I recently loaded up the dog and headed to one of my semi-regular training spots at a nearby local public hunting area. It’s a good-sized pond where, in a normal year, I can set up the bumper launchers to give Tess some good water work. I say semi-regular because I hadn’t been to this particular spot in a couple months. Big mistake. What greeted me wasn’t a pond, but a dusty bowl of weeds. Scratch one training pond and hunting-season mallard hole.
So we loaded back up and headed to our local reservoir. I don’t generally like training on recreational lakes because you’re usually limited in how you can set up your training scenarios, but we were already out there and I wanted Tess to at least get wet. But what greeted me when we pulled up to the lake was a notice tacked to the boat ramp warning me about the dangers and possibility of algae blooms. The only way Tess was getting wet that day was at the end of a garden hose…
My experience is becoming commonplace. Retriever owners in some parts of the country (me included) are finding it increasingly difficult to get much training done this summer. Whether it’s intense heat (even in the early morning/late evening hours), dried-up training ponds or widespread toxic algae blooms in what water remains, it’s been a frustrating summer for me, training-wise. Sitting smack underneath the much-talked-about “heat dome,” I’ve all but given up doing long pattern drills or long land marks and blinds. Since I live in a semi-arid area without much surface water to begin with, this epic, never-ending drought and heat wave means I’m losing my training (and duck hunting) water one boiled pond at a time.
I’ve had to change my tactics and my training goals. With overnight lows staying well into the eighties, I’ve got a short window of time in which to train, usually between when it gets light enough to see and sunrise. Instead of multiple long marks, I’ll do one, or maybe a double, and shorten it up. I always have water, a cooler of ice and a 12-volt fan in the truck. I keep the sessions quick and I give the dog plenty of rest between even short runs. And I don’t ever, ever, swim my dog in a body of water under an algae bloom warning. Instead, I’ve taken to sneaking into my local city park pond (which has several fountains and aerators that help prevent algae blooms) early in the morning before anyone’s around for water work. It’s not an ideal situation, but until we get significant rain, it’s what I’m forced to work with.
Is anyone else in the same boat, metaphorically speaking? Has it affected your training and how are you coping with or adjusting to it?