As a professional retriever trainer who has trained thousands of duck hunting dogs through the years, I have become very aware of the risks and hazards associated with hunting dogs.
Retriever training and duck hunting take place in some pretty rough environments and it’s safe to say that just about anything can happen. While you can’t always avoid these risks you can minimize your exposure and always have a plan in case something bad does happen to your dog. There are many risks to consider with your retriever such as snake bite, alligators, bacterial and viral infections along with cuts and punctures. I will cover these at another time but today I want to focus on what I consider the number one threat.
Exposure to the elements. By this I am talking about weather related hazards. Dogs can get too hot and they can get too cold. In Texas the mercury can rise as high as 100 degrees in dove and even early teal season. Be sure to keep your dog in the shade and well hydrated. Remember that lighter colored dogs can handle heat better than the black and dark chocolates.
When your dog starts to pant heavily it is time to stop!
The next step is loss of control of the tinge followed sometimes immediately by heat stroke! Heat stroke is a killer so pay attention! If this starts to happen you can cool him off with cool water on his belly or by putting him in a very cold air conditioned environment. Either way I recommend veterinarian attention immediately. The same can be true in extremely cold conditions.
Avoid over exposure to the water and try to keep your dog as dry as possible after the retrieves. Do not assume that he is ok to stand in water the entire hunt. Once he starts to shake uncontrollably or loose mobility he is in bad trouble so pay attention to what his body is telling you and if he is to cold make every effort to warm him up. You can rub his coat vigorously and cradle him with blankets on the way to the vet.
Many times before letting himself get too cold he will stop retrieving as an act of self preservation. Make sure you can tell the difference in him being disobedient and him trying to keep himself from hypothermia!
As always a little caution goes a long way and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! When in doubt err on the side of caution and keep in mind there will be other days to hunt when the weather isn’t as extreme. Especially in Texas! Remember The Lord expects us to take care of our animals and the healthier, happier, and more comfortable your dog is the better he will hunt.
Brian Johnson (duckdogtrainer.com)