During the past few weeks, I’ve been able to get Magnum into the veld only a couple of times and because he’s not as fit as he’s supposed to be, I noticed his runs became shorter as he tired quickly. This can easily become a health hazard and it’s important to know your dog well enough to identify the signs of tiring. In certain dogs, the strong drive to hunt can cause them literally to run or work themselves to death.
Overworking, without drinking or eating, can also lead to future problems – repeated dehydration in a friend’s dog eventually led to kidney problems – so take it seriously and learn to spot the signs. I noticed that Magnum will refuse to drink water while we are in the veld, even when he’s on a leash. I started putting a little honey and even some energy drink into his veld water bottle to encourage him to drink; also the sugar generates added energy.
The simplest way to check for dehydration is to pull up the dog’s skin and see how long it takes to return to the normal position. Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the skin together softly, then let go. If the skin stays in the raised position and only returns to normal slowly, it means that your dog is dehydrated. A simple guide is to pinch the skin when your dog is hydrated, this will give you an indication of how quickly the skin settles when all is well. When out training, every so often I’ll grab the skin on his neck and check.
There are other signs to watch for, one being the dog’s tail: if this starts to bend (as distinct from being straight) when he runs, your dog is suffering from dehydration, and then of course the range at which he’s working will decrease. If I see any of these signs, I immediately stop and give Magnum a break.
Taking a break is a habit you should instill in your dog. I started this with Magnum at a young age, with good “crate training”. The idea is to teach your dog to calm down, switch off and take a rest. This is where a crate comes in handy. Magnum loves his crate; as a pup he learned that the crate is his safe haven. During training I lured him into the crate with treats. The first couple of times I left the door open and sat with him as he sniffed around trying to find the treats. Later I followed the same technique but closed the door while I sat close by. Later on, I walked away and left him in the crate for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. This training was reinforced with treats or part of his daily kibble quota. As with other commands, say the pup’s name then point towards the kennel. My command is: “Magnum, kennel.”I always follow up with praise once he has obeyed.
Remember, your pup draws comfort from you, and looks to you as his pack leader for protection. Initially, I put the crate in my room, then I moved it to just outside the door. I’m now at a stage where I can put the crate anywhere and he’ll be fine. In the beginning, I also put one of my socks in the crate, though I’m not sure whether this made any difference. About once a week, at night, I also place his food bowl in his crate and allow him to eat in there.
When Magnum has done something wrong he heads for the crate, a sure sign that it’s his safe haven. He now has no problem being in his crate for prolonged periods. Of course this makes life much easier for me as I don’t have to constantly keep him on a leash or try to keep an eye on him when roaming free.
During the past couple of weeks Magnum was bitten by a bontpoot tick, resulting in a lesion and some infection. I keep reminders on my phone to give Magnum his Bravecto against ticks and fleas every twelve weeks, but then I acquired a new phone and somehow lost track of the schedule. Fortunately, I noticed the bite early and used Terramycin wound spray every morning and evening, and Magnum seems to have fully recovered. It’s important to keep an eye on your tick control schedule, and more so during the change of seasons.
For more on our progress, keep an eye on the My Dog, Magnum Facebook page. I recently uploaded a video of a successful water retrieve. Magnum just loves water and it’s a joy to see him perform such a retrieve. Always watch your dog closely, if he gets tired while swimming in deep water, a rescue (clothes and all) may be necessary.
Read the full article in the December 2018 issue of Magnum