Late summer means preparation and training for the arrival of fall hunting—mourning doves, teal, and other winged pursuits. These months also boast some of the hottest temperatures, so it's also important to make sure your dog stays safe. He is your eyes, ears, and hunting partner, so you need him working at peak performance and not succumbing to heat exhaustion. Take a look at how you can keep your dog cool on his feet and flying after those birds.
Start Training Early
If your dog is a sedentary family dog during the off-season, you could be setting him up to suffer from a heat-related illness when hunting time arrives. Your dog needs time—more than just a few days—to get into shape and acclimated to the heat of the outdoors.
Try to work your dog throughout the year rather than let him play around, especially in the spring and summer. Before it starts to heat up, begin with an hour of training in the morning and again in the evening. Start slowly and build up the amount of endurance by having him run and perform retrieving drills. Make the workouts fun and give him breaks to get a drink of water.
Consider Your Truck
You may not realize it, but your dog can get hot in your truck too. Have him travel in a well-ventilated crate and in a well-ventilated part of your vehicle. Make sure he has water available. If you have more than one dog, give them each their own crate to stay cool. If you can, only travel during the late evening or early morning when temperatures are cooler. Finally, don't leave your dog in the car once you arrive, even for a few minutes. A few minutes are all it takes for the air inside a vehicle to really heat up.
While you're hunting you might assume that your dog is fine when he's panting—that's how they help keep cool when it's hot. This is true, but you should still find some shade when it's time to take a break. Long exposure to the sun even while just sitting is hard on your dog. Shade can be up to 20 degrees cooler so look for a patch of shade where he can rest and cool down.
Keep Him Hydrated
One of the best ways to keep heat exhaustion at bay during the hunt is to bring plenty of cold water and offer it frequently. Your dog may not drink enough on his own, so monitor how much he takes. When it's hot, your dog needs one ounce per pound of body weight every day. Bring water in a squirt bottle to spray on his chest, head, and ears before running him.
Watch For Warning Signs
While working your dog and during breaks, watch him carefully for signs of heat exhaustion. At first, your dog will pant heavily and drool. If he is already dehydrated, his saliva will become thicker. He may just flop down on the ground and not want to get up. Further signs include:
- Walking unsteadily
- Being weak, tired, and listless
- Staring into space and being unresponsive
- Passing little or no urine
- Having a rapid heartbeat
If you see any of these signs, get him cooled down immediately. Find shade or a body of water to bring his core temperature down. Give him small amounts of water and let his breathing and heart rate return to normal. If possible, offer him a drink containing electrolytes.
If you have rubbing alcohol, rub some on his ears, stomach, or paw pads. Alcohol cools a dog down faster than water because it evaporates quicker.
You can help your dog stay cool on a hot hunting day by training him for heat, giving him shade and water, and watching for signs of heat exhaustion. This way, humans and hounds will both have a great time. For more information, contact local professionals like Lion Country Supply.