and skip it altogether.

Brain games

If you do have to forgo a walk, but you’re caring for an energetic dog, playing games that work the dog mentally can be just as good to give them some mental exercise while ensuring they stay safe. Chris loves to hide toys around the house for dogs to find – like a sweet game of hide and seek with their favourite things! Enrichment toys are a great way to use up some of their excess energy, as experts say that just 20 minutes of playing with enrichment toys is equivalent to an hour’s walk in terms of stimulation. Whether it’s a snuffle mat filled with biscuits to find, a puzzle toy they have to work out and nudge around, or a Kong stuffed with their favourite treat, these kinds of interactive toys can be hugely beneficial for keeping your dog entertained and ensure they get the ‘exercise’ they need. Owners don’t always have these kinds of toys when we’re pet sitting, but you can always improvise with biscuits underneath plastic cups, folding treats into blankets so the dog has to dig for them, or setting up a ‘treasure hunt’ (we once made an Easter egg hunt for a small terrier while pet sitting – very wholesome to watch!)

Frozen treats

Did someone say treats?! As a pet sitter, you should always check with a dog’s owner before giving their pet a new food, but once you have the go-ahead there are lots of dog-safe foods that you can freeze for a nice, cooling treat. In the past we’ve frozen peas, carrots, and apples for a good crunchy, icy treat for dogs. Not only will it help a dog cool down, but they’ll love you for giving them a tasty snack, and it may just help you bond quicker! We had so much fun throwing frozen peas for Duck Tolling Retriever Baloo at a house sit in Hampshire – she would excitedly chase after them as they scattered across the kitchen floor in all directions!

If owners have a lick mat for their dog, you could spread some dog-friendly (xylitol-free) peanut butter on the mat and add a few treats before placing it in the freezer, to create a frozen mat. We also love this ice lick idea from the Blue Cross! As with any time you feed a dog a treat, keep an eye on them while they’re eating and be sure to remove anything like seeds and apple cores before giving them to a dog.

Ice cubes

Another simple one! Though it may not be the fastest way to cool down a dog, putting ice cubes in their water bowl or giving them as a treat may provide a refreshing snack for a dog. Make sure the ice cubes are an appropriate size for the dog so they don’t become a choking hazard. You could give them smaller cubes if you have a smaller ice cube tray, or even shaven ice. You could also freeze dog-friendly (xylitol-free) peanut butter in an ice cube tray, for another way to make a tasty, frozen snack!

Make a den

Engage your inner child and spend some time making a cool, shady den for dogs to shelter from the heat, whether inside or outside. We’ve used the dogs’ towels at previous house sits, draping them over chairs to create a makeshift open tent for dogs to come and go from at their leisure. Make sure they can easily get in and out of the den, and ensure there’s airflow going through the shelter so you don’t accidentally create a shelter that traps the heat. At a house sit in Tunbridge Wells, Golden Retriever Olive loved to lay out in the garden, no matter how hot it was! We ended up creating a shelter over her favourite lounging spot and, obviously, brought her inside to lay on the cool kitchen floor when the midday sun was beating down.

Cooling mats

We’ve seen a lot more houses with these mats for pets in recent years – it’s a specially designed thin mat for pets to lay on to keep them cool. Some you have to put in the fridge or freezer, others contain a cooling gel that doesn’t require chilling. However, we’ve found the success rate for getting dogs to lay on these is around 50%! We much prefer to wet a towel and lay it on tiled or cold floor in the house – it’s a little makeshift but it works perfectly at houses where they don’t own cooling mats, and this way you can easily make your own cooling ‘mat’ wherever you pet sit!

Make a splash

This one’s a little more involved, but there’s a lot more potential for fun with your pooch! We love when owners have a paddling pool for their dogs to enjoy during the warmer months – it’s so sweet to watch dogs jumping in and out to cool down! If the house doesn’t have a paddling pool, you could spend time running a hose or sprinkler – your four-legged friend will love to chase the spray and stay cool at the same time.

These ideas are meant for fun and to provide creative ways to keep a dog cool in hot weather. As always, use your best judgement and err on the side of caution if you’re at all concerned about the well-being of the dog in your care. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to ensure they’re safe at all times – even if they give you puppy eyes when they want to lay out in 30 degree heat!!

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