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How to Help Dogs Keep Cool During Preseason Training

Written by Eukanuba Staff

Preseason training often requires upland and waterfowl hunters to run dogs when it’s really hot and humid. Fortunately, there are several workarounds to handle the heat like owner knowledge and responsibility along with conditioning and hydration. So this summer, help give your dog every advantage to beat the season’s hot, humid conditions.

Retriever jumping into water to cool down

Intense activities combined with high temperatures makes it difficult for dogs to stay cool. When dogs can’t cool down they may suffer from exertional hyperthermia, which is when their activity generates excessive physiological heat. The signs of a Heat Related Illness (HRI) are classified into three stages: heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Learn how to identify the signs of HRI with the chart below.

Running in the summer can cause a dog to produce a lot of internal heat which is difficult for them to release when it’s hot and humid. While a dog’s normal core body temperature ranges between 99.5-102.5°F, he can experience difficulties when their core temperatures exceeds 104°F.


Getting dogs ready to run in the heat is a process. The very best approach is to run your dogs all year long. They maintain a more ideal weight, their VO2 max remains high, and they have had months to acclimate to the gradual temperature change. Keep in mind that while a well-conditioned dog can perform at high levels with a body temperature above 104°F, they may be slow to show signs of HRI. Vigilant observation is really important.

Here’s some suggestions for getting dogs ready to run in the heat.

Fighting Weight

Start with a weigh in and assess your dog’s body condition score. Overweight dogs should shed some pounds before exercising in the heat.

Acclimate Slowly

Dogs that are used to life inside grow used to the air conditioning. To take a dog accustomed to cool temps and run them in intense heat can be dangerous. Work your dog daily before the heat begins to rise and let him acclimate to the temperature change over time.

Work Outs

Begin with a progressive workout program. Never take a sedentary dog outside and run him hard. Instead, gradually increase his workouts in time and intensity. Start with daily walks. Work up to a 10–15-minute run. Gradually increase the time and intensity as his endurance improves. Vigorous exercise should be done during the cooler time of the day, so set your alarm and work your dog early.

Assess the Weather

Before you start workouts, add the air temperature to the humidity percentage. If the total is over 140 then be extra cautious about running your dog.

Take Frequent Breaks

Hot weather is exhausting, and dogs running through windless covers and fields never get a breeze to help cool them down. Retrievers jumping into a warm pond don’t get the same benefit as dogs working in cooler regions. So take a break, sit in the shade under a tree. If there is no shade or breeze, take a break in your truck’s AC.


A 44 lb. dog can lose between .5 and 1.5 gallons of water per day depending on their activity and the environmental conditions.1 At a minimum, an active dog should consume as much water as they’re losing and more when running in the heat. A recent working dog summary stated that dogs are capable of recovering after losing the majority of their fat and half of their muscle tissue…while the loss of only 10% of their body’s water can result in death.1

To make sure your dog is drinking enough water keep bowls full and fresh. Another method is to add water to their dry kibble and feed them immediately (some dogs don’t like mushy kibble). Water baiting is a common technique that adds a tablespoon of wet dog food to a water bowl. Dogs trying to get the food will drink more water. A general rule of thumb is that dogs should consume water at a minimum rate of 3 times the cups of kibble fed per day.

To make the most of preseason training with your dog this summer, take steps to safeguard him against HRI. Educate yourself on the signs and actions to take should your dog begin to overheat. Spend time properly acclimating him to the warmer weather and slowly condition him to an enhanced fitness level. Keep him hydrated and monitor his diet and caloric intake. Come Opening Day, he’ll be ready for his best season yet.