Bird Dogs & Training  |  08/06/2013

Summer Dog Training: The Show Must Go On

Hot, hot, hot…and rain, rain, rain. “Rimfire’s” growing green; “Tank” has sprouted mushrooms.  Coyotes left very weird white turds in the driveway. The sumac is turning yellow, and we’re growing gills and fins all around.
Nevertheless, dog training must go on. With my German shorthaired pointer, “Scratch,” and Terry’s German wirehaired pointer, “Rudder,” going to the NAVHDA Invitational in September, on test day we face an hour braced field run, 100-yard blind retrieve across water to the other bank, double marked retrieves, off lead heeling, and honoring another dog’s water retrieve. No e-collars on test day, commands minimal.
Translation: We’ve got a lot of work to do.
Training dogs in hot weather presents new challenges. While it’s conditioning to practice in the heat, it gives us something else to worry about besides how clean the retrieves are or if they’re backing consistently. I noticed recently the most worrisome part wasn’t while they were running in the field, it was afterwards. In the field, I felt the heat, too, and felt more in tune with Scratch’s need for water or shade knowing that down in the tall grass, he was pushing through captured heat up to ten degrees hotter than I was feeling. When we were done, however, and he was staked in the shade or resting in an open wire crate with a light breeze blowing, I was amazed how long it took for him to cool down.
Tongue flopping from left to right side of his gaped open mouth, drooling and panting in heavy breaths,  he wasn’t in trouble, but he was hot. Really hot. I watered down his ears, belly and armpits but didn’t give him any more water since he’d downed almost two bottles during our 20 minute run. It took him nearly twice as long to cool down.
Conditioning vs. overheating – another part of the summer’s learning experience. It’s not without its lighter side, though. Who could blame a dog that retrieves the final chukar in the field (how does he know it’s the last one out there?) and instead of coming to sit by my side with a proper presentation of the bird, blows right by me heading directly for the pond beyond the trucks.
And there I found him, reclining in the mud like a fat lazy crocodile, still holding his chukar, cool water lapping at his belly… with a very pleased sparkle in his eyes.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.