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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Keeping Your Boxer Cool at Outdoor Shows

Fancy cool coats are de rigueur at summer dog shows
Summer is upon us, and if you show your dogs (and even if you don't!), odds are you and your Boxer will be spending some time outside in the heat and humidity. The smooshed face that we love about our dogs, of course, makes them less able than some other breeds to cool themselves efficiently, so keeping a Boxer from overheating is a high priority. At outdoor shows, finding shady spots can be difficult, and running your car's air conditioner all day is impractical. Try these tips to keep your dog cool and comfortable during the long hot show days.


Crates

  • If you're crating your dog at a show, use a wire crate rather than a plastic or mesh one. Even though the mesh crates are lighter and easier to set up ringside, they don't allow as much airflow as a wire crate does.
  • Use crate pads that don't absorb heat (in other words, avoid fleece), or make a cooling crate pad using a pillowcase and absorbent polymer crystals. (A standard pillowcase will fit a size 400 crate; some brief instructions are available on the Malinut website.) In a pinch, wet a chamois or PVA cloth and use that in the crate in lieu of a pad.
  • Clip a battery-powered fan on the crate to provide or increase airflow. Although dogs don't sweat, so airflow doesn't help to cool them as much as it does us humans, if they're panting the air flowing across their tongues will provide a bit of relief.
  • Fill 2-liter bottles with water and freeze them (it takes about a day, so plan ahead of time!). Put the frozen bottles in the crate. Your dog can lie against them to keep cool, condensation will form on the outside of the bottles, wetting your dog's coat a bit  and increasing the effectiveness of a crate fan (or even a breeze), and as the ice melts you can use the water in your dog's bowl or a spray bottle.

Shade
  • Shade can be hard to come by at outdoor shows, so your best bet is to bring your own. Pop-up canopies are relatively inexpensive and portable; finding space around the ring might be difficult, but many people set them up at their car.
  • If you can park or set up near the ring, but a canopy is too big, use a shade screen over your car or the crate. Shade screens block sunlight while allowing airflow, and the temperature under the screen can be 14 to 20 degrees cooler than in the sun. "Space blankets" reflect the sun, but do not allow airflow so aren't as ideal as the screens.
  • If you're keeping your dog crated in your car or van, it goes without saying to leave the windows down and/or the doors open. A shade screen over your entire car will keep the temperatures from skyrocketing; if you don't have a screen big enough for the whole car, place it over the side where the sun is coming in, and be prepared to move it throughout the day. Also, try to park where the largest open areas can take best advantage of the breeze.

Water and Ice

  • Hydration is an important component of keeping cool, so be sure to give your Boxer plenty of water throughout the day (and plenty of potty breaks, too!). Refrigerate a jug of water the night before the show to bring with you -- this will provide cool water until the frozen 2-liters thaw.
  • Fill a spray bottle with ice water and keep it handy; a cool spritz will help both your Boxer and you in the heat of the day.
  • Make your own ice packs by filling a zip top plastic freezer bag with a mixture of 1 part alcohol to 3 parts water. The alcohol will prevent the water from freezing solid. (If you have a vacuum sealer system, you can use those bags instead of a zip top, or as a second layer. Or, use a non-sealing plastic bag and create a permanent seal by covering the opening on both sides with a folded piece of foil, and ironing over the foil to melt the plastic together.)
  • Bring along a cooler full of ice water. Along with storing your dog's water, your spray bottle, ice packs, and bottles of water for yourself, you can also use the ice water for dipping a cool coat or cool pad, dunking your dog's feet, giving him ice cubes to chew, or in a pinch wetting him down -- the belly, groin, and foot pads are key cooling areas.

Regardless of the cooling measures you take, watch your Boxer carefully to make sure she's not overheating. Heatstroke is a concern during the summer, especially for Boxers, and can quickly lead to severe illness or even death. (As tempting as it may be, if you think your Boxer is experience heatstroke, do not dump the ice water from your cooler directly onto her; this can cause the temperature to fall dangerously low.) Keep a thermometer in your first-aid kit during the summer, and know where to find the closest emergency vet to the show site.  By taking steps to prevent overheating, and preparing for it if it does happen, you'll give yourself the best odds of a safe, fun day at the dog show.

(If you have any other tips for keeping dogs cool at outdoor summer shows, please share them in the comments.)

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