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  • Exercising flat-faced breeds in heated or humid climate conditions takes special attention.
  • On hot days, choose canine activities requiring little exertion.
  • Indoor games provide an alternative to outdoor sports.

Who doesn’t love a dog with a smooshy face and layers of wrinkles? Add big, googly puppy dog eyes to this canine expression and few people can resist the urge to ooh and aah a flat-faced dog.

Brachycephalic breeds–those with wide skulls and flat faces, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers, shake down smiles wherever they go. Brachycephalic comes from two Greek words that mean short and head.

Problem Panting

Although it’s fun to show off short-snouted dogs outdoors, warm humid weather workouts require special care. A fast walk, a slow jog, or participation in canine sports may trigger breathing difficulties.

Flat-faced breeds include:

These brachycephalic breeds have smaller airways, narrow nostrils, multiple folds in their throats, and larger tongues than breeds with long-muzzles. The unique physiology of flat-faced dogs makes it more difficult for them to pant enough to cool off.

If the air is wet, or humid, and not particularly hot, the dog speeds up his panting, which flexes the throat muscles. “Humidity feels hotter to the dog and interferes with cooling off,” says vice-president of the American Boxer Club, Patricia Healy of Wiggins, Colorado.

This raises his body temperature and puts the dog at a higher risk of overheating and heatstroke. This happens quickly and can threaten the dog’s life within an hour.

“People who own these breeds need to take reasonable precautions when exercising outdoors in warm weather,” says Link Newcomb, president of the Bulldog Club of America. “Pay attention to the dog and if you see him panting more than he usually does and seems to be working harder to breathe, he needs cooling off.”

Safety Tips

When the temperature skyrockets outside, any dog can overheat during vigorous play or will die if left in a closed car. For short-snouted dogs, death happens faster.

When venturing outdoors here’s how to keep your flat-nosed dog safe:

  • Always provide your dog with plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Give your dog cool icy treats.
  • NEVER leave any dog in a closed car.
  • Don’t leave him alone outside.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise.
  • When spending time outdoors, keep your dog cool.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to hot asphalt, concrete or sand, which can burn dogs’ paws. Before walking on pavement, touch it. If it feels too hot to you, it will be too hot for your dog.
  • Walk in shady areas.
  • Schedule outings for early morning or evening.
  • Take breaks during sessions.
  • Rather than spending one long workout, opt for short segments throughout the day.
  • Maintain a cool temperature inside your home. Keep drapes or shades closed and run the air conditioner or fans.
  • Put a cooling vest on your dog or use a cool mat.

Signs of Heat Stroke

Know the signs of canine heatstroke:

  • Excessive panting.
  • Continuous drooling.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Dark or bright red tongue and gums.
  • Dry tongue and gums.
  • Staggering or weakness.
  • Bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting.

If you notice any of these symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian right away. Get cooling measures started on the way to the vet: Spray cool (not ice cold) water onto the dog and then place under a fan or air conditioning if possible. Even if your dog seems to feel better with these measures, go to your vet right away anyway, as heat stroke can lead to a deadly cascade of effects.

Playing Indoor Games

Just because a flat-faced breed doesn’t perform a physically demanding job like herding sheep or lure coursing doesn’t mean a dog with a short snout can’t flex his brain when the outside temperature heats up.

To stimulate a dog’s thinking skills and to burn off some physical energy on warm days, step inside. Think of an air-conditioned hallway as your dog’s personal gym. It subs in as a practice arena for obedience, agility, rally, and a good game of fetch. “Work around chairs or cones to make the lane interesting,” says Patricia Ropp, vice-president of the Bulldog Club of America.

If your local kennel club sponsors performance events in indoor facilities, involve your dog in AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, Canine Good Citizen, and AKC Trick Dog classes. AKC Obedience, AKC Agility, and AKC Rally are other cool ways to rev up.

At home, try these workout hacks with your indoor road warrior.

  • Toys that dispense treats challenge a dog’s mind and help entertain him.
  • Practice obedience exercises in the house or go to an indoor public place, such as a garden center, mall, or home improvement store.
  • Canine puzzles give dogs a quiet, but fun way to use their paws and noses without physical exertion.
  • A snuffle mat provides an ideal way for your dog to search for food in a controlled environment. It also keeps your dog occupied and prevent him from getting bored indoors. Caution: if your dog ingests non-food items or is an aggressive chewer, a snuffle mat may not be a good idea.
  • Schedule an indoor doggy playdate. Make sure an adult can supervise the interaction so it remains peaceful.

“Every dog is different and owners need to use common sense when choosing exercises in warm weather,” says Healy.