How to Protect Your Bird Dog From the Cold

Dog Days

Canines with short hair get cold fast. Watch them for hypothermia. Photo by Lee Kjos

Upland hunting in winter weather can be tough on your bird dog. Here’s how to keep your hunting partner running strong this winter.

Feed More. Dogs burn extra calories to stay warm. Increase the amount of food you give your dog by 7.5 percent for each 10-degree drop in temperature. Phase in the larger portions over the course of a week to help him adapt to the change.

Trim the Feet. Ice balls in the pads can slow a dog in the field and cut his feet. Before cold-weather hunts, trim away as much hair as you can from between the pads and the toes. The shorter the hair, the less likely ice is to accumulate. Keep your dog's nails short as well. Surprisingly, long nails provide poor traction.

Carry Water. Hydration is very important in cold, dry conditions—yet creeks and puddles are often frozen solid. Drinking very cold water may cause your dog to throw up. Carry a bottle of water in your gamebag and give your dog frequent drinks.

Watch for Signs of Hypothermia. Shivering is a normal defense against the cold for both humans and dogs, but when your partner's shivering becomes violent and he seems sluggish, it's time to end the hunt. If he stops shivering and becomes stiff and uncoordinated, act quickly. Get him back to the heated cab of your truck and use a towel, blanket, or coat to warm and dry him.

Look the Dog Over. After each hunt, check out your pooch, paying special attention to his feet. Sore feet or cut pads may need a few days to heal. If it's bitterly cold, let an outdoor dog sleep inside tonight. He's earned it.