Memo to the Neighbor Who Told Me Not to Walk My Dog in the Middle of a Hot Day
Some would call you a busybody neighbor, though I have too much respect for animal welfare to dismiss your argument that lightly. In fact, I agree with you in general. On hot days, it would be cruel to walk one’s dog in the middle of the day on scorching hot pavement.
But here is why you sometimes see me walking my dog outside in the middle of a hot day.
First, let me say that I feel sorry for dogs who do not get outside much. Many people are not fortunate enough to be able to work from home, and I understand that. But I do not believe that dogs should be expected to hold their bladders and bowels for 8-10 hours per day. Studies have found clear correlations between cancer (and other diseases) for dogs who are forced to “hold it” regularly for long periods. Smaller and mid-sized dogs need to relieve themselves more often than do larger dogs.
If one is fortunate enough to have a suitable fenced yard and perhaps a doggie door, then that’s ideal for city-dwelling owners who must spend most of their days at work. The dogs then can come and go, inside or out, whenever they please, without running loose on the streets. Otherwise, a responsible owner should really sweet-talk a neighbor or hire a dog walker to exercise the pet during the day.
Experts suggest that all dogs should be taken outside around 3-5 times per day for the purpose of relieving themselves. Experience tells me that my dog needs to pee about 4-5 times per day. Since he urinates just after waking up in the morning and just before going to bed in the evening, that leaves an additional 2-3 times per day that he should be getting outside to do his business.
Am I operating out of an abundance of caution? Perhaps, because I remember what happened to my carpet before I understood how often he needs to go out. There were a couple of “accidents” early on, but since I have better understood my dog’s rhythms, I have not had to clean up after him in the house. He gets what he needs outside.
At the bare minimum, even accounting for caution, my dog needs to get out to pee 1-2 times during the middle hours of the day.
This is simple when I’m home, or when my wife is at home, or by asking neighbors or family members to stop by if we are not at home on a particular day. I’ve never bothered to get a doggie door since someone is usually around. But my dog is strange about peeing in the yard. Sometimes, such as in the early morning and again in the evening, he’ll use the yard that way. But during the daytime, he prefers not to do his business out there. Once in awhile he will, but at other times he will refuse to pee in the yard. If several hours have gone by and he has not done his business out in the yard, I get rather nervous about keeping him indoors. Again, I’ve had previous experience cleaning up messes indoors and I don’t wish to repeat that. If I leave him outside in the yard to do it on his own schedule, that’s fine, but I really don’t know if he’s done it or not.
The paradox is that if I suit my dog up with the leash and take him half a block to the bushes at the end of the street (public property, not a neighbor’s bush), he will immediately bend his leg and pee like a racehorse. After seeing that, I often ask him why he wouldn’t just do it in the yard when offered the chance, but he’s never given me a satisfactory response to that inquiry. After watering the bush, he’ll often turn right around and head back home after doing the one deed, so I know he’s not getting me outside just to negotiate for a longer walk (he gets those in the morning or evening).
Bottom line: I take my dog out on the street during the heat of the day because I need him to pee and the end of that street is where he prefers to do it. On a super hot day, if a busybody neighbor would watch me carefully, that person always will see me putting my hand down on the sidewalk in the heat of the day to see how hot it feels to me. Sure, I’ve gone to a swimming pool or the beach before on a scorching hot day and tried to walk around without my sandals. That burns my feet. Hot enough to fry an egg; I get it.
But guess what? Even in triple digit heat waves, the pavement on our street has never been scorching hot. We do get some afternoon shade out there. When I’ve felt it with my own hand, it has never been any hotter than comfortably hot shower water. It has never been hot enough to fry an egg or whatever metaphor you want to inject there.
Do you really think I would take my dog outside if the pavement scorched his feet? He’s my friend and companion. If I thought it would burn his feet to walk, I’d pick him up on my back and carry him down to take his whizz on the bush. I’ve never had to do that; the pavement is safe, there is shade part way, and he wants to go that half a block to water the bush.
In any case, we’re back home in under five minutes from those mid-day pee trips.
So you see, neighbor, I am guilty of taking my dog out on a hot day for five whole minutes. But others are guilty of not taking their dogs out to pee. And I have never been guilty of taking my dog out on scorching hot pavement. Because I bend down to feel it with my hand every time the weather is hot, confirming that the pavement is somewhere between warm and comfortably hot, never scorching. Apparently, you have not taken that empirical step to determine whether your opinions about scorching hot pavement are backed up by any demonstrable evidence.
Maybe you should just admit that you don’t like my dog because he almost caught your cat once (while pulling me on a leash). He’s a dog, so he’ll probably keep trying. Maybe that’s why he wants to go out there.