As fall is slowly approaching, hunters are beginning to get their hunting equipment out and wiping off the dust. If your gear is like mine, it probably was not stored the best and needs a little TLC.
The same should be said for your hunting dog. If you are trying to shed a few pounds off your hunting companion, and it is hotter than you know what, make sure you take some precautions.
The first thing I tell people about summer conditioning is to use common sense! I know this sounds easy, but all too often I hear about dogs who have overheated during conditioning or even had worse things happen. Or I’ve heard about dogs that have not been worked in the summer, and they get sick on their first hunting trip. Heat exhaustion can be very serious, and a little common sense will go a long way.
Before getting started working your dog in the summer heat, consider things, such as its age, weight, and overall physical condition.
Before getting started consider things, such as age, weight, and the overall physical condition of your dog. Like humans, myself included, sometimes a dog’s mind will say “yes,” but their bodies say, “No Way!”
Older dogs still may act like a pup, however, “father time” often puts both man and beast in a reality check when trying to do things we once did with ease. Remember, you the owner has to be the one with reason when it comes to certain training or hunting situations. Most dogs will give it their all, not realizing that they are too old to do some things they used to be able to do.
Your dog’s weight is also up to you the owner. During warmer conditions, calories are being consumed more than during normal weather patterns. This may mean your dog has to eat food with a higher fat or protein content, or increase the amount of food you normally feed it. On the flip side, if your dog has a few too many pounds, and needs to lose some weight, you can use this increase in calorie burning to your advantage. Make sure you do this as a gradual process and not try a “crash diet.” This again should point to having some common sense.
In extreme heat, I have found that working in the early morning hours is the optimum time to exercise dogs. Whether it is in the middle of summer, or in late August, the coolest time of the day is always the first hours of sunlight. Not only is it the coolest, but as most hunters and outdoorsman will tell you, it is the most peaceful time of the day. Again, using common sense comes into play because most urban areas will frown upon someone out blowing a whistle at their dog when they are trying to sleep!
If your only option is to run your dog during the middle of the day, take necessary precautions. Offer your dog plenty of water throughout the training. Run your dog through shorter training sessions and allow more break time between segments.
Plastic bottels filled with water and then frozen will help keep dogs cool in their kennel, and provide drinking water for them during exercising.
One thing I personally do to help keep dogs cooler is put frozen plastic water bottles in their crate. This does a couple things for your dog: it cools down the airspace that is in the crate, but also when your dog lays next to these bottles (or on them) it can help cool it down immediately. I also use the thawed water to give to the dog after a hard workout. The water comes out ice cold and is obviously more refreshing than 80-degree water! Again use common sense, if your dog chews up plastic bottles, consider stainless steel bottles.
As the dog’s owner, you know your dog better than anyone else. Keep certain factors such as age, weight and overall physical condition of your dog in mind when you are working in hot weather. The most important part is simply to use good, old-fashioned common sense.
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