The way that dogs are designed is inherently different from humans. When it comes to people, after running around on a warm day or exerting ourselves, we're usually sweating, taking off an item of clothing, or looking for an ice cold drink. When it comes to dogs, these are options that they don't have - after all, they're wearing the equivalent of a fur coat at all times.
Once a dog's body temperature has increased, they don't have the option of sweating to cool down in the way that humans do. While it’s a common misconception that dogs don’t have sweat glands, they actually do have them through their paw pads. But panting is the real MVP when it comes to lowering a dog's body temperature. Panting circulates air around their bodies, helping cool them down the natural way.
If your dog is actually too hot, you help cool them down in a similar way that you’d enjoy. Where we might take a cold shower or have a long drink, some dogs will enjoy jumping into a body of water to get their back chilled. However, this isn't recommended for all dogs - certain breeds, like French Bulldogs and Pugs aren't meant for the water and cannot swim, so make sure they don’t find themselves in a too deep of a body of water.
Some dogs also like to pant when they're feeling particularly happy - especially if they’re playing with you. This is where it helps to know your dog’s behavior and understand a little bit about your dog’s body language. If they have bright eyes and are panting gently, and the tail is wagging, then your dog is probably just loving life. Think of it as the equivalent of a dog grinning at you!
However, for some dogs, this is a prime example of anxiety or stress. For many dogs, this is why they pant when they’re in cars, as they’re feeling anxious and a little bit more on edge. This causes an increase in their heart rate and you’ll begin to hear the familiar sound of panting. Here, their body language may be more anxious and less playful, their tail may be limp or hanging down, and their eyes might seem wide and fearful. It’s important to understand the signs of your dog feeling stressed so that you can help minimize stress and help your dog through their anxiety.
Related: How to Stop a Dog Barking When Left Alone