But he's hot! You say. He's wearing a fur coat in the summer! You say. Well I'm here to tell you something that's maybe a little bit counter intuitive. If you shave that fur coat off your long haired and doubled coated dogs they're going to be even hotter. Before you get all up in arms, I too have a long haired doubled coated dog. He loves to sun himself in the summer and his coat becomes quite hot to the touch when he's been laying on the deck, but when I slide my fingers in underneath I discover that the layer next to his skin is nice and cool. My thinner coated dog doesn't have that advantage, the sun beats right through his coat to his skin raising his whole body temperature and giving him very little heat tolerance.
Here is how it works, double coated dogs (for example, border collies, huskies, golden retrievers, labs, chow chows, German shepherds, shelties, malamutes, saint bernards, bernese mountain dogs, and many many more) have two kinds of hair on their bodies, the under coat is the soft fluffy layer that sheds everywhere, and the guard hairs which are the top layer that are coarser in texture, these don't shed. The undercoat is the insulation, like the lining of your winter jacket. It keeps the dog warm. The guard hairs are like the shell or wind breaking portion of your jacket. Guard hairs shed water and protect the under coat. Guard hairs also act as a full body baseball cap, shading your dog's skin from the heat and UV rays of the sun. Guard hairs keep your dog cool, and protect them from sun burn and biting bugs.
The best way to keep double coated dog cool in the summer is to rake out their undercoat, the sheddy part, and leave the guard hairs untouched. That way you remove the insulating layer, but leave the shading/protecting layer intact. Shaving the coat of a double coated dog does irreversible damage to their guard hairs, which do not shed. Repeated shaving over time will guarantee that your dog's beautiful coat will never grow back looking the same again. A good groomer won't recommend shaving of a double coated animal unless they are matted beyond salvation. Remember dogs don't sweat through all parts of their body, so it isn't necessary to expose their skin to the air to cool them down. They'd much rather have that full body baseball cap to keep the sun off.
So, protect your dog from the sun and the heat and let them keep their coat on.
I don't know about you, but the time the heat bugs me the most is when I'm trying to sleep. I spent the night worming around on the bed trying to find the cool spots in the sheets. Your dog does the same thing, fortunately for dogs there are products available designed to meet their need for a cool spot. Check out products like the Cool Bed III. These beds have a waterproof exterior and a foam interior, when filled with cold water they create a cool sleeping pad for your dog.
Years ago, before I heard about cool beds, I made my own in preparation for a summer road trip (told you I liked road trips) I used two rectangles of denim and sewed them together on three sides, like making a pillow case, then I sewed straight lines through the middle, creating several seams that divided the case into pockets. From the garden centre I purchased some water storing crystals these little crystals absorb and hold water. I put a few table spoons of crystals in each compartment, sewed the end of the bed shut, shook to spread the crystals, and then soaked the mats with the hose. The crystals swelled up creating a squishy mattress, and the beds were cool to the touch. The downside to my version is that the beds were wet so could only be used out doors. I later purchased my own cool bed. The downside to both versions is that they are quite heavy when full. I keep my cool bed out all summer and come fall I drain it, leave it open to dry for about a week, and then I store it until next summer.
A variation of this idea are cooling bandannas. You can make home-made ones for yourself and your dog using the same water crystals. Fold a bandanna corner to corner to form a triangle. Sew about two inches in from the fold, and sew one end shut (leaving enough at the corner to tie the bandanna later) to create a pocket. Put a few crystals into the pocket, sew shut, soak with water and store in the fridge. When it's hot, pull one out and tie on your dog or yourself.
Now you're really starting to doubt me, but I'm serious. Remember how we talked about the guard hairs being protective from the sun, well you can help them out a bit by adding a mesh reflective jacket. This'll really help if you know you're going to be going somewhere without a lot of shade. Reflective cooling jackets are designed to allow air to flow freely and to keep the sun and heat out. Some brands even have an option to be used wet to add the cooling effect of evaporation to the jacket.
But please don't tell Disney I said that.
Swimming is great exercise and can let your dog wear himself out on a day when it's too hot to walk or run.
With swimming of course comes the need for safety. Chose your body of water carefully. A gentle but barely noticeable current is best, moving water is cleaner water but too much current could see your dog swept away. Dogs don't naturally know how to swim with the current and will often swim against it due to a reflex that causes them to naturally push against forces. Pick a bank that slopes gently so your dog can climb out again. Don't let your dog swim near sunken trees or branches. They can become tangled in these and then pushed under by the current. Pay attention to high water advisories, as these dangers apply to dogs and people.
There, now that all the nagging safety stuff is out of the way I'll address the other concern. You dog doesn't like to swim. That's actually ok! Some dogs only like to get their feet wet. The feet are one of the places on your dog's body that lose heat more rapidly so don't doubt the value of just getting his feet wet! Some of these double coated dogs, like the aussie mix and the malamute pictured above, won't get wet through to the skin anyway because their guard hairs and their thick undercoats protect them from the water as well as the sun. Wetting the feet is plenty for reluctant swimmers. Never try to force your dog to swim, you could turn them off water forever. Instead entice them in with toys and treats. Eventually they will find the depth at which they are most comfortable and will go in happily on their own.
And for the final group of "my dog doesn't know how to swim" people, I feel your pain. My border collie, Badger, sinks like a rock. Fortunately someone else already had this problem and came up with a solution for it. Dog life jackets! Now even the sinkers can enjoy a paddle.