Dogs drink scummy water, crunch up dead things, and roll and splash in every mud puddle they find. They’re tough critters, and for the most part, their silly antics don’t hurt them. But in saltwater, there are dangers that require different rules. Here’s how to keep your gundog safe when fishing or hunting in a marine environment.
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Drinking saltwater makes dogs thirstier, so without a freshwater option, they’ll drink even more. That’s bad, because just a small amount of saltwater can lead to diarrhea, while large amounts can cause a whole suite of nasty side effects. So, always bring plenty of drinking water—a good idea wherever you hunt—to keep both you and your dog hydrated. And no matter what the temperature is outside, frequently offer your dog a drink to keep it from slurping up seawater.
With most dogs, all you need to do is hose them down to remove the salt and keep their skin healthy. Unlike us tender-skinned humans, dogs are resilient when it comes to saltwater. In fact, many dogs that work in marine environments have naturally oily coats to help protect their skin from drying out. Mud and dirt may require a deeper cleaning, but skip the soap, as it can remove a dog’s protective skin oils.
Retrievers need to be strong swimmers, and this is especially the case in marine environments, where riptides, strong undertows and fast-moving water near inlets and deep channels can easily drown a dog. A bird knocked down in the decoys can drift hundreds of yards away, and with high seas, a dog can easily lose sight of it. Swimming is also difficult in big waves, and a dog can lose the ability to hear or see commands. Know your dog’s limits, watch the conditions and call your dog back if the situation appears dangerous.