No wintertime blues for your dog

I know how you feel. You’re sitting there, watching the weather forecast, which is calling for yet another snowstorm. The snow is already piled high outside. It gets downright depressing at times, doesn’t it? If you think you’ve got it bad, what about your dog? My dogs love the snow. They run and play and frolic in it like a little kid on recess at school. My dogs also keep an ever vigilant watch on the back yard. The snow and bare trees make for excellent squirrel watching. Of course, that is followed by a whimpering, barking mess when one of the bushy tailed varmints dares to come down on the back deck for a kernel of corn that someone put out there. IMG_2622-300x200 Your dog loves to retrieve. Help keep him in hunting shape by careful truing during the cold months. Picture by Eric Mathes But what about those training routines you worked so hard on? How do you keep your dog sharp and on task when it’s just not nice outside? It’s time to get a little creative. Now I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert dog trainer. What I’m talking about are some things passed on to me from guys I consider to be expert trainers as well as my dog’s vet. Short and sweet Trips and training sessions outside should be short and sweet when it gets cold out. Sounds logical doesn’t it? I always think of that commercial meant to tug at our heartstrings with the dog sitting in the backyard and we hear the owners telling their guests to hurry inside due to the cold. “Where’s that cute little puppy? That cute puppy is a big dog now. He stays in the backyard.” Like any respectable hunter is going to leave his trusted hunting buddy chained in the backyard with no protection from the cold during winter months. We’re now in the home stretch as we close in on the end of February, but winter has a way of holding on. And as things thaw and refreeze, like so often is the case this time of year, keeping your dog’s trips outside shorter is still a recommendation. Ice can build up in the webbing of their feet very easily. That dry fluffy snow of January is now wet, sloppy and nasty. 1507558_10100554876061413_1312223399_n-300x199 Puppies love to train, but make sure they have a path through the deep snow. Picture by Eric Mathes. In addition to keeping time outside shorter and more frequent, a good thing to do for your pooch is invest in a vest, like Hard Core’s dog vests. Just like those late season retrieves in cold water, early spring romps through the snow after a bumper can cause issues. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recommends blow drying or at the very minimum, toweling off your dog after trip outside. Even coming back in the warmth of your house, a wet dog is still losing heat. Remember what your mom said about getting wet and cold. Same goes for your dog. AKC also says to watch for areas where you, or others have used salt to melt the ice. The salt can damage the pads of your dog’s feet. Just like you, your dog can slip on icy spots and get hurt pretty bad too. Another thing, make sure you’re giving a little extra food and water to your dog this time of year. Dehydration is a major issue during winter months, according to AKC, because dogs need more fluids to keep warm and they burn more calories, even when not as active. And speaking of dehydration, be very carful about letting your dog drink from puddles. I know I don’t need to tell any of you this, but a reminder never hurts. Along with salt, antifreeze leaked from car radiators is very common in winter, much more than you’d think. Small doses are very lethal to your dog, even the supposedly pet friendly varieties, according to AKC. Puddles can hold a lot of things that are bad for your dog. It’s not worth it. 1625620_10201387247626697_1210866207_n-225x300 Shed hunting is a great thing to get your dog into, especially in the winter and spring months. Picture by Randy Hill Working on retrieves doesn’t have to stop just because of the white stuff. In fact, a little extra work to find the bumper on a short retrieve is quite helpful when hunting season rolls around. When working a puppy, during those all too important puppy months, get the snow blower or the shovel out and clear a run for them. As the snow melts, many of us have found the newest pastime for our dogs – shed hunting. If you haven’t started yet, training your dog to look for sheds is great fun and easier than you’d think. I picked up some great stuff from our friends at Dog Bone and have my dogs on their way to looking for sheds. The important thing to take from this is, take special care of your dog during the cold months so he’s ready to go for hunting season after hunting season. What other tips do you have for winter training and care? Drop us a line on our Facebook page and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. By Derrek Sigler