Dogs do like fires. It beggars belief, but they do. Have you ever lit a bonfire in the backyard and watched amazed as your dog has belly crawled across the ground, sneaking closer and closer until his nose is almost touching the embers? Are you fortunate to have an open fire or a log burner in your home? Does your dog lay in front of it or spend hours staring into the flickering flames? Does he appear to think you may well have lit it especially for him and unless he moves and stops blocking the heat, you're never going to enjoy one jot of warmth from it? But what is it about fires that dogs like so much?
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs love the warmth an open fire emits. Who can blame them. Although they may not show it quite as readily as us humans, they do feel the cold too. While we wrap up against the weather and make sure we wear adequate clothing when temperatures drop, your dog is the same as he always is, barefooted or rather naked pawed and with just a thin coating of fur to stave of winter chills. Yes, his coat may grow a little thicker than it is during the warmer months of the year, but it isn't always an adequate covering for our ever changing climate and wintry Arctic blasts so he'll appreciate the fire as much as you do your central heating. Dogs see things differently to humans. The flames dancing in the fire will attract and hold his attention because they're moving. Anything which moves is of interest to a dog. Add to that the sound of wood crackling which will be louder to his ears than it will be to yours and the fire will have become something similar to his own home entertainment system. Dogs like to be entertained, they have a low boredom threshold, for him staring at the fire in the grate isn't much different to us staring at moving images on a screen. It's a visual distraction which helps pass the time between more exciting stuff like going for a walk or getting fed. Most dogs have the uncanny knack of being able to find the most comfortable spot to rest in and they have an innate understanding of what is going to be good for them. Your dog, if he's been out for a long walk or is getting on in years, somehow knows the heat from a fire will sooth his aches and pains. We might soak in a long hot bath to cure our ails, but dog bathing tends to be a brief affair and so lounging in front of a fire will, for him, have the same muscle relaxing effect.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you've been out in the backyard with your dog doing those necessary seasonal tasks like sweeping up leaves, when there's an autumnal chill in the air, it's great to light a bonfire or brazier, not only to help clear away the debris but to warm the air a little. Your pet will be attracted by the warmth, but leaves and twigs can spark quite a lot so you'll need to make sure he keeps his distance or he could get accidentally singed. If your dog spends lengthy periods of time staring into a fire with his nose pressed close to the grate, it can have some detrimental health effects for him. You may notice his nose will be drier than it usually is as the natural moisture that should be present has been evaporated by the excessive heat. Staying too close to the fire can also dry out the natural lubrication in your pet's eyes. He may start blinking more than usual in an attempt to promote the production of tears which, if his eyes remain dehydrated, can lead to ocular damage. When you're dog's there, stretched out before the fire, you can tell at a glance, he's comfortable and relaxed. Which is just how any dog should be. If he's safe and secure from any harmful effects the fire might have, having a happy dog is one of the most satisfying things of all.
Other Solutions and Considerations
You may want to consider taking some preventative measures to help keep your dog safe around any open fires. If you're out in the yard and building a bonfire, it may be best to keep him indoors or at least at a safe distance until the fire has burned down. If you think your dog may have suffered any injuries from being too close to a fire, such as a burn from flying sparks or his nose has gone crusty and doesn't seem to be returning to its usual condition, you may want to consider seeking advice from your vet.
Dogs show us, by their behaviour, they are in complete agreement with humans on the fact fires are a comforting factor of life when the weather is cold. A blazing fire cheers us and our canine friends up during grey wintry days and makes for a lovely snug and cosy home atmosphere. You, as a pet owner, just need to make sure the only hot dog you get is one with onions and ketchup.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/08/2018, edited: 01/30/2020