How Much Water Does Your Gun Dog Need?

Photograph by Dean Pearson

Dogs that are hunting hard — even in cool weather — can work up a powerful thirst. They need water just like you do. And it's your responsibility to supply them with the water they need. It is not their responsibility to find water wherever it may be found. The question is: how much water does your dog need and when should you provide it for them?

Back when I was a lowly high school sophomore on the football team, we endured what my coaches called "two-a-days." The idea was to take our lazy, pampered bodies and whip them into shape for the upcoming football season via morning and afternoon practice sessions.

It was brutal. But far worse was the prevailing wisdom at the time (now proven totally false) that, no matter how hot we got, we should never be given water. I can remember being so thirsty I was almost delirious.

The point of that brief trip down memory lane is that there are still people who think the right thing to do for a thirsty dog is to deny it water. And they would be just as wrong as my long-ago football coaches were.

Photograph by Dean Pearson

Athletes Need Water

Hunting dogs are athletes and, as modern trainers have discovered, all athletes need to stay hydrated in order to perform at their peak. Dogs are no different.

If your dog is thirsty, let him drink! Buy a vest with an integrated water system or throw a couple quarts of water in the game pouch of your vest, but don't leave on a hunt without preparing for your dog's hydration.

How Much Should You Give Him?

When I'm hunting over two of my hard-running pointers, I go through nearly a gallon of water on a typical September-morning hunt. That's eight extra pounds of dead weight, but every ounce is precious.

Is It Possible To Give A Dog Too Much Water?

Yes, but in my nearly 50 years of hunting over bird dogs, I've never seen a dog suffer from having too much of it. I don't let my dogs drink until they're bloated, but I water them whenever they're thirsty, then send them back to the hunt.

How you water your dog has a lot to do with how much you may have to carry. Many people pack collapsible cups and let their dog drink its fill, then discard the rest. Others let their dogs lap out of the poured stream from a water bottle. Both ways are fine, but here's what I do.

Best Way to Water Your Dog

I like to tip my dog's head back, pull out her lower lip, and squirt water into the corner of her mouth. Less is wasted, and most dogs eventually get quite good at it.

Just Do It!

No matter how you do it, do it! Don't put your dog through two-a-days. Carry plenty of water and make sure you keep your dogs hydrated and happy.

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