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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tracking Dogs and the Heat Wave

by John Jeanneney

A passionate tracker is a man who does not quit. Even through this scorching summer he wants to go on training his dog no matter what. Whoa! Whoa! Let’s bring some thought, as well as passion, to this situation.

Let’s not assume that dogs are just like humans, and that they can take the heat like a tough Midwesterner. A dog does not sweat like we do. The dog sweats through his paws whereas we sweat all over and are cooled by evaporation. Also a dog pants, but this can’t compare with the human cooling system. Then there is the matter of insulation: T-shirts vs. fur coats.

When we ask our dogs to work training lines in very hot weather, as one southern Ohio friend has been doing, the dog may survive with his life, but it will be a very unpleasant canine experience. The memories of this are not going to promote enthusiasm about tracking in the future. Any value of the training experience is going to be vastly outweighed by the negative feelings associated.

 It is not a disaster if our dogs take a summer vacation like our kids. They are not going to forget their skills. On the contrary, they are going to be fresher and sharper when cool weather comes back. We ask our dogs to track the real thing in hunting season when the temperatures are more suited to their physical construction. Agricultural damage shooting is an exception.

For puppies in their first six months a short, 50-100 yard track once a week is adequate in summer. Put the blood down in the evening and run it at dawn. The same thing can be done with tracking shoes.

For a dog over a year old, who has tracked a few natural lines, there is really no good reason for running training lines at all if the temperature is over 75 degrees.

Over the summer they won’t forget what they have already learned.  When cooler weather comes they will have the drive and enthusiasm to try hard and learn more about the finer points of tracking.

 Some of the background for these opinions comes my experience running small training workshops one summer. Usually there were five or six dogs at each session. When the temperature rose above 80 degrees there was a dramatic fall-off in enthusiasm and performance in most dogs. The Labs and the wirehaired dachshunds had to be urged to track. There was only one dog that didn’t care about the heat. That was Cleo, my southern black mouth cur,. Cleo’s tough ancestors were developed in East Texas and Louisiana, where they had lived on corn meal and road-killed armadillos. They were expected to work cattle and hawgs no matter how hot the weather.

If you want to train your tracking dog in the heat of global warming, get a southern black mouth cur!

A walk with Mielikki at sunrise resulted in one "hot dog"!


Stan said...

Thank you for the insight! I tried one track last weekend, even though it was hot, because we had missed a couple weeks. Ran it early in the day, but the heat/humidity was still oppressive. She didn't quit, but she wasn't sharp, either. Now that I've read this, I'll not worry so much--when cool weather hits, she'll be ready!

Brady said...

We could certainly have a divergent conversation about the truths and myths relating to "global warming," but by all accounts we are experiencing one of the largest reaching droughts of the past 50 years. Here in Missouri it has been hovering in the 100+ degree range for a few weeks, so all training has ceased. It is really hard to not lay training lines, but even mornings are in the 80's, so I resist, and instead watch all my food plots and fruit orchards wither....yuck. Fall can't arrive soon enough!

Brady said...

Forgot to add.....
On a brighter note, I am anxiously awaiting the addition of a Bavarian mountain hound puppy to my tracking mix. Should be born in a couple of weeks, and to the house by October!
I can hardly wait to start puppy training again!

Lindsjö taxar said...

We can train them better because we dont have that warm in the summer time. Only maybe for a few days.
I have a friend who I did a training track in warm wheather and the dog was exhausted half the track so it laid down and didnt mangage to track at least 15 min.

Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Good luck with your new pup! Where is it coming from?

Brady said...

Northern Wisconsin. It is from the kennel who posted on the UBT forum. I spoke with Ken Parker and he said that the Dam came from very good working lines in Poland. The Sire is German, but not a lot of info. It's a bit of a gamble I suppose, but for a reasonable price, I am willing to take a little gamble.

Jolanta Jeanneney said...

Brady, it sounds good! How exciting!

Texas hunting said...

Every living being cares about his life. Even dogs.

MTWaggin said...

YES YES YES and it doesn't just apply to tracking! I have virtually stopped all training outdoors with the poodle right now as it is just too hot. That said as you pointed out, they don't forget their skills over a few weeks either and I've found with every dog I've trained in many venues that if it is fun and they enjoy doing the work, they will retain it all and sometimes figure much out over the breaks!

Brian said...

I agree with you John. I admire the enthusiasm of some handlers, but there will be cooler days ahead. I always get a kick out of seeing a dogs energy kick in when the heat goes away. I have no worries my dogs are going to forget to track over the hot days.

Brian said...

I agree with you John. I admire the enthusiasm of some handlers wanting to never miss a training session but there will be cooler days ahead. I always get a kick out of watching a dogs energy kick in when the weather cools. I have no worries that my dogs are going to forget to track over the hot days. These are good days for the dogs to soak in the pond.