Ledbury suggests easing your retriever into hunting season—not simply loading the dog into your vehicle, taking it into the field on opening day, and hoping for the best. "The biggest thing is preparation on the front end, slowly increasing the dog's activity level several weeks or a month before hunting," he says.
Besides heat stroke, retrievers working in warm weather can suffer from other problems. Even slight dehydration can diminish a dog's sense of smell, impairing its ability to find downed birds.
Current recommends taking along plenty of water to refresh the dog between retrieves. Then, too, it can be beneficial simply not to send the dog after every downed bird. "By not sending your dog, you're doing two good things," Current says. "You are teaching him to remain steady, and you're not going to wear him out and put him at risk."
Ledbury recommends closely monitoring your dog's behavior when handling the animal in warm weather. Trouble signs should be obvious. "If you are in tune with your dog, you can see it in his eyes," he says. "The dog starts to slow down, usually has dilated eyes, pants heavily, and its breathing may become labored. The dog's gums may not be bright pink but a darker color because the dog is not getting the oxygen it needs and the extremities are starting to contract. The important thing is to stop working the dog before you get to a critical point."
If you suspect your dog is beginning to have problems, stop hunting immediately, and move your retriever into the shade. Spray the dog with water. Ice packs can be placed between the dog's legs and body, over the jugular veins, or in the groin area—all regions where there are large blood supplies. If at all in doubt, take the dog to a veterinarian.
"A dog can easily overheat on a day in the low 70s," Ledbury says. "Keep an eye on your dog. You don't want to take a great day of hunting and turn it into a nightmare."