Copper was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis about a year or so ago. It means that he can’t breathe as easily as he used to, he’s also at higher risk of aspiration. The big fallout, from our competition perspective, is that his temperature regulation sucks. Yes, he gets hot, mouth breathes a whole bunch and when he’s panting his scenting goes to hell. Not a good situation for a Nose Work dog.
I wanted to share some things that I’m learning about keeping our competition dogs cool.
If you think that your dog is starting to get a bit warm, you should have started cooling them down two hours ago. Taking your warm dog into a search area and asking them to scent is going to heat them up faster than an A-bomb going off. It’s too late. If you have other searches to do, later in the day, you may be able to save them, but it’s too late for this search.
Copper historically had pretty decent heat tolerance. Now, if I ask him to search outside – and it’s above 45 degrees – he’s going to heat up fast.
I was recently at the Rocky Mount, MO trial and the high of the day got up to 65 degrees. The weather was spectacular. I wanted to share these videos. When you watch them, look at how far open his mouth is from his first search of the day (the outside patio) to the second search of the day (the inside gym). Neither were overly warm, but I SHOULD have immediately implemented cooling strategies the moment we returned to the car from the Patio search. My mistake, and an expensive one points-wise.
Patio search – https://youtu.be/U0luoZxU2Us
Gym search – https://youtu.be/xDbWiosAX4w
After we’d crashed and burned on the gym search (we’d been given a range of 3-8 and we’d only found two) I implemented our cooling strategies. Here’s what I did:
- Put a fan on him. These Ryobi fans are the fans of choice. Expensive, but worth it. Get the bigger batteries for it too, as they last a LOT longer. https://www.ryobitools.com/products/details/18v-one-plus-hybrid-fan
- Pulled out his cooling coat (essentially a huge chamois soaked in water) and put it on him. I’ve had his cooling coat so long that I don’t remember exactly where I bought it. It’s a bit oversized, but that worked just fine for us. Do a Google search and you’ll find a few different types.
- Pulled his thick foamy bedding out of his crate and had him lying on a yoga mat – not as cushiony, and also increases the risk of stiffness, but he’d be a LOT cooler. There are cooling beds available for purchase online too
- Made sure that he had fresh water and put a few ice cubes in the bowl. Copper is fussy about weird things and won’t eat ice cubes, and I constantly have to nag him to drink. So this time I had pieces of watermelon for him and that worked like a charm. Hydrating him but cooling him.
- Ensure that there was LOTS of ventilation to his crate. If it’s too hot, you may just have to turn on the car and kick on the A/C. Just make sure that you don’t gas out your neighbor with the exhaust fumes. Also check with your auto mechanic about what this might do to your car, just idling with the A/C running for hours.
- Put a shade cloth over the vehicle, and the windshield cover in place. Aluminet is the way to go. You can buy it at Clean Run or really big ones here: http://www.greenhousemegastore.com/product/70-percent-aluminet-shade-curtain/shade-material. Also, you can buy a WeatherTech windshield sun shade and it works great for the big minivans.
Additional items for you to consider:
If you’re in the market for a new car and know that you’re going to compete, get a white car with beige upholstery. It’s cooler. Full stop. I traded in my dark blue Grand Caravan with black upholstery to my white Grand Caravan with beige upholstery and the difference in interior temperature is unbelievable.
Also think about when are you going to potty your dog. I’m fortunate that Copper is pretty well regulated and is generally not a leg hiker. Though I recommend Pee-Search-Pee, I can get away without doing it with Copper because when he pees, he empties his bladder completely. So when I potty him at a trial site, I do NOT potty him right before our run because I need to keep him cool until the last second. I’ll potty him about 4-5 dogs prior, then cool him back down again.
The last thing that I did was make sure that Copper was wearing his cooling coat until the last possible minute. This helped a lot when a dog puked in a search area right before our turn and we were left in the heat for an extra 2-3 minutes longer than anticipated.
Here was the next search. As you can see, his temperature was back under control. https://youtu.be/QuzKliZ350M