We are coming off one of the sunniest, hottest weeks we’ve seen all year in the ‘burgh. Nine straight days of 85° and hotter?! I’ll take it! Personally, I love weather like this, but the dog days of summer certainly bring with them special considerations as you plan your session. In this post, I’m sharing my top five tips for helping your pet beat the heat during summer sessions.
Consider Your Dog’s Age & Breed
Much like elderly people, older dogs may have a more difficult time tolerating the heat than when they were younger, so it’s important not to push them beyond their physical limits in regards to comfort.
We also want to consider your dog’s breed. Brachycephalic breeds, like Boston terriers, pugs, bulldogs, and Pekingese, are just a few particularly prone to dangerous summer conditions like heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Others, such as German Shorthaired Pointers, Labradoodles, and Schnauzers, can tolerate hot weather much easier and may actually prefer the heat over colder temperatures.
Choose a Sublime Time
One of the easiest ways to not only avoid the heat of the day but to take advantage of the most beautiful light is to schedule your session either early in the morning or later in the evening. Generally, that means scheduling for the first hour of light after sunrise or the two hours of light just before sunset, often referred to as The Golden Hour. Remember that a location can look different depending on the time of day, so be sure to ask your photographer for recommendations as to whether morning or evening will work best for the location you’re considering.
Look For Cool Locations
Summer sessions at locations that require a lot of walking or that do not offer much shade can be a struggle for both four- and two-legged clients. When choosing a location, we want to find
If your dog loves to swim, a location that has a lake, pond, creeks, or other unique water feature offers a fast way to cool him down. Allowing him to dip his paws a refreshing creek or releasing him for a high-flying splash into a lake is enough to keep him cool and comfortable for a while. Letting your pup get wet and wild is also a great way to capture action shots at the end of your session when you’re not as concerned about him looking handsome for his images. (Heck, I’ve been known to get right in that water with him!)
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
…and then hydrate some more! Bring your dog a portable bowl and a few bottles of water kept chilled in a small cooler. It’s one of the easiest ways to avoid dehydration, which is the top contributor to heat exhaustion.
Dogs’ bodies are roughly 90% water so maintaining that optimal level is crucial in the heat. Dogs who lose just 10% of fluid from their body can experience serious dehydration. If you start to notice your pup’s eyes look sunken, he’s experiencing changes in urination (too little or too much), that his gums are sticky and dry, or that his skin has lost elasticity, he is in the early stages of dehydration. Move him to a cool, shady spot and get fluids in him immediately. More severe signs of dehydration may require critical care from your veterinarian.
Dress for Success
“It’s getting hot in herre (so hot), so take off all your–” Whoa! Hold up there, Nelly! That’s not quite what I’m talking about, but there is some truth in that. When choosing what to wear for your summer session, lightweight layers, moisture-wicking/cooling fabrics, and light colors should be a go-to…for both you and your dog. (Yes, as much as adorable bandanas can add a pop of playful color to your portraits, warmer days are one instance when you’ll want to go easy on the accessories.)
When should we postpone?
Because the health and safety of your furry friend are always at the forefront of our time together, there are certain situations in which we should consider postponing due to the heat. I recommend doing so if:
- your pup tires easily when it’s warm. If we push him too much with moving around a location on a hot day, he’s not going to be comfortable and that is going to show in his expression.
- if you don’t like the floppy tongue-out-of-the-mouth look. Because dogs cannot sweat through their skin like humans, they rely on sweating through their paw pads and panting to circulate air to help them cool off. If you’ve ever seen a super long-tongued dog panting, you’ve probably also noticed a droopy, dripping tongue dangling out of the side of his mouth. Some clients don’t mind this, others do; it all comes down to personal preference. Even with the bag of tricks I come with, I cannot guarantee your hot dog will keep his tongue in his mouth for his portraits, so if that’s not a look you love, let’s postpone.
- there’s a heat advisory or an excessive heat warning, meaning that a combination of extreme temperatures and high humidity may increase the likeliness of heat-related illnesses. I’m watching the weather in the hours leading up to your session and will reach out if there’s a red-flag that may keep us from safely having your session. Safety first, always.
This post is a part of a photography blog circle featuring photographers specializing in a variety of niches. To see what the next photographer is sharing for our weekly theme, “Beat The Heat,” check out Gretchen Ciccone with GCiccone Photography, capturing special moments. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here.
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