When Is Too Hot to Run With Your Dog? When Is Too Cold?

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It’s crucial to consider weather conditions to ensure your dog’s safety and well-being. Extreme temperatures, whether too hot or cold, can pose significant health risks to dogs. In this article, we aim to help dog owners determine the safe temperatures for running with their dogs, providing guidelines and tips to keep your canine friend comfortable and secure when running.

When Is Too Hot to Run With Your Dog?

Summer heat and humidity are not always ideal for running with dogs. Chris Vargo, the 2014 U.S. 50-mile trial champion who takes his dog Colt, a 4-year-old black Lab, on runs up to 25 miles, says: “When it’s over 90 degrees, I don’t run outside with Colt at all. I mean, he’s a black Lab,” Vargo says. “I don’t want to kill him,” adding that he’s seen friends’ dogs run into trouble at distances as short as 4 miles in the heat.[1]

A safe running temperature with your dog is 75° F or below. A good tip for higher temperatures in hotter months is to run in the shade in the mornings or evenings when the temperatures are cooler.

We recommend monitoring the temperature and humidity levels before taking your dog out for a run. If the temperature exceeds 150°F, it is likely too hot for your pet. For instance, if the temperature is 90°F with 70% humidity (90+70=160), it’s best to keep your dog indoors. It’s important to note that pavement, asphalt, sand, and car surfaces can become very hot during the summer and exceed temperatures of 145°F.

You should test the temperature of your trail’s surface before running with your dog. Place your hand or barefoot on it for 10 seconds; if it feels too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Neglecting to do this could lead to burns on your dog’s paws.

Adjusting Runs in Hot Weather

Tips for running safely in warm weather

  1. Early morning or late evening runs: To avoid the peak heat, schedule your runs during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.
  2. Choosing shaded routes: Opt for routes with plenty of shade to help keep your dog cooler and reduce direct exposure to the sun.
  3. Carrying water and portable dog bowls: Always bring water and a portable dog bowl to keep your dog hydrated. Offer frequent water breaks during the run.
  4. Using cooling vests or bandanas: Equip your dog with a cooling vest or bandana, which can help lower their body temperature by providing evaporative cooling.

When Is It Too Cold to Run With Your Dog?

Cold temperatures are not a problem for most dogs unless the temperatures fall below 32° F. Running in below-freezing temperatures can pose risks of hypothermia and frostbite, especially for small dogs, dogs with thin coats, or those not acclimated to cold weather. Ensure your dog is properly protected with a jacket or heating sweater, and consider using paw protection to prevent frostbite. Limit the duration of runs and monitor your dog for signs of cold stress, such as shivering, reluctance to move, or lifting paws off the ground. Running with your dog in temperatures under 20° F is not advised.

Warm up your dog with a brisk walk or some indoor playtime before heading out for a run to help their muscles adjust to the cold.

Breeds and Their Weather Preferences

Different dog breeds have varying tolerances to temperature extremes based on their physical characteristics, such as coat type, body size, and muzzle shape. Knowing your dog’s breed-specific temperature tolerances, you can take appropriate measures to ensure their comfort and safety during runs in different weather conditions.

Heat-Sensitive Breeds

  • Brachycephalic Breeds: Breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers, are prone to overheating due to their restricted airways, which make panting less efficient.
  • Thick-Coated Breeds: Breeds with dense, heavy coats, such as Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Newfoundlands, can overheat quickly in warm weather.

Cold-Sensitive Breeds

  • Small and Short-Coated Breeds: Breeds with minimal body fat and thin coats, like Chihuahuas, Greyhounds, and Whippets, are more susceptible to cold weather and may need extra protection.
  • Toy Breeds: Small breeds like Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers can lose body heat rapidly in cold temperatures due to their small size and fine coats.

How Dogs Regulate Body Temperature While Running

When dogs run, their bodies generate additional heat, making it even more important for them to regulate their body temperature effectively. Here’s how they manage this process:

  • Panting: Panting is the primary method dogs use to cool down. As they run, dogs breathe faster, increasing the panting rate. This process helps evaporate moisture from the respiratory tract, releasing heat and cooling the body.
  • Sweating through paw pads: While minimal, dogs sweat through their paw pads. This sweat can help with cooling, though it is not as effective as panting.
  • Increased blood flow to skin: As dogs exercise, their bodies increase blood flow, allowing heat to dissipate through convection and radiation. This is especially effective when there is a breeze or airflow around the dog.
  • Behavioral adjustments: Dogs instinctively adjust their pace and seek out cooler surfaces or shaded areas if they start to overheat. They may slow down, lie down, or stop running altogether to avoid excessive heat buildup.
  • Drinking water: Water helps dogs regulate their body temperature by rehydrating and cooling from the inside. Water consumption before, during, and after running is essential to prevent overheating.

Understanding these mechanisms helps plan and adjust runs to ensure dogs stay within safe temperature limits and remain comfortable and healthy while exercising.

The Bottom Line

Running with your dog is a fantastic way to bond and stay healthy, but it’s crucial to consider weather conditions to ensure their safety and well-being. The ideal running temperatures are between 32°F (0°C) and 75°F (24°C). Exercise caution when the temperature is above 75°F and avoid running when it’s above 85°F or below 32°F. When it’s too hot or cold, always prioritize your dog’s safety and well-being to ensure a positive experience for both of you and avoid running at these temperatures. Instead, consider using a dog treadmill or dog runs as a temporary solution when the temperatures are not ideal.

If you are new to running with your pet, we’ve put together a guide to help you learn all the basics of running with dogs. You must also get the proper dog running gear to ensure your dog’s safety and a positive experience.

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