Have you ever heard of the expression “to wear one’s heart on their sleeve”? It means that someone lets their emotions be known without actually having to tell anybody how they feel. Dogs are in a constant state of wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They are great because of how simple they can be and they don’t need to speak to clue you in. They have a very instinctual language and as we learn to recognize how they communicate, we begin to understand better what our furry friend is telling us through dog body language. Veterinary behaviorists say if you learn to read your dog’s actions, it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on in his head.

How often do you watch your dog and read him just as well? Dogs have a rich body language that they use to great effect. We can eavesdrop on what a dog is telling you by knowing a little bit about how dogs behave when they are relaxed, happy, nervous, frustrated or angry. Life would be a lot easier if we could just talk to our canine companions. Sure, you know they’re happy when they wag their tails, and they’re clearly upset when they whimper, but that’s about it.


The eyes have it

It is said that you can read the soul through the eyes. In fact, a group of Japanese researchers found a link between this eye contact and increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone that affects how we express attachment and nurturing qualities. There is nothing as special as looking at the eyes of someone close to you – you can achieve an instant connection. You can also read a lot about a dog’s state of mind in the shape and look of his eyes. Now, this one depends a lot on how the dog is looking at you. But if his expression is normal and he’s staring into your eyes, it’s a pretty powerful way of showing affection.


Tail tells

A tense tail means he is in a state of unrest. While a tense tail that is wagging might mean playful behavior, rigid and high tail positions means steer clear. A relaxed tail shows he is passive and relaxed. A cowering tail is a sign of fear or shame. If he is uncomfortable, he will try to make itself seem as small as possible which includes curling his tail in between his legs.


Bringing things to you

You might think that he wants to play fetch, especially if he’s bringing you a toy. What your dog may be doing instead is giving you a gift. It’s apparently a leftover of the dog’s hunting instincts, only he’s bringing you things he thinks you’ll like or need instead of dead prey. So If your dog brings you a ball or a toy, he might not want you to throw it. In fact, that might hurt his feelings — dogs bring you their favorite things so that you can enjoy them!


Do you hear what I hear

Aside from the body tells listed above, there is a lot you can read from what a dog is feeling by the sounds that it makes. Growls, yips, barking, moaning and even no sound at all each mean something very specific and very different. Once your ear is able to recognize what a certain sound means, you will be able to discern what your dog is telling you and have a happier and healthier relationship.

  • Groan/yawn – Not to be confused with discontent, a groan or yawn can happen as he relaxes his body.
  • Growl – Aggressive dogs will growl with exposed teeth to warn or intimidate. If his teeth are not exposed, a growl could just be a form of aggressive playfulness.
  • Barking – Barking can mean any number of things. Look for secondary clues to hone in on what he is trying to tell you. Generally, one bark is meant to alert. Multiple barks mean he is trying to tell you something, which could be anything from he is hungry to there is another dog outside the window that needs your attention.
  • Yipping – A pup usually yips when he is uncomfortable or lonely. You will probably notice yipping as you leave or when you put him in his cage.

There are plenty of other cues your dog uses to communicate with you. When you learn just how your dog is talking to you, you’ll be ready to understand your furry friend better than ever.


Hyperthemia is the condition of having a body temperature greatly above normal. Heat stroke, meanwhile, is a form of non-fever hyperthermia that occurs when heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive external heat. Typically associated with a temperature of 106° F (41° C) or higher without signs of inflammation, a heat stroke can lead to multiple organ dysfunction. Non-fever hyperthermia occurs most commonly in dogs (as opposed to cats). It can affect any breed, but is more frequent in long-haired dogs and short-nosed, flat-faced dogs, also known as brachycephalic breeds. It can occur at any age but tends to affect young dogs more than old dogs.


Signs of heat stroke in your Dog

Dogs suffering from heat stroke will normally exhibit some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excess salivation
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea

As the symptoms progress and the dog’s body temperature increases, signs become even more serious.

  • Weakness
  • Staggering
  • Gasping
  • Gum color may become brick red, then purple or blue (cyanosis)
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death


  • Excessive environmental heat and humidity (may be due to weather conditions, such as a hot day, or to being enclosed in an unventilated room, car, or grooming dryer cage)
  • Upper airway disease that inhibits breathing; the upper airway (also known as the upper respiratory tract) includes the nose, nasal passages, throat (pharynx), and windpipe (trachea)
  • Underlying disease that increases likelihood of developing hyperthermia, such as paralysis of the voice box or larynx; heart and/or blood vessel disease; nervous system and/or muscular disease; previous history of heat-related disease
  • Poisoning; some poisonous compounds, such as strychnine and slug and snail bait, can lead to seizures, which can cause an abnormal increase in body temperature
  • Anesthesia complications
  • Excessive exercise

Risk Factors

  • Previous history of heat-related disease
  • Age extremes (very young, very old)
  • Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization to the environment (such as a heavy coated dog in a hot geographical location)
  • Obesity
  • Poor heart/lung conditioning
  • Underlying heart/lung disease
  • Increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
  • Short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds
  • Thick hair coat
  • Dehydration, insufficient water intake, restricted access to water


How do I keep my pets safe during heat waves?

On a sunny day with temperatures at or above 70° Fahrenheit, most people know that the temperature inside their car can soar to intolerable levels for their dog. But even outdoors in a non-shaded area, the heat can quickly get to your pooch and cause serious complications.

Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk for heatstroke. Following these guidelines can help prevent serious problems.

  • If your dog is working in warm weather, be prepared to offer him water at regular intervals and understand that he may drink more water than usual under these circumstances.
  • Pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems should be kept cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Never leave your dog untended in your car, even if the temperature is mild. In a locked car, the temperature can climb rapidly to a dangerous level. A cracked window will not prevent your dog from overheating and suffering heat stroke. Never assume your pet will be okay in the car for “just a minute” while you run into the store or attend another errand. An unexpected delay could endanger your dog’s life!
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • Restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you on a hot day. It is dangerous when the weather is scorching.
  • Do not muzzle your dog.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool, but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lay on.



Every year, an estimated 10,000 dogs drown in the United States. It is crucial they learn how to stay afloat or get out of the water. Just like people, once an animal is in the water, they quickly tire splashing about – so it is crucial they learn how to stay afloat or get out of the water. However, you can help him beat the heat during the long dog days of summer with doggy swimming lessons. You read it right! Not only kids, but your dogs can take swimming lessons as well.

Many places around the country offer services in teaching dogs how to swim. Besides safety, there are benefits of swimming. It can also be a safe aerobic exercise for dogs with arthritis, recovering from surgery, or those that are overweight since the water takes pressure off the joints while allowing them to burn calories.

Not all dogs are natural swimmers. Some don’t even like to get their paws wet, while others are not naturally built for water sports. In fact, some breeds (the bulldog, for example) cannot swim at all and will sink right to the bottom if tossed in the water without a flotation device holding them above water.

So how do you determine whether your dog is a natural born swimmer? If your pooch uses only his front legs to paddle and brings his paws clear out of the water, slapping at it, swimming is not one of his inborn skills. With a little support from you under his belly, your pup can also learn to use his hind legs and tail when he swims.

When teaching your dog to swim, a few simple rules can make for a lifetime of fun:


Safety first

When it comes to teaching your dog to swim, safety and accident prevention are the top goals. Use patience and common sense!

  • Never leave a dog unattended by the pool, just as you wouldn’t let children roam around the pool unsupervised.
  • Install a pool fence or safety alarm, and make sure he knows where the steps or ramp are located. Some trainers recommend placing a large vertical marker, such as a plant or a flag, by the steps to help your dog orient himself.
  • During your lessons, maintain control of your dog by using a leash or long line attached to a doggie lifejacket or harness. Dogs can’t tread water like humans and can tire quickly, unable to rest with their feet on the bottom!
  • If you are having a party out by the pool and cannot keep an eye on your dog, put the life jacket on your dog and provide other entertainment for him away from the pool.
  • If you swim in lakes or other natural bodies of water, vaccinate your dog against Giardia which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and can be passed along to you! Avoid water with a strong current, and stay away from boating and fishing areas where your furry friend’s paw may discover a hook or worse. Also, watch out for stumps or rocks hidden in the water that your dog could land on when jumping.
  • A panicked pooch may try to “climb aboard” and push you under. So avoid swimming in water over your own head.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about sunscreen made for pets as dogs can get sunburned too. Give your dog plenty of time in the shade.
  • To prevent bloat, wait 1 ½-2 hours after eating before taking a swim. This is because food stays in your dog’s stomach longer than in yours.
  • You must know Pet First Aid and improve your skills regularly. Also, have the directions to the nearest Animal ER on hand – just ins case!

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Ease him in

Get your dog used to the water before trying swimming. Begin by tossing a ball into the shallows of the water. Let your dog run in to fetch it, still able to stand.

  • If your dog goes into the water to get the ball, reward her with a dog treat.
  • Keep repeating the exercise, until you see that your dog is happily familiar with the water.

Break time!

Some dogs love the water and won’t stop. If your dog starts breathing heavily or if his back end begins to sag in the water, it’s time to get out and take a rest.


Wash off

After swimming, rinse or shampoo your dog’s coat, and take special care to dry out his ears well. You don’t want to irritate your dog’s eyes with chlorine or get him sick with bacteria from lakes or rivers.

Teaching your dog how to swim is a terrific way to be a trainer and to enjoy a summertime activity with your best friend. With positive reinforcement, a life vest, and patience, you can make it a safe and fun experience for everyone. Your success is sure to create a deeper bond between you and your dog, through all seasons to come.