What are the Dog Days of Summer?

dog days of summer - small terrier sleeping in the sun wearing sunglasses

Summer is known for warm weather, some of which people call the “dog days of summer”. But what are the “dog days of summer” and what exactly does that mean? Just like other popular sayings, it can be hard to pinpoint where it began and why it has stuck around in our vernacular. Here is what the dog days of summer actually are and what you need to know:

What are the “Dog Days of Summer”?

The dog days of summer are the days of the summer that are hot and sultry and not fit for a dog, and sometimes humans too. Some think that it means the type of weather that causes dogs to lose their minds.

So, the dog days of summer describe the most unbearable part of the summer, which is typically between July 3 and August 11. But, what do dogs have to do with this phrase and where did it come from?

What is the Origin of “Dog Days of Summer”?

In order to understand the origin of the “dog days of summer”, we have to go back to Ancient Rome and Greece. Astrology was a very commonly studied subject in these ancient civilizations.

Greeks and Romans Made Summer References to Sirius

Turns out, the Greeks and Romans weren’t actually referring to our furry friends, they were referring to an astronomical dog – the constellation Sirius. Sirius is otherwise known as the dog star and is located in the constellation Canis Major, which is known as the Greater Dog. It is the brightest star that shines at night.

What Does Sirius Have to do With the “Dog Days of Summer”?

So, why does Sirius have anything to do with the dog days of summer? According to the Farmers’ Almanac, Sirius shines extra bright during the summer months, specifically on July 23. Sirius also sets and rises with the sun during this time of the year.

The ancient Romans and Greeks believed that this constellation controlled the sun’s heat and thus they called this extremely hot period of time the dog days. Over time, this came to mean the 20 days before and after July 23, or July 3 to August 11.

Sirius Isn’t Responsible for the Heat, But the Saying Still Sticks

Of course, modern science tells us that this theory is not accurate. Sirius, even though it’s a very bright constellation, does not add any heat to the earth. The earth’s tilt is what makes the heat of summer so strong during the dog days of summer.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the earth’s tilt causes the sun’s rays to hit at a much more direct angle, and for a sustained period of time during the day. This is why we have longer, hotter days of summer.

But, the saying stuck around and this is why the hottest months of summer are referred to as the dog days of summer. You could even argue that the saying sticks around because heat often makes you feel sluggish, or “dog tired”.

What to do During the Dog Days of Summer?

So, what does this mean for you and your pup? Well, it can help you prepare to navigate the heat of the summer and keep your dog cool, safe, and comfortable. Perhaps you can plan to take your dog to the beach so they can cool off in the ocean or in a lake?

Or, you can plan some other dog-friendly summer activities for you and your dog to do together. Enjoy the time with your dog as you both stay cool during the dog days of summer!