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Scott Rall: Dog issues are human responsibilities

BY SCOTT RALL The Globe outdoors columnist With pheasant hunting season just about one month away, there is no outdoor-related writing this time of year that shouldn't include some ideas and refreshers about hunting dog condition. It is so sad th...

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BY SCOTT RALL

The Globe outdoors columnist

With pheasant hunting season just about one month away, there is no outdoor-related writing this time of year that shouldn’t include some ideas and refreshers about hunting dog condition.  It is so sad that the average hunting dog sits on the couch or in the kennel for most of the year and then is expected to go out and hunt like a stallion on opening day with temperatures routinely in the high 70s to low 80s.

Most dogs cannot hunt for more than 30 minutes in these conditions without a serious danger to the dog’s temperature regulating systems.

Almost everybody had forgotten but I have not, the 250 dogs that died on the opening weekend of pheasant season in South Dakota a few years back. There really is no reason that carries any water with me that could be considered a rational reason for losing a dog due to overheating. A dog owner needs to be responsible for the condition of their dog and be on the lookout for the first signs of heat exhaustion.

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Some of those dogs that died in South Dakota a few years back, I'm sure, were in good shape.  A stallion dog in the peak of physical condition can still suffer an overheating event. But I would say that the greatest majority of those dogs that did die were compromised in some form that could have been avoided by their human owners.

The first one of those is weight issues.  I have said many times an overweight dog is not a dog problem, it is a dog owner problem.

I hear it all the time how the dog seems to be starving to death every time they feed it.  It just gobbles up its food as if it has not eaten in days. Case and point: I can feed my dogs at 5 p.m. and if I fed them again at 5:30 p.m. on the same day they would act as if they had not eaten in days. This stems from the wolf pack mentality.

When a wolf pack makes a kill, the senior member of the pack eats first until full.  The lower ranking members of the pack then get their turn, and it turns into a free-for-all.  These junior members eat as much as they can as fast as they can because they truly might not get to eat again for a week or more.

 A dog’s temperature will go up when it is digesting food. You should always remember your mom’s rule when it comes to swimming.  You can’t go in the pool within 30 minutes of eating or after eating.

A dog can have very serious digestion issues and can die if exerted right before or after eating.   This is why you should feed one time per day in the evening after any and all exerting activity.

The same can be said for water.  When a dog is all heated up you should not let it drink at will.  A small amount and then a rest and then an additional small amount until the dog cools down. Only when the dog is cooled down can they have as much water as they want.

A dog is much better off 10 pounds too thin then it is 10 pounds too heavy. Keeping your dog’s weight right is a lot easier than keep the hunters weight right. The former takes far less discipline than the later.

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With the weight and feeding schedule done correctly, then you need to move to the chapter on conditioning. Swimming your dog in the hotter days of late summer is safer than running land drills or retrieving inland.

Remember that a wet dog in a confined area like a dog crate or travel kennel cannot cool itself. You can actually kill a dog under these circumstances.  Let the dog dry off before returning it to an enclosed area. Swimming is great exercise and has little to no stress on the joints.

I also recommend taking the dog for its exercise run in a gravel road with little to no traffic. Let them run with a 30-foot long check cord or rope attached. This run will toughen up the pads of the feet, and pulling the rope around adds an additional level of resistance.  

It also allows you to get quick control over the dog if a car happens to drive near you. Sore feet is a leading case of lameness in the early weeks of the season and there is nothing worse than sitting out the second week because the dog can hardly walk.

Make sure the shots are up to date.  There are several dog illnesses that have become more common in the past several years that I had not seen nor heard of in our area as recently as three years ago.  One of those is leptospyrosis and lymes disease.

Check with your vet to see if they recommend your dog be vaccinated for this new issue. Lymes used to be an up north deer tick issue but there are more and more cases in the southwest over the past few years, and now my dogs get this protection every year.

Remember, too, that if you plan to travel out of state hunting this fall you are required to have the vaccinations up to date and carry proof with you along with a health certification if you get checked. This is another way to ruin a trip if you and your dog are not prepared.

Be the guy who talks the talk and also walks the walk when it comes to your pheasant hunting companion. Dog ownership comes with responsibilities and I take mine seriously.  I hope you will too.

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