The height of summer. The long, sultry days. The best time to stay in the shade and do as little as possible. However one chooses to describe them, the period from July to August when the weather becomes the hottest has long been known by as the Dog Days of Summer.
So, What Doesn’t It Mean?
Is this the time of the year when dogs go mad with the heat? Not at all; dogs deal with the heat just like everyone else, and there’s no data to suggest most canines go mad in the summertime. Alright then, so is this the time of year when the weather wouldn’t be “fit for a dog?” Maybe, but that’s really subjective; for all we know, most dogs might prefer the heat to wading through a blizzard. Okay, does the term “dog days of summer” refer to the days being so hot that a dog just wants to sit in the shade? Well, yeah, but so does anyone with common sense, so that’s not really accurate, either.
Then What Does It Mean?
Actually, the term originates with the stars. In July, the sun shares a portion of the sky with a star called Sirius, which just happens to be part of the constellation Canid Major, or the Greater Dog. It was believed that, as the star and the sun come into conjunction, the brightness of Sirius added to the heat of the sun, which explained why the weather got so hot.
Does It, Though?
Nah. Sirius does not add its power to the sun. It’s a star, not a magnifying glass.
Actually, the heat occurs because of the Earth’s tilt. Thanks to the position of the planet, rays from the sun hit at the Earth at a sharper angle for a greater period of time, which is the reason why the sun appears so early in the morning, goes down later in the day, and generally remains hotter than the fall. Simply a direct result of the Earth’s tilt.
So The Term Refers To The Stars?
Technically, it refers to one star and the sun, but yes, it’s astrological in origin.
And No Real Dogs Come Into Play?
Aside from the summer visual of a dog sitting in the shade and panting to stay cool, not really.
Got It. So When Does It Occur, Actually?
The dates tend to vary, but according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the dog days of summer tend to start on July 3 and drag on through August 11. Unless you live in Florida, when the heat arrives in June and hangs around until November.
Only when the air conditioner breaks.
Anything Else We Need to Know?
Just that the dog days of summer will be the opportune time to practice sun and heat protection. Drink lots of water, slather on the sunscreen, wear comfortable clothing that reflects the sunlight, and put on a hat.
Oh, and don’t bother any dogs sitting in the shade. They were there first.