One of the main benefits of training labrador retrievers was extending my seasonal waterfowl hobby to year-round. Sure, you cannot shoot ducks throughout the summer, but you can get out and work the dogs. I love getting up before the sun, loading up a few labs, and heading to the field for some drills. Summer weekends include a few guys driving over for late evening retriever setups with cold beverages and a hot grill.
To get the most from summer retriever training, it is important to take note of a few things…
• It is hot, so don’t waste time. You cannot run the same length of retrieves or training sessions in the warm months. Don’t waste time on retrieves that don’t “count.” Have a goal for each time you send your dog. Ask yourself, “What am I hoping to achieve with this one?” If the answer isn’t clear, don’t waste your dog’s remaining energy. It is better to run three intentional retrieves than countless reps of needless marks.
• Watch your dog’s weight. Warm temperatures mean your dog will burn less calories in the kennel. You may notice that your dog requires less food to maintain a healthy weight. Overweight dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke and injuries. Keep the summer weight off by monitoring food intake as well as maintaining exercise.
• Use water properly. Warm water will not cool off your dog. In fact, it will do the opposite. Dogs cool via evaporation, which cannot happen when they are submerged. It is far better to do shorter water retrieves, in lunge water if possible, than long swims in warm temperatures. Get your dog wet at the beginning of the session so that he is evaporating water throughout his training. Then, get your dog wet at the end if, and only if, he is going to be in the shade with airflow. Never stick a wet dog in a kennel without proper airflow!
• Read your dog. Some dogs have enough drive to work hard right into heat stroke. Notice their tongues length and width. If they have significant amounts of saliva drooling, slow down, try to keep the dummy or bird away from you even though they’ve been taught delivery to hand, or go and lay down after a retrieve, it is time to stop and begin cooling down your dog. When it comes to overheating, it is far better to prevent than treat.
Keep sessions short, and use the extra daylight to make the progress needed before this coming season!