What and when are the Dog Days of Summer?
The phrase “Dog Days” conjures up the hottest, most sultry days of summer. What and when are the Dog Days of summer?
The “Dog Days” are based in astronomy. The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days: the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.
The rising of Sirius does not actually affect the weather (some of our hottest and most humid days occur after August 11), but for the ancient Egyptians, Sirius appeared just before the season of the Nile’s flooding, so they used the star as a “watchdog” for that event.
Since its rising also coincided with a time of extreme heat, the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time:
Dog Days bright and clear
indicate a happy year.
But when accompanied by rain,
for better times our hopes are vain.
To check your summer temperatures, see our Weather Center.
When I was little, I was told that the hot days of summer were called "dog days" because dogs became irritable during the heat and were more likely to bite. Back then, when leash laws were few and we lived in the country, most dogs were allowed to roam free, so we had to be careful not to bother them. My grandmother used to leave a dish of water at the corner of our property for their relief. The Dog Star was never mentioned. There is a good video about the season called "Fiddles, Snakes, and Dog Days," put out by the University of West Virginia.