Great information taken from Cornerstone Gundog Training
Prepare Your Retriever: How Cold is Too Cold For Dogs
Nov 06, 2020
A question that we get all the time is, “What is too cold for my dogs to hunt?”
The answer is not as simple as a specific temperature that is too cold. There’s wind chill, the temperature itself, and many other factors. There’s a lot to take into account.
Any time you are hunting in temperatures at or below freezing, it can be potentially dangerous for your pup if you aren’t keeping an eye on them. However, there are three things you can do to mitigate risk and keep your dog safe during cold weather hunts.
1. Keep Your Dog As Dry As Possible & Out of The Wind.
Nothing chills one to the bone more than being wet and blasted by a strong wind. The same goes for your dog. Keeping your dog dry and out of the wind will help it stay safe and focused during the fridged days of winter.
One of the best ways to do this is to use a dog blind or have a dog box built into your blind that keeps your dog out of the wind. This generally won’t be an issue in timber hunts, but the wind chill can be brutal on a field hunt.
Your dog will naturally dry if it is out of the water and has a windbreak. Having a suitable dog blind will allow the water to drain away from your dog, and it will also shield it from the wind. If your dog can’t stay dry and is constantly blasted by wind, your hunt will be over in a hurry.
Another great way to keep your dog warmer on super cold hunts is to put a dog vest on your dog. A dog vest will help break the wind, allowing your dog’s body heat to warm your dog more efficiently. A dog vest will also offer your dog some protection from ice and other potential objects in the water.
2. Keep An Emergency Blanket & Towel In Case Your Dog Becomes Too Cold.
While you never want to let it get to this point, you still should be prepared for anything.
There is always a chance that your dog can become too cold in colder temperatures. If you start to notice your dog is lethargic or acting strange, you will want to make sure your dog is dry and wrap it up in a blanket. At this point, you will probably want to stop the hunt and take your dog to a vehicle so that you can let your dog warm-up and be entirely out of the cold.
I can’t stress enough that it’s best for your dog to never get to this point. Make sure to keep your dog dry and out of the wind so that your dog can stay safe on the hunt in colder weather!
3. Condition Your Dog To The Cold.
If the hunt is the first time your dog spends significant time in cold water and out in the elements, it will likely struggle to stay warm. It’s essential to make sure your dog is properly conditioned to handle the elements. This goes for exercise and cold weather conditioning.
If you train regularly, it shouldn’t be a problem because your dog will be used to swimming in cold water and be physically conditioned for the hunt. Another way to condition your dog to cold is by letting your dog ride in a kennel in the back of the truck. You can do this before and after a training session so that your dog can stay in the elements as long as possible and become comfortable with cold air.
Ensure your dog is dry before loading it up for the journey home. (If your dog has any signs of acting strange or sluggish at the end of a training session, then you may want to warm your dog up in the vehicle before letting it get back in the kennel.) Allowing your dog adjust to the elements is a great way for its body to adapt and become comfortable with cold weather.
Ultimately It Is Your Call
At the end of the day, it’s your job as a handler and owner to protect your dog. In cold weather hunting, the most important thing is your safety and your dog. If you feel uneasy about taking your dog out, you can’t go wrong with leaving it safe and sound at home. Trust your gut. Make sure to protect your dog, and you should be fine.
Instead of asking the question, “What temperature is too cold for dogs?” apply the advice mentioned above, and it will help you and your dog hunt safely in the cold weather this season!