Did you realize that just like you, your dog also needs to cool down after a run, hike, power walk, or game of fetch? Dogs that work or play hard need their owners to look out for them. Here are a few basic tips for a proper post-workout cooling down.
Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Always be sure to take along plenty of water for the both of you when you go out for a long hike, walk or run with your dog. Stop for water breaks, maybe around every mile or when you see that your dog is panting hard, allowing your dog to drink just enough to quench her thirst each time. Don’t allow her to gulp large amounts of water at one time, as this can lead stomach upset or bloating.
One of the more practical products available for dogs is a water bottle cap that releases small amounts of water when the dog licks the roller ball in the spout; they conveniently attach to standard disposable water bottles. You can also use a bottle with a pop-up spout, so that you can control the amount of water your dog is drinking.
How to Cool Down Your Dog
Just as a cool-down period after exercise is important for humans, dogs should be allowed the same luxury. Toward the end of the run, power walk or hike, gradually slow down and walk casually for several minutes to allow your dog’s body temperature and heart rate to slow down. You might even consider giving your dog a muscle rub-down or help her to stretch her limbs once you get home.
If it’s a particularly warm day, douse a towel in cool water and drape it over the dog’s shoulders. If you're wondering, "How long should my dog pant after exercise?" consider this: If your dog is panting heavily and the panting doesn’t slow down even after you have slowed down for a water break, or he becomes disoriented or weak, call a veterinarian right away.
Forgo the Food till Later
You should not exercise your dog right after a meal, as this can lead to digestive upset or bloat. Keep in mind that your dog will no doubt be very hungry after a long workout. After a period of cooling down and rehydrating with water -- small amounts at a time so he doesn’t gulp too much down -- feed your dog her normal meal.
If you have the fortune of having a place to exercise in the great outdoors, away from the urban sprawl, you will need to be especially vigilant about checking your dog for ticks and other small hazards after every outing. Check inside the ears, under the belly, and between folds of skin (e.g., armpits, neck) where insects might hide. Run your fingers through her haircoat and remove any foreign objects like burrs. Even in urban areas, your dog can pick up little bits in her paws and nostrils. In fact, part of your post-workout routine can be a thorough and relaxing brushing.
Don’t forget that feet are an important part of your dog’s body and should be given special care. Inspecting the toe pads and nails after a day out running or playing is of vital importance. Check carefully for any cuts, cracks, blisters, or dirt stuck between the toes. If necessary, wash the feet and dry them carefully before checking them over. If you see any serious wounds or damage to the foot pads or nails, check with your veterinarian for care instructions.
Image: bigbirdz / via Flickr