Dealing with hot dogs
Typically when we hear about heat-induced health issues or death regarding sporting dogs, it’s around a warmer-than-average pheasant opener. Out-of-shape dogs are asked to find roosters in the midday sun, and because they don’t have much quit in them, it can go predictably south.
It’s not just the couch-potato Labs and German short-haired pointers that get into trouble in those conditions, either – especially if those conditions are particularly brutal. Any dog asked to run enough in the blazing sun and high temperatures can get into serious trouble.
This is painfully obvious to anyone who works outside or who happens to be a runner. I fall into the latter category and have found it to be particularly hellish to rack up a few miles each day, but that’s my stupid decision. Our dogs don’t really get to make the call on what they should or shouldn’t do during Minnesota heat waves.
That responsibility is on us, and lately, it’s been important.
The rub here is that you could leave your bird dog in your house, in air conditioning all day, but that’s not really good for the pup, either. Actually, if you’ve got an older dog, it’s not a terrible option. But younger dogs need exercise in the outdoors. Having a 9-week-old puppy at home has reminded me of this every other daylight hour for over a week now …
Normally, when the temps approach triple digits, it’s an easy call to head to a lake or river and toss a dummy. That’s what works for the older dog in our house, but the new pup isn’t too sure about swimming yet.
She’s pretty good about messing with frogs and getting in up to her belly line, but beyond that, Sadie seems to think we might have some species of Lab-pup-eating shark finning our way in our local waters. We don’t, but I don’t know how to convince her of that, so I’m just patiently waiting for her water confidence to ramp up.
This leaves us with a lot of early and late training sessions, which is about all you can do right now if your dog won’t swim. I’ve also been using a supplement for my dogs that is supposed to taste pretty good (I haven’t tried it) and help them stay more hydrated and operating better in desert-level conditions. It does get the dogs to drink more, I’ve noticed, so it’s working on that front.
While the amount of training, running, and outdoor exploration needs to be closely monitored, access to water for our dogs should be easy and available at all times. This – again with a pup – has been a bit of a challenge. Mixing a tiny bladder with big thirst means that one of the family members is going to be summoned to the puppy crate far earlier than he’d like to get up, to let the dog out for a pee break.
There isn’t much I can do about that one right now until she gets bigger or a cold front blows in. Honestly, I don’t know which one is going to happen first.
Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’ve got a dog or two at home and you’re wrestling with the reality of what a dog physically needs with what’s responsible to allow in extreme heat. The answer is individualized to your situation, of course, but mostly it boils down to common sense.
Short periods of outdoor activity, in the shade or in the water, are ideal. If you don’t have those options, be very, very careful about how much physical activity you allow your dog to do, and carry some water with you.
Put yourself in their shoes (paws?) and imagine what it would be like to run after some dummies on a soccer field or go for a long walk without anything to drink while wearing a fur coat. Neither sounds like much fun, but dogs will do largely what we ask of them to do no matter the temperature or conditions. Thus, it’s up to us to monitor exertion and hydration levels for them.
Here’s to hoping this bout of scorcher weather will move out and leave us with something a little more comfortable in which to work our dogs. Until then, be careful out there.