Summertime evokes a sense of liberation engrained in us as children with the ringing of the last bell of the school year. It’s a time of freedom and not just celebrating Independence Day. The days are longer, leaving more time for fishing, cookouts, ritualized shenanigans and maybe even a little dog training (just don’t forget your favorite Orvis flyrod and Orion Cooler this summer).
What we tend to forget in our romanticized recollections of childhood escapism is that it get’s hotter than the Devil’s toenails during the summertime too. So while it is important to keep your canine athlete in good shape year round, there are also some important considerations when training in the heat.
If your dogs are like ours at British Gundogs, they won’t tell you when they are getting too hot to continue working. In fact, if you leave it up to your gundog, they will keep going until they get into dangerous territory that could endanger the dog’s health and possibly result in death. No one wants that, so here is what to look for when training in warm temperatures and what to do about it if you see any of the symptoms of heat exhaustion or its more deadly extreme canine heat stroke.
What to look for:
• Panting accompanied by noisy breathing.
• Disorientation or less responsive to commands. Your dog seems confused and doesn’t answer your commands (genuine confusion not the normal, “I hear you but I am busy rolling in deep poop” ignoring you).
• Bright red or even blue gums.
• Vomiting and/or diarrhea.
• Collapse or convulsions.
• Becomes suddenly lethargic.
For heat stroke, things get dire quickly. Make no mistake, when your dog’s internal temperature reaches 106-109 degrees there is a high risk of vascular, organ, gastrointestinal and/or nervous system damage. Unfortunately there is also a significant mortality risk in these circumstances as well.
What to do:
• Train smart.
o The early morning and late evenings are when the temperature is coolest so try to schedule your training around those times.
o Keep the sessions short. If you are working on a complicated concept, break it down into smaller components and drill the different ideas on different days. Don’t try to cram everything into one day.
o Keep lots of fresh water available for your dog to stay hydrated.
o If you have a river, deeper pond or other water source let your dog take the time to cool off. Just keep in mind that some shallower ponds may actually be warm enough to defeat the purpose of cooling off.
• If you do see any of the symptoms listed above, get your dog out of the heat as quickly as possible.
• Use wet towels (cool or room temperature) to cover the dog. Even better if you can use a fan at the same time.
• If you don’t have a towel, use water on the dog’s head, underbelly and sides.
• Get the dog to your vet as soon as possible. Your vet has other treatment options that could save your dog’s life.
So from all of us at British Gundogs, enjoy your Summer. Before you know it, the Fall will be here and cooler temperatures will summon the arrival the most wonderful time of the year: hunting season.