- Early Season Gun Dog Care: Keeping Your Hunting Partner Safe While Hunting In The Heat
Early Season Gun Dog Care: Keeping Your Hunting Partner Safe While Hunting In The Heat
If you're like most hunters, you've been eagerly awaiting the start of early season hunting opportunities. This is an especially exciting time of year for those of us who hunt with our gun dogs, as we get to put to use the skills we've trained into them during the off season. Early season hunting conditions can be tough on dogs though, especially when temperatures still feel summer like with temps above 80 degrees or warmer if you are in southern states.
When the birds are flying, you are going through shells, your dog is flying around, and you are having a great time with your buddies, our mind can wander from the care of our dogs. Despite our excitement to chase birds and watch our dogs work, their safety needs to be top of mind at all times. Here are a few tips for taking care of your gun dog during early season hunts in the heat:
Make sure your dog has plenty of water available at all times, both during and after hunts.
Dogs get dehydrated too. Providing an ample supply of water and paying attention to their physical cues is important to keep them safe.
Avoid hunting during the hottest part of the day. If possible, hunt in the morning or evening when it's cooler.
The hotter the temperatures, the quicker your dog will overheat. This one step, if your schedule allows, can pay dividends as a 10 degree difference in temperature makes a huge difference.
Take breaks often and provide a shady spot for your dog to rest in.
If your dog is putting in a lot of work picking up doves or putting on miles chasing upland birds, plan to give them "smoke breaks" before they become overheated or dehydrated. Taking a short break to provide water and let them cool down will pay dividends over the course of your hunt. If there's shade available, use it.
Keep an eye on your dog for signs of heat exhaustion, such as excessive panting or drooling, lethargy, or vomiting. If you notice any of these signs, get your dog out of the heat immediately. Your dog is worth more than an extra bird or two.
Your gun dog will continue to work past a point of physical exertion that can cause serious harm if you allow it. There's a difference between heavy panting and labored panting. You may see other physical changes as well including a change in the gum or tongue color. As your dog works pay attention to these and any other physical cues your dog provides to help keep them safe.
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If you dog is not in optimal shape, consider shortening your hunt as out of shape dogs tend to overheat quicker than dogs that have been conditioning in the off season. Dog breed and coat type are also factors to consider as you head to the field. Dogs with heavier coats, such as Golden Retrievers, can overheat faster than dogs with lighter coats.
If you've ever seen a dog become overheated, you'll know what to look for. I've seen my own dog tip over and unable to move due to overheating. It was an incredibly scary situation, and one I wasn't paying enough attention to as a few kids were throwing bumpers for him in 85 degree heat in my front yard.
We owe it to our dogs to have their best interests in mind at all times. Plan ahead and follow these simple tips to help ensure that your gun dog stays safe and healthy during those warm early season hunts. With a little preparation, you and your gun dog can enjoy a successful and enjoyable hunting season together.