Monday, March 21, 2016

The Problem With High Drive Dogs, Hypothermia Scare with Phoenix!

Phoenix loves to fetch sticks out of the water!

Do you remember your parents telling you "if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?" We learned that lesson on Saint Patrick's Day when we had a mild hypothermia scare with Phoenix. All the other dogs were swimming, having a good time and were fine...

The weather was finally sunny, my husband had the day off and we decided to go hiking out at our favorite park. The day started off pretty normal, except that everyone had the same idea we did. The parking lot was full and there was no parking. That was okay, though because there's another park about half a mile away with extra parking so we decided we'd park there and hike in. On our way into the park, we found a little off shoot trail and spent about an hour wandering around on some trails that bordered our favorite park. These sorts of trails are hardly ever used, some of them were flooded and we didn't see anyone or any dogs. When we finally made it into the park it was very, very crowded but we decided to continue on and use it as a training opportunity. Zoe had been getting frustrated with the lack of friendly dogs at our apartment complex and she really wanted to socialize. I had my husband take her down to the river to visit with the dogs while I played some counter conditioning games off to the side with Phoenix on leash.

Phee was doing really well, so I asked for more and moved her closer to the action. We had several very nice greetings with other dogs and it this point I decided we should end on a good note and continue hiking. Once we were away from the big group of dogs, I went ahead and let Phoenix back off leash. We came across several more dogs on the trails but she did great practicing avoidance behaviors, which I prefer over greetings. She definitely tries not to have conflict with other dogs and I'm pretty happy about that. She does great with dogs who are calm and we ran into a bunch who were perfect for her to visit with. I'm finding out that both of my dogs really likes pit bull type dogs. I wish they weren't such breedests but I'll take it.

The day was going pretty well and my husband happened to pick up a stick. As soon as Phoenix saw the stick she was immediately "in drive" and wanted to play fetch. She loves to fetch sticks out of water more than anything else. Everyone out there had their dogs playing in the water so we didn't really think about it too much. We were cautious, not throwing the sticks too far and making her take breaks in between fetching so she didn't get too cold. I told my husband to give her one more throw and then we needed to leave and I was thinking he'd just sort of drop it in the water for her... Well... I learned that I need to give better instructions because he really chucked it out there and she ended up loosing it to the current. This is the problem with high drive dogs, they will do the thing they love until they literally die if people are not careful and Phoenix is no different. She searched and searched for that stick. I told my husband to quickly throw her another one because we needed to get her out. He threw a stick right to her, she grabbed it and swam back to us.

When she came out of the water, she was frozen solid. She was limping on all four legs and was so cold she could barely move and she was screaming and freaked out. It was pretty bad and probably the scariest moment I've ever had as a dog mom. I immediate picked her up and hugged her to my chest trying to warm her up. My husband told me to wrap her in my sweatshirt and that's what we ended up doing. We wrapped her up and hugged her until she was warm, taking turns carrying her. We got her over the sun-warmed sand and set her down and started toweling her off with my sweatshirt and rubbing her to warm her up. As soon as we did that and she was more warm, she took off to play with Zoe like nothing had happened and we both let out a sigh of relief. She was okay.

She was able to run around and hike back out of the park on her own, although I kept calling her back and checking to make sure her gums were still pink and that she was okay and warm enough. We are very lucky that she listens to us and we were able to get her out of the water when we did.

We learned that just because everyone else is swimming their dogs doesn't mean we should and if I do swim her she needs short throws and long breaks between them. I also need to buy her a life jacket. I'm not sure I will put her back into the water until summer, though. This was way too scary and I do not want to repeat it. Lesson learned. Just because the weather is warmer and sunny, doesn't mean that the water is warm. I was so relieved that she was okay. She came home and was playful and happy, her usual self. Thank goodness.

Has your dog ever scared you before?


  1. We haven't had that happen to us. We are only really driven by critters, if anything we could overheat in the summer I guess if we were off leash running after them. We are always careful with lab cousin Lena who will play tennis ball until she falls over.

  2. I love a happy ending. This is a very happy ending. Yes the water is freezing cold this time of year. It takes a long time for it to get warm too.

    Have a woof woof day you two. My best to your wonderful parents. ☺

  3. Whoa, thank goodness she was alright! That sounds pretty terrifying. Makes me glad that my dogs don't like water.

  4. OH yes, Ziva gets way to cold even in the summer when we play in the water. I have to be really careful about monitoring her swim time, making her take breaks to warm up etc. I ended up purchasing some hunters orange neoprene vests for swimming (cabelas) the vest add a layer to help the dogs stay warm without making them heavy. Being neoprene they provide the teeniest bit of buoyancy but not as much as a life jacket. I noticed a bit improvement last summer when we used them. :-)

  5. Kitsune isn't a huge fan of water and the weather hasn't been warm enough here for me to let Fenrir see what he thinks, but I know what it's like to have high drive dogs. Kitsune is intense and, especially now that he's older and has some joint issues, I find myself having to manage him more strictly when it comes to certain activities. If he had it his way he'd play until he literally collapsed.

    So glad that Phoenix is ok! We all try to do what's best by our dogs, but even the most experienced owners make mistakes now and then. I think the best reaction is to do exactly what you did - acknowledge what went wrong and use it as a learning opportunity.

  6. Wow that's scary, so glad she's OK.

    It reminds me a lot of of the Lab we had growing up and his drive to keep on going no matter what. We'd play fetch for 20+ minutes at a time and he'd keep up his enthusiasm so we kept at it. Eventually he came back & just collapsed... It was the scariest thing I've ever seen. It's exercise induced collapse and I guess Labs are pretty prone to getting it. I had no idea that I should have probably stopped before that point - he looked like he was having the best time ever.

    Thanks for sharing this article, since I know a lot of people are going to be going out with their dogs in the water soon. It's a great reminder that not all dogs handle cold temperatures the same way.

  7. How scary. Good job thinking on your feet. I don't know if I would have thought of hypothermia. Having double coated dogs in Florida, I'm always worried about heatstroke. I should look up symptoms and treatment of hypothermia, just in case. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. I saw this on Facebook and am so glad she came right back to you and you were able to warm her up. That is so scary.

    Once when we were walking the dogs in the winter (north east winter) we saw a black lab playing fetch in the reservoir. The dog would bring the stick back and she was literally shaking. I said something to the owner and she told me she was shaking with excitement. I thought that was a load of BS.

    As for the scary with my dogs, there was one time when Delilah was swimming and she was hidden behind a mess of reeds. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her paws thumping the water and I was frantically calling her. Not sure whether she was in distress or it was just me flipping out. :-)

  9. Eeeek, how scary. I'm glad she's okay! My old dog was -- heh. Not so much "driven" as "completely lacking in impulse control or thoughtfulness." He was a creature of pure action and I had to watch him really carefully so he wouldn't overdo. As frustrating as it can sometimes be when Lilo nopes out of an activity, I do really appreciate that she takes care of herself and I don't have to worry too much about her.

  10. That is scary. I am so glad she is ok. Will have to keep this in mind once the ice comes off the lake for Phod. My dogs give me regular heart attacks!

  11. That is so scary! I'm so glad she's okay. It's good she came right back, though! Now I'm just waiting for someone to say that she can't be a high drive dog, since she's not a BC or Mal. :p

    I've never had a scare with cold (duh, it's Florida), but Pike had a heat scare for fetching in the summer without wanting to quit to cool off (wound up having to take him inside and crate him to get him to cool off).

  12. Oh noes!!! I am so glads she is okay!!!! That sure is scary! Good thing you guys worked quickly, and warmed her up.
    I guess this would never happen to me...I don't likes gettin' wet! BOL! then again, we are in CA, so that probably wouldn't happen even if I did....paws crossed for you gurl!
    Ruby ♥

  13. When I wuz a baby puppy, I kept jumpin in da pool (it was November). I scared my momma real bad, after all I wuz only 3 pounds and it wuz COLD! I had to be on leash in da backyard until it got warmer.

  14. What a scary moment :( So glad she's doing ok! <3 I had some moments like that and Happy is not a good listener like Phoenix. I always learn from you guys how important to train! :D

  15. I'm glad she is OK. I have to be careful with walking Mr. N in the rain because he gets super cold fast.


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