You may be ready for cold-weather waterfowling, but is your retriever?

If you hunt waterfowl, you know it can be cold. The colder the better, actually. But does your retriever share your opinion?

Ducks Unlimited has a great library of excellent tips for hunting on its website. You don’t have to be a member to access most of the advice, but if you do join, your membership fees go to support and enhance waterfowl habitat.

One of DU’s recent posts focused on ways to keep your retriever happy and healthy when you’re hunting waterfowl in extreme conditions.

Even though many of the retrieving breeds, such as Labs, goldens and Chesapeakes, have double coats that repel water and keep them warm, they can still get wet and cold.

The article says nutrition is the first line of defense for your retriever. The more your dog hunts, the more calories he burns. And the colder the weather is during the hunt, the more calories yet he expends. The article says a gun dog requires up to 80 percent more calories during the hunting season than he does during the off-season.

While you’re out hunting, keep a close eye on your dog. Pale skin is a sign of frostbite, and you might see it on his toes, ears, tail, or other areas where the hair is thin enough to see the skin. To prevent it, keep ice and caked mud off your dog’s feet and ears.

You might want to outfit your retriever with one of those neoprene dog vests. These vests not only help insulate your best friend, they also protect the dog from getting cut up or scraped by ice and other debris.

And speaking of ice, don’t ever put your dog in a position where he might break through the ice and get trapped underneath, or get in a spot where he can’t get out of the water and back up on an ice shelf.

For more retriever tips, check out the Ducks Unlimited website at ducks.org.

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