Training your hunting dog to drink water

Taking a break in between fields to get a drink of water.

It may sound silly to some, but I’m sure many of you have hunted with a dog that won’t stop to drink water in the field. Here are some tips on keeping your hunting dog hydrated in the field:

  • Train your dog at home – If you’re going to use a collapsible bowl or water bottle in the field, introduce it at home first. It can help to use a command. We say “Drink up”.
  • Add a couple of pieces of kibble to your dog’s water bottle. The water will get a little cloudy, but that added smell and taste will help entice your dog to drink.
  • Offer your dog water before they appear to be thirsty. It’s much better for them to drink smaller amounts more frequently than to drink a lot of water all at once.

Remember that dogs don’t sweat (except for a small amount through their footpads) . They cool themselves by panting. If your dog is reluctant to drink, at least rinse their mouth and tongue with fresh water. This will help remove some of the mucus and help them pant more effectively. Though it won’t rehydrate your dog, you can help them cool off by allowing them to go for a swim (or wade) in cool water. You can also wet them down if you have cool water available.

Only give your dog water, or water that has been flavored with a small amount of kibble. Don’t give your dog gatorade, vitamin water or other sports drinks that have electrolytes in them, as it can make dehydration worse. Dogs don’t lost electrolytes at the same rate as people do (since they sweat minimally through their footpads).

Know the signs of dehydration in dogs

It’s important to know what to look for, so you can take appropriate action. Remember that dehydration can occur at any temperature, though the risk increases the warmer the temperature is. It’s recommended that when in the field, you offer you dog water at least hourly.

Early stages:

  • Excessive panting
  • Slowing down their pace
  • Visibly tired

Intermediate Stages:

  • Skin pinch test – if you pinch the skin on your dogs back, it will be slow to “lay down” or return to it’s normal shape
  • Gum test – if you press firmly on your dog’s gums, it ¬†will slowly return to color
  • Gums and tongue will appear dark in color
  • Decreased urine output

Final Signs:

  • Dog appears unsteady or wobbly
  • Sunken eyes
  • Weakness
  • Collapse

If your dog is showing severe signs of dehydration, a trip to the vet is in order. A vet can give your dog intravenous (IV) fluids to aid rehydration.

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