In the colder winter months, many people enjoy setting a fire in the fireplace, or turning on space heaters to warm up their living spaces. On particularly cold nights, you might even enjoy bundling up next to the fire. If you have a dog, you probably aren’t the only one who likes to curl up in front of the fire.
Dogs seem even more drawn to heat sources than humans, and they will curl up close to the fire for hours upon end if allowed. Some dogs like to get really close to the fire, so close that you might be concerned. Here are some reasons that your dog likes to curl up so close to the fire, and what you should do about it if you are concerned.
The Root of the Behavior
Dogs are warm-blooded creatures, meaning that they produce their own body heat, which circulates throughout their bodies via their blood. Humans are warm-blooded creatures too, which might explain why both dogs and humans alike enjoy a good nap in front of the fire. The warmth of the fire comforts dogs and makes them feel lazy and sleepy, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a good snooze in front of a fire, then you should be able to relate! A good fire provides warmth to the entire room, and when humans and dogs are warmed from external sources, their bodies do not have to work as hard to maintain the internal temperature that their bodies prefer.
Fires, especially fires with open and exposed flames, should always be carefully watched and maintained. The rules of having a fire going apply to the home, to you, and to your pet. In the same way that you would tell a child not to play with the fire, you should discourage your dog from associating fire with playtime. A dog’s happily wagging tail could quickly lead to a dangerous situation, not to mention injury to your dog. On a similar note, you should never leave an open fire unattended. Fluctuating conditions could lead to dangerous situations, and if your dog likes to curl up and fall asleep by the fire, this could mean physical harm.
Many assume that a dog chooses its position near the fire and would move if the fire gets too hot. This is generally true, but it is not true in all circumstances, and certain dogs may not intuitively know the best distance to be. While it is true that dogs tend to prefer to be closer to heat sources than humans do, it is not safe to believe that a dog knows when to change position or move. Dogs that are in the habit of falling asleep in front of a fire could be burned or could experience related health concerns like dehydration. This is another reason never to leave fires unattended. Even with certain precautions, your dog could find a way to curl up in a dangerous position and fall asleep.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you have a fireplace that is enclosed and well-drafted, where there is no chance of a loose ember or falling log setting fire to anything around it, you could fall asleep in front of the fire and be okay. Still, it is not wise to have a fire going when you are unable to keep track of your dog. Consider gating off your fireplace area so that your dog cannot get too close, and don’t let a fire burn too large over too long a period of time. Monitor your dog’s position and the length of time that it is lying in front of the fire. This can help ensure that your dog isn’t spending too much time in one position, and it can reduce the risk of injury.
dogs prefer the fire the older that they become, and others will prefer the
fire if they are constantly cold. In addition to setting up a fire guard, you
might consider setting up a sleeping area for your dog at a distance away from
the fire that you know is safe. A collection of towels, blankets, or a dog bed
can provide an attractive and equally warm option for your dog to curl up in.
This way, you won’t have to worry as much about your dog getting too close or
staying too close to a hot fire.
Other Solutions and Considerations
When dogs get burned by a fire, it tends to appear like a sunburn on their skin. Your dog may or may not display physical signs of their discomfort after being burned. Be sure to check periodically for red, tender-looking skin underneath your dog’s fur. For dogs with lighter, thinner coats, this will be easier than if your dog has a thick, dark-colored coat. Although it may seem that your dog is often closer to the fire than you would be comfortable with, dogs do tend to know the best distance to be to be warm. You should still check, every once in a while, to make sure that their fur is warm without being too hot. If their fur is too hot for you to touch, then your dog is too close to the fire and at risk of being burned or injured.
When the winter comes, and you start lighting the fireplace in the evenings, be sure that you have the area set up for optimal safety for you, your dog, and your home. A warm fire can be a beautiful thing, but it is never entirely safe. With just a little precaution, you can ensure that the only things roasting in your home are in the oven.