Playing with your dog in hot weather

How to frolic with Fido and not burn your tail off

Late summer in Atlanta means it's basically hot enough for foliage to spontaneously burst into flames, if it weren't for that life-saving 100 percent humidity. Despite some dogs' enthusiasm, don't bet that they will last outside in these temperatures any longer than you would while running around in a fur coat. Some dogs and cats may have figured out that lying by the AC vent on the bathroom tile is the best way to pass the summer, but not all of us have such gifted, low-energy pets.

Obviously, keeping animals inside during the hottest parts of the day — in the South, that would be any time after 8 a.m. and before 7 p.m. — and being sure to keep their water bowls full are no-brainers. (Bonus points if you put ice cubes in the water.) But when a sunny afternoon beckons, there's still fun to be had outside, even when it is scorching.

One of the cooler gadgets — pardon the pun — to come out lately is the Swamp Cooler Vest. Designed to give your dog relief from the heat, it works by evaporative cooling, which replaces body heat with the cooler water stored in the vest. You simply submerge the baby blue vest in water, buckle it on your pooch, and go on your hike or run. It works well in Atlanta's climate since the extra moisture in the air causes the vest to remain saturated longer. Dark-colored dogs will especially appreciate the relief. Just make sure you still watch for excessive panting or other warning signs that he's becoming overheated.

If you're interested in more water than the Swamp Vest has to offer, most lakes and creeks are dog-friendly. If you're on a boat, make sure to invest in a floatation device for everyone, including the four-legged, even if you have no plans to swim. Not all dogs can swim, and even fewer are going to swim directly up to something as loud as a boat making a 7-point turn trying to retrieve a dog who has fallen overboard. Make sure to get a bright color for the doggie life jacket — not only will it absorb less heat, it's eye-catching enough to protect your dog from other boats cruising around. Again, keep an eye on your pooch for signs that you need head back to the car and crank up the AC.

Not a lake person? Atlanta Dogworks, north of the city, offers a huge pool built just for dogs. It's great for pretty much any dog that enjoys swimming, especially young dogs with lots of energy and older dogs who will appreciate the cushioning for their joints. Plus, you don't have to worry about the critters and litter that can plague public lakes or creeks.

Of course, at some point in your activities, both you and Fido will need to refuel. I noticed a new brand of ice cream at Kroger awhile back — the packaging had dogs on it, so naturally I was curious. Lo and behold, it was ice cream for dogs. However, if you don't want to pay over a buck a pop for doggie ice cream, stick a banana in the freezer. They'll be just as happy with their frozen, all-natural treat, and it'll cost all of 19 cents. Also, you can put peanut butter in a Kong toy and freeze it, which will keep the dog occupied while you lay in front of the fan and wait for fall.