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Preventing hypothermia: properly prepare your dog for inclement weather.

HYPOTHERMIA IS A real problem for any retriever facing cold water, ice, snow and the brutal conditions that come with late-season hunts. It's amazing how much discomfort a retriever will endure in the name of hunting. Some of this discomfort is unavoidable, and some can be tempered by making sure the dog has certain protections from the elements.

Conditions don't have to be below zero for a dog to suffer from hypothermia. One of the most common hypothermia threats comes during the regular hunting season when the weather isn't even cold.


A dog that's forced to stand for hours in water can quickly fall victim to hypothermia, even in mild weather. It's important to take every precaution to avoid a dog's being forced to stand in water deep enough to cover all or part of the dog's chest.

Commercially produced dog platforms help by providing the retriever a dry place to stand between retrieves. Another option is to use a small boat or kayak for this purpose. 1 use a low-sided punt that is handy for providing the dog a dry place to sit during water hunts. This little skiff is also a convenient way to haul gear.

Not only does keeping the dog in the punt help make the dog more comfortable, but the higher profile also enables the dog to do a better job of marking down birds.


Every dog subject to hunting in water should be fitted with a neoprene hunting vest. These inexpensive hunting aids not only help regulate the dog's body temperature, but the added buoyancy allows the dog to swim a little higher in the water and aids in chasing crippled birds.


Neoprene vests come in different thicknesses. The 1.5mm vests are good for mild conditions, the 3mm vests are good all-around choices and vests made from 5mm neoprene provide the most protection in excessively cold hunting conditions.

It's important to let your dog get used to a hunting vest before heading afield. Lots of dogs dislike wearing a vest, and if the vest doesn't fit properly, it will quickly cause the dog chafing and discomfort. For my male dogs, I use a sharp pair of scissors and cut a little strip of neoprene away on the bottom of the vest so the dog can urinate without doing so inside the vest. This helps keep the vest from smelling like a fire hydrant!

Even if your dog is fitted with a neoprene vest, it helps to towel dry the dog after every retrieve. The more moisture that's removed from the dog's coat, the less impact evaporation plays in cooling the dog's body temperature.

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Author:Romanack, Mark
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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