Tips for training retrievers in the summer
When training retrievers for hunting or hunt tests, there is a lot to consider. Whether you are training your own dog or are a pro with a string of dogs, you need to approach each day with a plan. One element that is high on the list of considerations is weather. In the Midwest, our weather can change daily. In the summer heat and humidity are a real concern. You can train your dog when it is hot outside, but you need to be flexible and smart about it. Here’s what you need to know.
Heat and humidity require flexibility in training
As a professional retriever trainer, each week I take time to plan training goals for my client’s dogs and I then match those goals up with a training location that would work well to teach the concept. However, every morning I also check the weather to make sure the weather conditions are satisfactory for what I have planned for that day.
When it is hot and humid my whole schedule can and often does change. If it is going to be brutally hot, I will likely start training earlier in the day to beat the heat. Or, I may rearrange my training week to do more water work that day. The point is that it is important to be flexible in your training plans with regards to the weather. If you stubbornly insist on sticking to a plan despite the weather, you could put your retriever in a dangerous situation.
Is it too hot to train my retriever?
There may be days when it is just too hot to train. But usually there is a period of time during the day that would work for training. For instance, early in the morning before the sun is too high in the sky. If it is too hot outside during the time you need to train, you can always do some obedience training inside an air-conditioned building. Or, just take the day off and let the dogs rest.
If I know it is supposed to get hot later in the week, I sometimes do some extra training sessions early in the week when it is cooler. That way I know my dogs and my client’s dogs are getting the work they need without exposure to the extreme heat.
Best ways to train successfully in the heat
If you are training your retriever in the summer, you are going to need to do some work in the heat. Here are a few things you can do to have safe and successful training sessions in the heat.
Train early and late
We have already discussed this a little bit but adjusting your training schedule so that you do most of your training early or late in the day. This will make a huge difference, but you will still need to monitor your dog throughout the training session for signs of heat exhaustion and make sure they have access to shade and lots of fresh clean water.
Provide shade and ventilation
When your retriever is not working, make sure he or she is in the shade and has good ventilation. It should go without saying, but never leave your dog in a non-running vehicle with the windows rolled up. Park your vehicle, or whatever you transport your dog in, in the shade and open the windows and vents so that air can flow through. Many dog trucks and boxes have built in fans, use them!
Shorten your training sessions.
If the heat is taking a toll on your retriever, you may need to shorten and simplify your training session. Make the marks shorter and easier. Do less marks. Or, if your dog is having problems finding the mark, help him or her sooner.
Work near ponds or lakes
If you need to do land work in the heat, it is good to have a pond or lake nearby. After running the land marks, let your retriever jump in and cool off in the water. I tend to do more water work when it is hot outside. Be cautious, however, as not all water is equal. If a pond is shallow, the water can heat up and it can be like putting your dog in a hot tub, which obviously in not good.
Also, you do need to be careful about algae in the water. Some algae can be fatal to dogs, so be sure the water is safe and clean.
Increase water intake
Retrievers can easily drink between ½ gallon to a gallon of water daily, so when you are working in the heat you need to provide even more. Give your retriever access to unlimited clean, fresh water while working him or her during the summer.
Pay attention to the warning signs
Anytime you are working your dog, you need to be watching them carefully for signs of heat exhaustion, but this is vital during the summer months. A few of the symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
- lethargy or weakness
- lack of urine
- refusing water
- seeking shade
Lisa L. Powell, DVM, DACVECC in her article Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke in working and sporting dogs says, “if you have any suspicion that your dog may be affected, quickly cool them with lukewarm water and immediate transport to a veterinarian will be life-saving.”
Final thoughts on how to train retrievers when it is hot outside
Training retrievers in the summer can be challenging, but it can be done successfully if you are flexible in your training plans and stay watchful and alert about how your dog is handling the heat. Some dogs handle the heat better than others. Don’t treat all dogs the same. If you notice that the dog is struggling, be smart and stop training. There is always tomorrow.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting or competition this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.