It’s the middle of August and your dog decides to go outside and lay on the hot cement, bathing in the sunlight. She stays there for quite some time, soaking it up with enjoyment, as if she is getting a suntan. To you, that may sound enjoyable; yet, your dog is covered in fur, and already may be warm on a daily basis. You start to wonder if she needs to be cooled off by buckets of water, or if she just needs some drinking water near by. Yet, our perception of dogs in the sun may be different than we think, as heat is something that animals enjoy, just as humans do, despite their fur coats.
The Root of the Behavior
One of the reasons that people love heat is because of the feeling it provides. Usually, heat comes from the sun, and that feeling that we love, is Vitamin D soaking into our system. Dogs, just as humans, need Vitamin D. Vitamin D acts as a pro - hormone for dogs, which means that it more than likely replicates that of a hormone than a vitamin in dogs. Dogs do need Vitamin D as a vitamin as well, so they may absorb calcium, but the importance of it playing the role of a hormone helps them with producing more Vitamin D in their system. The sun is the easiest and most efficient way for dogs, or anyone for that matter, to get Vitamin D in their body. It helps them with muscle and nerve control, and bone formation. The sun may seep past their fur and affect their skin, as it should, due to the oils in their skin. Yet, it is wise to watch over your animal so they do not get burned by the sun or get cancer. Beyond the desire animals have for heat, there are other reasons that they tend to desire to be in a warm area. When dogs are warm, they tend to feel safer. When they are at home and alone, they usually are in a crate, at least as a puppy. Being in an enclosed space makes them feel warm, so warmth will help them feel like they are safe again. Dogs are meant to be in warmth. They have been wired to be able to keep their paws warm, as well as the rest of their body with how they sleep, and how they act. It is normal for dogs to love being around heat because it is apart of their nature, just as humans should not want to drop their body temperature. Heat can help with regulation in an animal’s body, so they feel comfortable and normal.
Encouraging the Behavior
Animals being around heat is nothing that should not be encouraged. Being in the sun and in areas that make them feel comfortable and safe is important. If your animal tends to love bathing in the sun or being in warm areas, that is perfectly fine and should be encouraged. It may be wise to even help them feel at home when they are bathing in the heat. Adding a bed or a pillow outside or in a warm area can help them know that it is okay to enjoy bathing. Yet, it is suggested to make sure your animal does not overdo it with the heat. They do already have a full coat and are wired to keep their paws and bodies warm. Dogs can overheat and they can also get sunburned or create skin cancer for themselves, if they are not careful. Just like humans, it is important to keep your dog hydrated and well equipped. If your dog chooses to use the sun as their way of finding heat, then that is encouraged. Making sure they get Vitamin D in their system is prominent, but setting boundaries with how much heat they expose themselves to can be helpful to their health. Yet, don't keep your dog away from things that they enjoy, as long as they are safe, well, and happy.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Your dog will enjoy certain things more than others and it is encouraged to let them indulge in all things necessary to their happiness. If heat is something your dog loves, let them bathe in it. Yet, make sure there are boundaries set and that your dog does not become too obsessed with the heat. It is important they get the right amount of nutrients for their body and have their temperate regulated for their own health. Watching over your dog, letting them sit in the sun or in warm places, is highly suggested, but also, teaching them to be comfortable, safe, and happy in places of normal temperature, and in warm places that are not always the sun can be wise, too.
Bathing in the heat is a common activity for humans and for dogs. It makes us feel good, happy, and safe all at the same time. Helping fulfill your animal’s desire to be warm and healthy is apart of being a good owner. Yet, making sure they don't overdo it can be smart.
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020