In six months time I expect an influx of nervous aggressive dogs. Why?
In case you hadn't noticed, it's flipping hot! Everyone in the dog world is sharing posts saying:
Don't let your dog play excessively in this heat!
Don't take your dog out in this heat!
Leave your dog at home as it is the best thing.
Missing walks in this heat will do no harm!
All of this can be true. However, what if you have a baby puppy? Or an adolescent dog?
If you have a baby puppy and don't take pup out, your puppy will be missing important socialisation. We know that careful, safe feeling early socialisation helps to produce balanced dogs. Dr Ian Dunbar suggested pups should meet 100 different people by the age of 12 weeks. Perhaps they should also be meeting 100 different dogs?
But if we are not taking out our puppies because we want to avoid the heat, we will prevent them from achieving sufficient social experiences at a time when it really matters; whilst the brain is being hard wired for the future. What a dilemma!
May I suggest that it is really important that you DO take out your puppy and safely socialise them, but do this very early in the day when it is still cool, or later in the evening when it is cooler. Or take your pup out to air conditioned places like some garden centres, pubs and cafes that allow dogs. Attendance to puppy socialisation classes could be really useful at this time as indoor locations like village halls are often cooler than the home, or taking your pups out to the park to mix with other dogs.
For older puppies, we should not forget that socialisation can wear off if it is not maintained. During adolescence, synaptic pruning occurs in the brain during which, weak connections and connections not regularly used, are pruned out, making way for new neural connections. If you do not continue socialising your dog during this period, it could mean socialisation experiences you gave your pup as a young pup are lost. As far as I know, it is not clear at what age synaptic pruning takes place in dogs as it is likely that adolescence takes place at different times depending on breed and individuals. The safest thing is to ensure you do not stop socialising your puppy with other dogs and people. In fact, socialisation might not ever be complete as learning never stops.
So, whilst it is very important not to let your puppy or dog overheat, you must make the effort to ensure your puppy or adolescent dog continues to meet a wide variety of different people and dogs in a wide variety of different locations. You may need to make some extra effort to achieve this. You must do this every day, you will just need to make it short and sweet. You might need to go out more often for shorter periods. You can use cool coats or umbrellas to try to keep them cooler and make sure you take plenty of water with you and avoid hot surfaces, like tarmac that can burn paws.
Often the coast is cooler, so taking your pup to a beach near the water's edge early in the morning or later in the evening should be safe, and there will be other people and dogs exercising early and late as well, to avoid the heat of the sun.
Take your pup to new places where they allow dogs and where they have air conditioning.
Walk in shady areas where it is cooler.
Walk on grass surfaces rather than tarmac or concrete.
Walk near to water such as safe ponds/lakes (watch out for algae blooms though) as this is often cooler.
Take your pup to visit friends' houses, especially if they have friendly dogs and young people to meet.
But please do not stop socialising your puppy to avoid the heat. This heat is here to stay for a while so you MUST make the effort to continue socialising your puppy and enabling your puppy to experience a wide variety of friendly dogs, people and locations. Even a few days of not socialising can be catastrophic for a young puppy.
I really don't want to be hearing from you in six months asking for help with a dog that is now barking and lunging at other dogs and people because they missed important social exposure due to the heat.
It's a challenge, but it must be done unless you want to risk your puppy/adolescent dog growing up to show fearful, anxious and possibly aggressive behaviour when they reach maturity.