I get asked a lot about training for canicross in the heat. Usually the question is, “how hot is too hot?” While there isn’t one set temperature for everyone to use as a cut off, a little experimenting can provide you with the cut off for you and your dog.
I live in Alabama. It gets very hot here. Since my dogs and I are used to the heat, we can train in temperatures that some people would consider crazy. Just last week we went out on a trail run when it was 97 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat index making it feel more like 105. We ran slower than normal, a shorter distance than normal, and took more water breaks than normal, but we had a successful day of training when most people wouldn’t step out the door.
Running in the heat is a very fun challenge and can be very rewarding, mentally and physically. However it does come with risks.
Let’s break down each question and see how each one plays into our training.
What is the average summer time temperature where you live?
If you live in an area where it is usually mild in the winter and hot in the summer, you may be able to take the heat better than other people. This usually means your dog can too. Generally speaking, someone from central Florida will find a run at 90 degrees to be easier than someone who lives in Alaska.
Have you and your dog trained in hot weather before?
If you have previously trained when its 85 degrees out, but set you cut off there, you can probably bump your number up as time goes on. Lots of runners try to hit the hottest parts of a day on occasion. This is known as heat training. It’s usually a shorter distance at a slower pace, but can be great for you as an athlete. If you can run a half marathon when it is 90 degrees out, you know you shouldn’t have a problem completing a full marathon at 80 degrees.
What type of coat does your dog have?
Coat type is a big factor in whether or not you should take your dog out for a run in hot weather. It is common sense that a husky will get hot faster than a yellow lab. A husky has a long, thick, dark colored (typically) coat. This coat type will get your dog hotter much faster than a short, thin, light colored coat. All of that should be self-explanatory, but it is a major consideration in the “to run or not to run” question.
Is your dog brachycephalic?
Brachycephalic dogs, like boxers and bulldogs, have more difficulty taking in large breaths. This means their panting will be more labored and, in turn, less effective at cooling them down.
Will you be running in the shade or full sun?
Obviously hot pavement should be avoided at all costs. As a general rule, if you can’t keep the back of your hand on the asphalt for 5 seconds, it is too hot for your dog to run on. Open fields, however, don’t have such a hot surface but being exposed to the sun can overheat you and your dog much quicker than running on a thickly forested trail. Stick to the shade if you can.
How much water can you carry with you, and is there water on the way?
Lastly, water. If there are lots of water sources along the trail you intend to run down, you’re lucky. Obviously, water intake is vital on hot days. If you water source is large enough for your dog to get his whole body wet, even better. Otherwise you will need to bring enough water for both of you on the run. Be certain not to let your dog gulp down large quantities at a time. Smaller more frequent drinks are preferred. Drinking too much at once and continuing on your run can cause bloat. Bloat is when your dog’s stomach flips over on itself. It is very deadly and should be avoided at all costs.
All of this is to say, there is no set limit on the temperature you and your dog can run it. You just have to know yourself, know your dog, and know when enough is enough. Learn the warning signs of a dog approaching heat exhaustion and stop before it gets to that point. If you want to brave the heat, go for it. Just don’t push too hard. Plan on running slower than normal and a shorter distance than normal, and let your dog tell you when they are done.
Never Run Alone