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Warm the Water: Hunting Dog Training Tip G1

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By: Mark Staloch - Norse Retrievers
for UGUIDE South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

Important Things to Consider When Training your Water Dog

The calendar says that spring is here. Unfortunately in many of the northern states Global Warming Flakes (also known as snow flakes) are still hitting the ground. The rivers are already flowing and many of the small ponds are starting to open from the grip of over 4 months of ice. With a few more sunny days and some wind, the ice will come off the lakes. BUT, just because there is some open water, it does not mean that you should start water training with the dog. The water is still cold!!! Putting a dog in cold water can ruin their attitude in the water sometimes for life, especially if it is a young dog.

The first reason to wait is for safety. Rivers and creek currents are very strong right now because of melting snow and spring rains. The water could be too strong for your dog and dogs have been swept under snags and ice flows to their death. This could happen on the first throw of the dummy or the 15th after the dog has become weak from hypothermia. This is not something that is just a concern for the young or old, but dogs of all ages can be victims of such situations.

The second reason for waiting is that while the water may not be colder than the last time your dog was out hunting, the dog is now shedding its winter coat. Last fall that coat was new and strong. Now the dog has less protection from the cold water. The cold water soaks into the old dead coat instead of sliding off the new oily coat like it did last fall. Putting a dog in the water to train can create training issues that would not come up if the water was more comfortable. I don't let young dogs around water until it has warmed up to the point that I can walk in it without losing the feeling in my toes. With older experienced dogs, I may take them for a walk near water and if they want to go in for a drink or to splash around, that is fine. As long as it is their choice and are not being asked to go in. Real spring weather will be here soon and the water will get warmer. We all have cabin fever but the cure for the fever is not to ice your dog. Find some land work to do with your dog for the next couple of weeks, then you and the dog can go swimming together!!!

Mark Staloch
Norse Retrievers
Eau Claire WI
Cell 715 533-2339