The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Your Grouse Dog Combat the Cold
Although the 2017 ruffed grouse season is winding down, it’s important to stay vigilant about keeping your hunting dog safe in chilly conditions. Cold weather can be harmful for a dog. It can affect his or her immune system, making the dog prone to disease and injury. By following these tips, you can help reduce disease and the risks of hypothermia, a dangerous drop in body temperature, and frostbite, the freezing of tissues caused by exposure to very low temperatures.
DO Know Your Dog’s Limit
Pay attention to your dog’s tolerance of cold weather. Keep a close eye on puppies and senior dogs, as they cannot withstand wintry weather as well as a dog in his or her prime. A good rule of thumb for limiting outdoor exercise during winter is that if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.
However, just because the weather outside is frightful doesn’t mean your sporting dog should become a couch potato until spring. A dog that is bored becomes anxious and stressed. Regular conditioning and training, whether indoors or outdoors, will help to relieve stress and keep him or her healthy and fit.
DON’T Ignore the Telling Signs
Do not overlook common signs indicating hypothermia, such as shivering, paleness, listlessness and frostbite. A dog suffering from hypothermia should be brought inside and stabilized before being transported to the veterinarian. Hypothermia can be managed by drying off your dog if he or she is wet, then wrapping the dog in a warm blanket or towel.
DO Wear Weather-Appropriate Gear
When subzero temperatures prevail, you should also consider wind chill and precipitation. Getting wet in frigid weather can be particularly dangerous for a dog, as a damp coat drains body heat. When it comes to keeping a dog warmer and drier, any added protection is better than none. Dog vests and boots can help shield a dog from the elements during a hunt or training session.
DON’T Skate on Thin Ice
Avoid putting your dog’s life in jeopardy by steering clear of frozen ponds, lakes or other bodies of water. You can’t be certain whether the ice will support your dog’s weight. If it doesn’t, the situation could be tragic.
DO Check Your Dog From Head to Tail
Check your dog’s footpads regularly after outdoor exercise. Constant exposure to moisture caused by rain, snow, ice, or mud can irritate a dog’s footpads, causing skin damage, cuts and infection from bacteria or fungi. If a dog has cracked or bleeding paws, consult your veterinarian.
DO Winterize Your Dog’s Kennel
After a chilly day afield, like you, your dog is ready to return to a warm home. If your dog sleeps in an outdoor doghouse or kennel, preferably one that is insulated and heated, it should be off the ground with the door positioned away from direct wind and have thick, dry bedding. Inside shelter, however, is vital when the temperature plummets.
The bottom line is to use common sense in caring for your dog in winter. Although you can’t change the weather, you can be sure your dog is healthy and comfortable.