Thursday, June 2, 2011

Keeping Cool In Hot Weather

Last night at 7 p.m. the temperature reading on my car thermometer was 99 degrees (and by 9:30 it was still reading 95), so I gathered my agility students around (both classes) and took several minutes to prep them how to cope with this scorching heat.   I've been mulling over this problem since last summer when one agility student swooned and fell to the ground, when I almost had to quit taking classes myself last summer in the midst of competition season, and lately I've worried how I might survive teaching classes in temperatures approaching 100 degrees.  So today, I decided to share my heat survival strategies with everyone I can reach, because heat stroke is serious business. 

So far, my "keeping cool" methods include:
  • Freeze 2 small (8-10 oz.) water bottles ahead of time.  Add these to the dog's water jug (I got an Igloo 1 gallon wide-mouth at Dollar General for about $6, but you can pay about $12 other places.).  The water bottles work just like ice, without melting fast or letting the dogs eat the ice cubes.  When you get home, just rinse off and throw the bottles back in the freezer. 
  • Fill 2 or 3 16-20 oz. water bottles about half full, freeze tilted almost on their sides.  Fill the empty space with water just before class.  The ice melts slowly and is mostly gone after a few hours, but is still very cool.  Can substitute water with gator aide, freeze that, refilling the small bottles from a large one at home.
  • Treats - freeze your dog treats, such as liver brownies, gizzards, Bil-Jak. Of course, keep these in a small cooler, right next to your half-frozen drinking water bottles.
  • Electrolytes - preferable to water, drink Coconut Water, Gator Aide, or other fluids that replace electrolytes. Target and Wal-Mart sell all kinds of sports drinks now. Freeze them a few hours before class. Someone suggested upping Potassium in the diet, like "a banana a day keeps the charlie horses away".
  • Bandana - 100% cotton, wet one down and tie it around your neck.  Use to wipe your face and arms, re-wet often, and keep tied around your neck.
  • Wash cloths - wet one down to dripping wet and and wipe dog's underarms, belly and behind their ears several times during class. Rub them all over.
  • Introduce the swimming pool and encourage dogs to hop in between their runs.  Keeps their feet cool.
  • Spray Bottle - I have an orchid spray bottle that puts out an extremely fine mist.  Spray your face, neck, arms, clothes, between runs, even the dog if they will tolerate it.
  • Sweat band - made of thick terry cloth, 100% cotton, like tennis players use.  Keep on your forehead to keep that salty sweat out of your eyes.
  • Clothing - wear 100% cotton, breathable fabrics, preferably patterns or colors that look the same wet or dry.  Drench your shirt in water or lots of mist to keep yourself very cool. I can go in the grocery store wringed out wet and nobody can tell.
  • Hat or cap - make sure heat can escape from the top of your head.  If you wear a cap, let it be open on top (sun visor) unless you're working in direct sun.  We give off heat from the top of our head.
  • Pull hair back into pony tail, or at least up off of the neck.
  • Canopy:  Stay in the shade during the day, under a canopy if no natural shade is available.  Wonderful, sturdy 10' x 10' straight leg canopies, by First-Up, are available at O-Neal Wal-Mart for around $80.  Suggested retail elsewhere:  $249.  Wal-Mart also offers both screen and opaque sides for this model, at about $40 each.  A total bargain.  One person can put this up, and it folds down for compact storage to 8" x 8" x 4', which is on wheels.  (Ingenious design).  Replacement parts are available.   I wish they made these canopies in the 6' x 6' or 7' x 7' size.  I would set mine up over my crate space at trials in cold weather, with a heater inside to keep us all warm.
  • Portable fans - needed in the car, with windows open, if any dog must be left in there. Also great hanging on any wire crate. My brand is the little Ozark Trail O2 COOL, very popular, available at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc., at around $25-30. It runs on 8 D-cells, and also has a 12 volt cord for plugging into a car's lighter socket. It stands up on its own, also has a hook for hanging. Mine hangs from the passenger side visor. 10" blade.  3#. Folds small. Lo-Hi settings. I like it. There are more expensive versions now, with rechargeable batteries. Here's the link, and their ad.
    We checked into a bit larger/heavier Ryobi fan with 8 hour rechargeable lithium battery from Home Depot (+-$100), but I'm happy with my O2-COOL for now.
  • Dog Cooling Coat: And then there are the dog cooling coats, which I'm looking into.  Lucky really shuts down in the heat. Jerri has ordered one for Kyra and it should be here next week for me to check out.  Meanwhile, a Google search offered one from Wal-Mart for only about $35. You just dip it in water 1 to 2 minutes, for hours of cool.   Check it out: HyperKewl Canine Cooling Coat, Blue   Do they have these for humans?
Stayin' cool!

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