Boise, Idaho Hunting dogs live for busting through snow and ice to retrieve, point or flush the birds.
They don't give a darn about arctic air masses, bitter temperatures, icy water or bone-chilling winds.
But hunters should.
This is the time of year when hunting dogs need a little extra tender loving care. It could save their lives.
When daytime temperatures stay in the teens, my retriever Katie ends up in the house during the day.
Although she sleeps outside at night during late spring, summer and early fall, during the colder months she gets to sleep on several deep-foam pads in the garage.
Even though it was 6 degrees one night recently at our place, it was still about 41 degrees in the garage. That's comfortable for a thick-coated retriever.
This is the time of year hunters have to keep an eye on their dogs when hunting, even in the blind, according to Dan Papp, a conservation educator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Papp takes some extra care when he's hunting with his dog in cold weather. He makes sure his retriever shakes off thoroughly after making a retrieve.
Although you may think its macho to see a hunting dog covered in a layer of ice after a retrieve, it doesn't do the dog any good. Hypothermia (lowering of the body core temperature) can set in.
When it's bitterly cold, Papp will have a towel in the duck blind to dry off the dog after a retrieve.
Jim Martin at Zamzow's says he firmly believes in neoprene vests for hunting dogs. The extra layer keeps dogs warm in cold weather and protects them from stickers, barbed wire and sharp branches.
He also recommends dog booties, especially for upland dogs, to prevent a dog's pads from getting chewed up by ice and snow.
Here are some other tips for hunting in cold weather with your dogs from area hunters and the Humane Society:
¢ Prepare them for the hunting trip with a quality dog food. Some hunters increase the fat content of the dog's diet this time of the year.
¢ Take high-energy snacks on the hunt for your dog. Veterinarians and pet stores have them.
¢ When setting up your duck blind, make sure there is a dry place for the dog. Your pooch shouldn't be made to stand in cold water this time of the year. You could build up a nest of dried reeds.
¢ Let your dog shake off thoroughly after each retrieve. Take them for a walk around the island or up the riverbank every so often to get their blood flowing.
¢ Watch your dog constantly in cold weather. A dog can get hypothermic being wet in cold and wind. Shivering is OK, but if your dog shivers incessantly and starts acting unresponsive, hypothermia could be setting in.
Use common sense when it comes to your hunting dog. The best thing you can do for your pooch is to bring it inside for a break from the bitter cold.
Hey . . . they just want to be your companions.