How to take care of your dog when hunting on ice areas
Hunting on icy areas is not uncommon during ducks season, especially on northern states, so special care is necessary to keep your dogs safe and well trained to hunt and retrieve on the ice without any harm for them.
Certainly dogs, particularly long haired, retriever dogs are naturally well equipped to deal with cold and ice, however weather conditions may be hard enough to overcome dogs natural adaptations putting them on injury danger and even death.
To avoid such awful situation it's necessary not only to properly train dogs to hunt on icy environments but also to provide them with proper protection and be ready to help your dog if necessary.
Of course there's not a master formula and each dog as well each situation is different, however following some basic rules will help to minimize ice derived danger on most situations.
First thing to do is to begin with dogs 14 months old or more. Younger dogs coat is not thick enough to resist icy conditions, thus your dog will be on hypothermia danger and even freezing, so avoid to send young pups to train on the ice because they will be in danger, furthermore, if your dogs don't feel comfortable on the ice from the very beginning because of cold, later they will refuse to retrieve on such conditions, so the timing to begin is crucial.
Once you begin ice retrieving training, do it on well known, controlled environments, this way your dog is more confident and you are sure nothing bad will arise. A good choice is a shallow pond near home where the dog may take first contact with a frozen shore.
First attempts must be short since it's a matter of knowing a new, slippery element and follow basic instructions; with time you may progress toward longer periods with more complex orders.
Once you complete your dog ice training (the complete process is beyond this post scope), be sure to provide your dog with proper protective garment.
Even when natural coat protects dogs from ice and cold, a big piece of ice still may harm your dog and extreme weather conditions may be hard enough to overcome your dogs natural defenses, so proper insulation, protective, neoprene garment is mandatory to provide your animals with an extra layer of protection.
Neoprene wearables are good not only to provide protection but also to serve as flotation aids in case your dog falls on deep, frozen water. On such cases neoprene provides extra insulation against cold water (extending the time towards hypothermia) and acts as a flotation device to help your dog to stay on water surface until you are able to reach it, something that might take even a couple of minutes depending of local conditions.
On this regard neoprene "shoes" are also a good choice to protect dog paws from extreme cold, especially on certain breeds which were not raised to retrieve on extremely cold weather.
Finally, take enough food and water and if possible a way to provide warm food, this way you will help your dog to gain temperature, especially in the case of an accident where the dog fall on icy water.
Remember that your dog is your most valuable hunting partner, it will take care of you with life if necessary, so provide extreme care to such a loyal and lovely hunting partner.