By Jill Swan
Now that summer is upon us, things are heating up, which can cause our sporting dogs to overheat during training if precautions are not taken. Keeping your dog cool and watching for signs of heat exhaustion -- after all, they have a difficult time holding back and saying no -- are just as important as the lessons you’re teaching during your outdoor sessions. Heat exhaustion, simply put, is when the body gets overheated from working (exercising) in hot, humid temperatures. To gain better insight, we’ll rely on the expertise of veterinary associates Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink of Veterinary Orthoperdic & Sports Medicine Group in Annapolis Junction, Maryland.
What are some of the signs?
Humans regulate their body temperature primarily through the skin, such as sweating. But "dogs do not sweat like humans, and the majority of their cooling ability comes from the respiratory system," says Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. "Dogs will initially start to pant and salivate when they become hot. The evaporation of the saliva from their tongue, mouth, and throat removes heat from the body."
What can I do to help prevent heat exhaustion?
Coat and coat care -- The thickness of your dog’s coat is also something to consider as dogs do use their skin for heat exchange. According to our docs, "A dog's fur traps air, just like birds, which acts as an insulator when it is cold as well as when it is hot outside. This allows dilated blood vessels to exchange heat with the 'trapped' cooler air in the fur. A dog’s ability to trap insulating air will differ based on breed type and coat characteristics. Short haired breeds do not have the ability to trap air within their coat, thus these breeds are more susceptible to overheating than are double coated breeds like retrievers. Keeping short haired dogs wet during training and heavy exercise is an effective way to keep them cool. As the water evaporates, heat is removed with it.
"For a double coated or long single coated breed, you are better off only wetting the groin and abdominal areas, where the skin is thin and poorly haired, to allow for heat excha nge. Wetting the back of these dogs actually traps water in the coat, and as this trapped water begins to vaporize it will increase the humidity around the skin, actually making the dog hotter." To better help the trapping of air, keep your dog’s coat well-groomed and clean.
Physical shape -- And of course, make certain that your dog is in good training condition. Dogs not used to heavy training or working on a regular basis outside will be effected more quickly. "A conditioned dog's temperature should regulate to normal (99.5-102.5) within twenty minutes of cooling. Any temperature of above 105 persisting longer than thirty minutes following appropriate cooling requires the attention of a veterinary professional."
Water -- Make sure to offer your dog plenty of cool water intermittently during your training sessions, and make sure he drinks some. "Remember that dogs do not need to drink large amounts of water in hot weather as we do, because they do not become dehydrated from sweating. Many dogs do not drink substantial amounts on performance days and it is not a problem," says Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. The important thing is that the coolness of the liquid will cool down the core body temperature of the dog.
What can I do if my dog becomes overheated?
Hopefully the situation never escalates to that level, but if you are seeing signs that your dog is overheated, then you need to immerse the dog in cool water. Don't use ice water because it constricts the blood vessels and can actually increase the dog's core body temperature. "If water is limited, then you are best to apply the water directly to the belly, armpits, and groin," advises Drs. Peter Lotsikas and Chris Zink. They also recommend rubbing alcohol: "It can be applied to their paw pads, external ear flaps, and abdomen, as it evaporates quickly and is an effective method of exchanging heat." Ender
Dr. Peter Lotsikas, DVM is an ACVS board-certified surgeon with the Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group (VOSM) in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Dr. Lotsikas specializes in orthopedic injuries of the performance dog. His clinical focus is on minimally invasive surgery (arthroscopy) and joint preservation.
Dr. M. Christine Zink DVM, Ph.D, DACVP is a canine sports medicine trainer affiliated with VOSM. Her expertise is in evaluating canine locomotion and designing individualized retraining and conditioning programs for the canine athlete.
“It looks like 2009 was probably the peak in the 10-year population cycle,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drumming counts this spring, however, were still closer to those at the high rather than low end of the cycle.”
Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. This year observers recorded 1.5 drums per stop statewide. Last year’s average was 2.0 drums per stop. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.
Drumming counts decreased 31 percent compared to those during 2009 in the northeast survey region, the core and bulk of grouse range in Minnesota, to 1.6 drums per stop. Grouse counts decreased 29 percent in the southeast region, from 0.5 to 0.3 drums per stop, but the difference was not statistically significant. Counts of 1.8 drums per stop in the northwest and 1.0 drums per stop in the central hardwoods were similar to last year’s counts.
Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, also making it the state’s most popular game bird. During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.
One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state’s 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.
For the past 60 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,
DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 125 routes across the state.
Sharp-tailed counts dOWN slightly
Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest survey region decreased approximately 5 percent between 2009 and 2010, Larson said. Counts in the east-central region declined approximately 1 percent. Observers look for male sharptails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds. This year’s statewide average of 10.7 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to counts during 2003 to 2007 and the long-term average since 1980. Last year’s average of 13.6 was as high as during any year since 1980. During the past 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.
Overall, sharptail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.
The DNR’s 2010 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, will be available soon online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse.
Steadying to Wing and Shot
Instilling the whoa command.
teadying your dog to wing and shot is truly an art in bird dog training. It takes a lot of time and patience, even though the training methods used today are generally much better and kinder than some of the techniques used in the past. There are many ways to steady your dog to wing and shot – some better than others. This column describes one method that we often use – it’s easy for an amateur trainer to follow and has few training pitfalls. You can follow it exactly or vary it as you like, but the key element to remember is this: Always read your dog’s reactions and adjust your training accordingly as you go along.
First off, make sure that your dog has a good understanding of the whoa exercise before beginning this training. He should respond well to your command to “Whoa.” He should be pointing staunchly in the field and have at least one season of hunting in, with lots of bird work. He should also be enthusiastic, have plenty of drive, and be developed to the gun.
Begin by reviewing your previous whoa work in the yard or driveway. Using a long checkcord, heel your dog along, then stop and give the whoa command with the hand signal as you turn and face him. Gradually back away to about 20 feet in front of the dog, facing him. Return back to him and quietly praise him. Repeat this process and as you face your dog the second time, kick the ground around your feet, as though you are trying to flush a bird, or drop a handkerchief, etc. from your pocket to the ground. Don’t take your eyes off the dog. If he moves at all, return to him immediately and put him back in the whoa position as you repeat the command “Whoa” with quiet authority and give the hand signal simultaneously.
Watch dog, give hand signal, and release bird.
For the next session, put a couple of pigeons in your vest and first repeat the heel and whoa exercise. This time, as you face your dog, reach slowly behind you, grab a pigeon from your vest and release it quietly, letting it go as your arm is hanging by your side. Don’t make a big show of throwing the bird skyward – do this as unobtrusively as possible, and don’t take your eyes off your dog as you watch him for any sign of movement. As the bird flies off, you will caution your dog with the hand signal, using the verbal whoacommand only as a backup if needed. Be quiet and firm at all times. If your dog moves at all, quickly return to him and put him back in position, repeating your command and hand signal. Heel him along, whoa him and step out in front of him again. Then quietly release the second bird, repeating the process. Two birds are enough for one exercise. If he’s done well on the first bird and did not move, don’t even release the second bird in this session. It’s more important to have the lesson end positively. Too many unsuccessful attempts can frustrate both the dog and the trainer.
Having a helper for these yard sessions will make the training much easier. Your helper should take the checkcord from you after you’ve heeled the dog along and put him on a whoa. As you release the bird, give the hand signal and your helper should gently and silently snub the dog with the checkcord if necessary. The checkcord can also be fashioned into a half-hitch for added emphasis when restraining the dog. The half-hitch keeps the dog standing and gives him mild discomfort that can be more effective than just the checkcord around his neck. Familiarize your dog with the half-hitch first, though, in your whoa training. Otherwise he may become distracted and fight it and you won’t accomplish your goals with the gentle finesse that you want. As your dog consistently gets more reliable, you can use a six-foot training lead, testing him. If he does well with this, you can try the exercise with no lead.
Helper restrains dog as bird is flushed and gun is shot.
Though all this may sound simple and easy, it’s not! These short sessions will need to be repeated over the course of many days, usually weeks – before the dog will stand the bird (stay steady to its flight). Once your dog is doing this, you’re well on your way!
Now it’s time to take the lessons to the field. Here again, a helper will simplify things. Plant a bird in the field and take your dog into it on a checkcord. When he points, hand the checkcord to your helper, who will keep gentle pressure on the dog as you circle around and face him. Use the whoa hand signal and watch your dog as you flush the bird, using the verbal “Whoa” only if necessary. If you’ve done your homework well back in the yard, the pup should stand the bird. Keep him steady on the checkcord as the bird flies and then return to him. Heel him away and out of the field. This gives him a chance to think about this whole new business. The next time out, you can try planting two birds and repeat the lesson with your helper. Always return to your dog and heel him away from that area after the flush. Then go on to the second bird and repeat the entire process. Make sure that you use good-flying birds – birds that fly a short distance and go down will prove too much of a temptation for a young dog.
Now that you’ve started this training, you’re not going to let your dog chase birds in the field anymore. You’ve begun a process of teaching gentle but firm control. He needs to be trained with consistency and not allowed to break and chase. This is why it’s so important that your pup has had plenty of time to enjoy, hunt and chase birds before you begin this training. If not, this type of training can take the sparkle out of some young dogs, inhibiting their drive and enthusiasm before it ever fully develops.
Once your dog is reliably steady to the flight of the bird in the field, you can start to add the gun. The scenario remains the same: Plant your birds, enlist your helper and bring your dog in to point. As your helper takes the checkcord and you circle around to flush, this time you will also shoot your starter pistol while simultaneously giving your hand signal to whoa– just after you release the bird and it flies up and away. Again, watch your dog intently as you flush and shoot. Make sure your helper is ready to restrain your dog if necessary. Only use your voice command if needed. Once you’ve shot, return to the dog and heel him away as before. You’ll sometimes find that the gunshot will provoke your (now) well-mannered dog into action. Don’t get discouraged – this entire process of steadying your dog to wing and shot generally takes several months of patient repetition.
You might wonder why we heel a dog away after each exercise, instead of finally letting him retrieve or just run around as a “reward” for his hard work. If you allow your dog to do this while steadying him to wing and shot, he will find it too difficult to restrain himself and will soon begin to break. Once he has truly learned to be steady to wing and shot, he must always be kept this way. He must be hunted with other dogs of this same caliber and training level in order to keep his manners and not regress. We’ve seen field champions break on crippled birds, unable to withstand the temptation. As we’ve said, this is “college-level” work and not meant for young dogs. It puts a lot of pressure on them, and they need to be mentally ready for this sort of training. So do you!
A “well-broke” dog that is steady to wing and shot is a joy to compete and hunt with, but never at the expense of damaging his spirit or drive in the field. That’s why this training takes so much time and patience, but the rewards are worth it. Feel free to check with us if you have any questions. We’ll see you next month when we begin the trained retrieve!
Pointing Dog Pointers features monthly training tips by Bob and Jody Iler, who own Green Valley Kennels in Dubuque, Iowa. Bob and Jody have trained pointing dogs for over 35 years and have written many articles for Pointing Dog Journal. You can look up their website at www.greenvalleykennels.com.