Training Your Hunting Dog to Drink
I received the following message via Twitter from
My GSP won’t stop to drink water out in the field, any
I admitted to @bulldog2012 that my shorthair also often refuses
water in the field, so I promised to get some expert guidance from
a few pro dog trainers. This morning, I sent emails on the topic to
Purina’s Bob West, SportDOG’s Clay Thompson and Oak Ridge Kennel’s
Tom Dokken and received some fantastic guidance.
A Rinsing Squirt
I’ve always approached canine hydration in the field from a
perspective of, “I’ve gotta get my pup to drink a cup of water.”
Turns out I’ve been wrong all along.
Bob West explained the importance of a rinsing squirt of water.
“People stay cool by sweating across their entire body. Dogs, on
the other hand, regulate their heat through panting by drawing air
across their tongue and back of their throat. Panting is a dog’s
single method to cool down,” West continued, “As a canine exercises
in the heat, mucus forms in their mouth and on their tongue. As a
hunter, you need to give your bird dog just enough water to give
them a little hydration and, as important, water to rinse the mucus
from their tongue to keep the pup’s heat regulation system
West went on to explain that, in fact, he doesn’t want a dog to
“drink” too much water. “Hunters DO need to be ‘forcing’ water on
their dogs before the pup is thirsty. A thirsty dog will gulp
water, which adds extra air into the stomach leading to bloating
and twisting; bad news for your pup.”
Sit, Stay, Squirt
Clay Thompson echoed West’s thoughts and reiterated the importance
of training bird dogs to drink from a squirt bottle. “I use a water
bottle in the field to make it easier on me, because I do not have
to bend over to give the dog a drink of water with this
Pheasants Forever stocks the WingWorks Vest which includes two
built-in squirt water bottle holders.
Don’t Give your Dog Gatorade
If you’re like me, you make assumptions. I’ve always assumed that
Gatorade’s ability to replace electrolytes in me would be equally
beneficial to my bird dog. Not only am I wrong, I could have killed
my own dog with this logic.
“Dogs don’t lose electrolytes,” explained West. “In fact, adding
additional electrolytes to a dog’s system during times of heat
stress can actually speed up the dehydration process.”
Thompson reiterated West’s guidance, “Gatorade or other drinks
of this type should not be used with dogs, because they are
designed to replace electrolytes, salts and other nutrients that
people lose when we sweat. Since dogs can’t sweat, human drinks
are giving dogs things they do not need as well as unnecessary
The Finicky Dog and Peanut Butter
No dog can resist peanut butter. That logic has helped Tom Dokken
convince even the finickiest of pups to consume water during a
hunt. Check out Dokken in this SportDOG training video.
Later this month, SportDOG also plans to launch a new product
called Canine Athlete Hydration. “Our new Canine Athlete Hydration
product is liver flavored to entice the most finicky dogs to drink,
and it has been specifically formulated to benefit bird dogs,”
explained Thompson. “It also comes in convenient packaging for the
hunter in the field.”
Remembering the Bird Dog Deaths of 2003
Young dogs and overweight dogs are the most susceptible to
heat-related problems. It’s important for your bird dog to be in
shape all off-season as you prepare for opening day.
We need to simply look back to October, 2003 for proof. That
year, 90 degree temps greeted South Dakota hunters for the pheasant
opener. Tragically, that weekend’s heat led to hundreds of bird dog
deaths. When it’s hot, be sure to monitor your dog’s demeanor and
appearance. Specifically, be sure to check your pup’s tongue color.
The darker the red of the tongue, the hotter your dog is
Lastly, it’s important to know that severe heat stress events
can impact your dog’s long term health and damage your dog’s heat
regulation system forever.
Thanks to @bulldog2012 for the great question and blog topic. If
you’ve got an idea for a blog topic, go ahead and drop it in the
comment section below or send me a message through Twitter @BobStPierre.