Phoebe, my hunting partner, usually stays in the backyard during the day, even in winter.
This week she started wearing her neoprene vest outside.
It gives her that added insulation when it’s around 20 degrees. It also blocks the wind.
Here are some other tips for caring for hunting dogs in cold weather:
- Prepare them for the hunting trip with a quality dog food. Some hunters increase the fat content of the dog’s diet this time of year.
- Take high-energy dog snacks on the hunt.
- When setting up your duck blind, make sure there is a dry place for the dog. Your pooch shouldn’t be made to stand in cold water this time of year. You could build up a nest of dried reeds.
- Let your dog shake off thoroughly after each retrieve. Take them for a walk around the island or up the river bank every so often to get their blood flowing.
- Be aware of the distance of retrieves. Long-distance retrieves in a swift, icy river could be tiresome, especially for older dogs.
- Watch your dog constantly in cold weather. A dog can get hypothermic being wet in cold and wind. Shivering is OK, but if your dog shivers incessantly and starts acting unresponsive, hypothermia could be setting in.
- If your dog cuts its pads on snow and ice, don’t hunt with it until the wound heals.
- Before the trip home, towel your dog off prior to putting it in the kennel.
- Kennel covers offer good protection for the dog in its kennel in the camper shell of the pickup truck. If conditions are extreme, keep the dog inside the cab.
- Never turn a wet dog outside after a hunt. Even if your dog is used to sleeping outside at night in freezing weather, give it a chance to dry off and warm up inside.
- A hunter has to decide when it’s too cold for a dog to be outside overnight in freezing weather. A lot depends on the breed.
- Some dog owners have heated outside kennels but bring their dog in when temperatures are in the single digits.
- If your dogs are outside during the day, make sure they have a constant supply of water. A heated dog bowl is a must this time of the year.
- Use plastic food and water bowls outside rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet’s tongue can stick to metal.
- Make sure your dog’s house is protected from the wind and is dry and draft-free. It should be large enough so the dog can sit or lie down but small enough to hold the dog’s body heat.
- Straw is an excellent insulating material for a dog house, but you can also can use insulated pads.
- Sometimes dogs get wet outside in the yard and track the moisture onto the pad in their house. Check the insulated pads every once in a while in case they become wet and frozen. I rotate pads with one constantly drying out and defrosting in the garage.
- The floor of the dog house should never be directly on concrete. There should be some insulation between it and the concrete. Some dog owners have dog houses that are raised a few inches off the ground.
- The doorway of the house should be covered with a waterproof flap.
- If your dog is staying in the garage at night, make sure it has enough insulation from the concrete floor.
- It’s a good idea to hang a thermometer in the garage to make sure it’s not getting too cold.
Hunting dogs can usually take anything Idaho’s winters dish out, but they still need TLC.
Photo by Pete Zimowsky/Idaho Statesman