Us Brits like to talk about the weather. Hot or cold, snowy or windy, we pretty much always want the opposite of the hand we’ve been dealt.
This year, we've hit record high temperatures at home and abroad again and I don’t know about you, but this year for the third one running, I’ve found it a bit of a challenge to keep my dogs cool. So with the warm weather set to stick around for a while yet, we’ve been putting two new products designed to help keep dogs cool for under £40 to the test and asked fellow dog owners to give us their top tips for keeping dogs cool in soaring temperatures.
1. Keep Fresh Water Nearby at All Times (& Never Leave a Dog in a Hot Car)
It's probably the number one tip, alongside never leave a dog in a hot car, that dog owners shared with us.
Make sure your dog has access to a large bowl of clean water and take a bowl or plastic dish and some water with you on walks too, if you don't end up using for drinking, you can always cool your dog down by rubbing some into their coat.
2. Try a Dog Cooling Jacket
ClimaCOOL® Dog Cooling Jacket (Vest style)
From George Barclay - From £24.99 (XS) - £37.99 (XXXL)
We've put this to the test over a number of weeks and we love it, in fact, it's possibly one of the best products we've ever reviewed because it beat expectations.
We were particularly interested in putting this jacket to the test because you don't always see products suitable for large breeds like this.
Mia and Chris are both Rottweilers but at different ends of the scale. Mia is small, Chris is large. Both dogs fit the same size coat because of the adjustable neck and belly strap.
At 13, Mia struggles with the heat. It visibly slows her down, she drinks less water which impacts on her stomach and she gets tired out very easily. So when this started happening three years ago, we started trying all sorts to help her regulate herself better to stop her from doubling down on the heat by getting ill too.
She gets ice cube treats, we keep her out of the heat as much as we can and I'll find cool spots to work in so she can stay cool herself. We've also tried various products and some have worked okay for short periods but often wetted her coat making her a bit irritated at the same time and didn't really cover enough fur-space to cool her down all over.
The ClimaCOOL dog cooling coat helped us to help her stay cool before, during and after short garden trips to the loo and I found I could use it little and often, helping to prepare us for visits to the vet, trips around the garden and heading up to bed because upstairs retains heat and can be stifling.
Wetting the inner blue mesh side before popping it on, I could put it on for an hour before any of the above exertions, and keep it on for a few hours afterwards and it kept her noticeably cooler.
She wasn't panting, the elastic band underneath which holds the chest flap in place didn't restrict her movement. She did what she wanted when she wanted but seemed far happier.
It looks a little space age, I started calling Mia 'Mindy' from Mork and Mindy when she wore it and Chris became Mork.
George Barclay says the jacket uses natural evaporative cooling and has a three-layer construction.
The outer grey and silver layer reflects heat, it has an absorbent inner core and the blue mesh lining transfers a cooling effect to your dog - which is true, Mia's coat feels genuinely cool after wearing.
Mia / Mindy
Chris / Mork
It also didn't smell musty, which some things can after being soaked in water for days on end, which made it even better and easier to use for chunks of time when there was no let up in temperatures.
When the time came where I could wash and I knew I had a few hours to be able to wash and air dry before Mia would need it again, I was able to machine wash at 30 degrees with a mild detergent.
For dogs who wear a harness, there's an opening on the back suitable to use too.
It's available in sizes XS for breeds such as Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles to XXXL for breeds such as Great Danes and Newfoundland.
I'd highly recommend this coat. For the price (less than £25 for the smallest size - less than £38 for the largest size), the quality is great, the grey-silver and blue contrast so well it's very pleasing on the eye and does the job intended. It's worth every penny and I'd highly recommend, it's definitely made Mia more comfortable.
2020 summer update: We continued using this cooling jacket after the review to see how it stood up to regular use and wear/tear. It continued to work really well (and surprise me that it looks quite thick but actually cools dogs down) and after multiple washes, it looks the same as the day it arrived for testing. It's clearly very well made!
2020 pricing is the same as 2019, so it can still be bought in x-small (i.e. for Chihuahuas) for £24.99 and in xxx-large (i.e. for Great Danes) for £37.99. Great value!
3. Make Your Own Icy Treats
I've tried this myself and to be honest, I've only ever made really basic treats using a mix of water and veg, like broccoli chunks because of Mia's sensitive stomach during hot weather.
But there are loads of great recipes out there to try that seem pretty fun - for example, this one combines yoghurt and watermelon. It seems pretty simple and could be perfect for a tasty frozen snack.
Like all things, you can keep it simple putting the mix into an ice cube tray or go all out and get a silicone bone shaped tray.
Dogs who love treat stuffing toys such as Kongs can also have their favourite toy stuffed full of treats, such as cheese or peanut butter, and frozen.
4. Invest in a Self-Cooling Mat
From George Barclay - Priced from £12.99 - £29.99
This self-cooling mat comes in three sizes: small-medium, medium-large and large-x-large.
We received the large-x-large size to review and to be honest, I knew Chris and Mia would both use, but primarily Chris in the long term.
Chris is pretty smart when it comes to regulating himself. Unlike Mia who has to be nudged along, Chris regularly finds the coolest spot wherever he is and settles himself down so when the weather is at its hottest outside, you'll usually find him tucked away in a bathroom or the downstairs loo with the door closed behind him (seriously).
This usually makes it quite difficult to use those rooms and we all find ourselves very gingerly opening doors and calling his name before we try to go in and even then proceeding with caution in case he hasn't heard or is ignoring you.
Self-cooling mats are, therefore, a godsend to help end the cycle of nonsense.
George Barclay says that when in use the self-cooling mat will maintain its cooling functionality for approximately one hour and it'll be around 5-8 degrees cooler than room temperature.
To get it back to its coolest temperature for maximum benefits, the mat should be left free for an hour at room temperature. You don't need to freeze or refrigerate.
To wash away paw prints or hairs and dirty, just use warm soapy water and rinse with clean water.
Some other similar mats are only available in one colour - some shade of blue.
This mat, however, is double sided with one side a lighter grey and the other a bright blue, so you can flip it over and have a grey or blue day. The grey tones with my home better so I love having this option.
It's also quite thick, comparatively, for a self-cooling mat in that it's not just filled with gel to cool down, it also has an inner foam core for improved comfort and support, which I think makes it suitable for more dogs of various ages and breeds.
For the price, quality and ability to do the job it's designed for, it's a must-have for our recommended dog products for Summer at under £40.
2020 summer update: We received a new mat for the review update. Unlike the cooling jacket, we decided to start afresh with the mat.
We continue to be impressed with how this cooling mat works. It's still a firm favourite for Christopher.
In 2020 prices are still very reasonable and come in three sizes. Small-medium (£12.99), medium-large (£19.99) and large-x-large (£29.99). We highly recommend this dog cooling mat!
5. Limit exercise and change your routines
Most dog owners told us that when the warmer weather comes they simply can't stick to their usual routine. Most days are just too warm to walk during the day.
Instead, they get their steps in at night time, often around eight o'clock. It's still light enough for a good long walk and the temperate is pretty much assured to have dipped enough to make it cool enough to venture out.
However hot pavements can burn paws and pavements retain heat for longer than the sun is out, so where possible stick to grassy areas or even take a night time trip to the beach for a paddle.[Originally published July 2019, updated June 2020]