Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Hydration For Your Dog            

As summer heat arrives, with it brings danger of overheating our sporting dogs. Our dogs don’t want to quit. They simply want to keep running and keep hunting without regard to their wellbeing. It’s up to the dog’s owner to watch diligently and understand when a dog needs hydration and cooling off.

Perhaps ten years ago, the pheasant opener in South Dakota was very hot. Dozens of dogs were rushed to vet hospitals due to heat exhaustion. Many didn’t survive. I don’t blame Mother Nature, I blame the dog owners for not paying attention to the heat and their dog’s needs.

As humans, we know when we need water for cooling off. Our natural cooling process is to sweat. And, sweating is a signal to drink water to replace what we lose during sweating. However, dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin so they must cool differently. Our canine best friends cooling ability comes through their respiratory system. As they become hot, they begin to pant and salivate. The evaporation of saliva from the throat and mouth begins the cooling process.

Recognizing that canine heat exhaustion can be very serious, and deadly, what can we do to help our canine athlete? Let’s look at the coat first. And, let’s keep in mind that dogs use their skin for heat exchange. A dog’s coat traps air which means the coat is really an insulator. The coat insulates against cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer. A dog’s ability to trap air depends upon the density of the coat. Therefore, a short-haired dog would have more difficulty trapping the cooler air and be more susceptible to heat exhaustion than a longer haired or double coated dog such as retrievers. Experts suggest that keeping a shorthaired dog wet is an excellent way of keeping them cool. Heat is removed as the water evaporates.

For the double coated dog, experts suggest keeping the groin and stomach areas, where hair is thin, wet as much as possible. Pouring water on the backs of these dogs is not recommended…the water gets trapped in the coat. This trapped water will increase the heat around the skin and make the dog even warmer.

Susan, my wife, and I have developed a formula for giving dogs drinking water during hunting in dry, warm conditions. In the field, we give our dogs a bottle of water every 15 minutes. Actually, they come looking for it after about 15 minutes. The combination of dry air and warm temperatures happens mostly in the prairies in September. Here’s an additional tip. Ground temperature is usually much warmer than air temperature. It may be 80 degrees at hunter head level but the ground temperature could be 90 degrees or warmer.

Another preventive step is keeping your dog well-conditioned. This doesn’t mean taking the dog out for a run a couple of times just before hunting season. It means a 12-month program of exercise at least three or four times per week. Daily is preferable. An added benefit is that a canine exercise program keeps the hunter in shape also.

Be sure to keep both you and your dog in good physical condition and well hydrated in the field and you and your dog will enjoy the hunt much more.

Copyright 2020 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at