(Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of California Waterfowl Magazine.)
by JOSH MILLER, SportDOG® Brand
As spring turns to summer, I find duck hunters always feel a little extra enthusiasm for training. The long daylight hours and sunshine make us want to be outside, and what better way to spend time outside than working with our pups?
But summer comes with one big risk: the heat.
As a dog man, few things scare me, but if you have ever seen a dog go through heat stroke, you understand why this is one of them. Most of us would say our dogs love to retrieve so much they would kill themselves doing it, but it’s up to us to ensure they don’t.
Here are some tips for keeping your partner safe this summer:
Pump the brakes a bit. This is not the time to push your dog with a long session of doing intense work. Instead, take advantage of doing obedience work, steadiness or something that is less physically draining. You can still get the work done; just adjust your drills accordingly.
Keep it cool. Or at least as cool as you can. Something as simple as being in the shade makes a huge difference, and staying in the shade will allow you to do a little more work than if you were out in the sun. Before and after you train, be sure the dog is out of the sun and has plenty of ventilation to help stay cool.
Train in the water, but don’t be fooled! Water work is great this time of year, and we can get a lot done there. But don’t think your dog can’t be affected by the heat just because he’s in the water. Small bodies of water and shallow water can heat up very quickly and offer little relief for your dog. Even if you do have a cool body of water to work in, do shorter retrieves and shorter work.
Increase water intake to stay hydrated. This may seem obvious, but it amazes me how many people I see bring water for themselves but not for the dog.
Train early and train late. Some of the best advice I can give to avoid the heat is simply don’t go train in the heat of the day. Early morning and late evening training will offer you the best temperatures for the most productive training sessions. You still need to heed the other tips, but this will help you drastically cut down the chances of your dog having an issue.
Like I said, I love this time of year. The progress you and your partner can make this summer can make a huge difference heading into another season. Just don’t let your drive for improvement cost you a major setback, or worse. Just like a great coach, push your student but know the limits. Do that and you both will have a great summer of working and growing together.
SIGNS OF OVERHEATING AND DEHYDRATION
• Heavy panting
• Dry nose and gums
• Loss of skin elasticity (check by gently pinching your dog’s skin between a thumb and forefinger—if it takes longer than normal to spring back, your dog may be dehydrated)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Josh Miller is the product training specialist for SportDOG® Brand and owner of River Stone Kennels and Britishlabradors.com. Josh has more than 13 years of training experience and has been successful running in AKC/HRC hunt tests and field trials, and is a five-time NASHDA Championship winner.