There are many things that you should do to prepare you and your dog for opening day of dove season. For most of us in the south, it is still very hot during dove season. The most important thing is to keep yourself and your dog hydrated! There are all sorts of products out there available to aid with this problem. I always carry a couple of bottles of frozen water for the dogs. As the ice melts, you have fresh cold water for your buddy. I keep a collapsible water bowl with me in the field and have constant water available to my four legged hunting partner.
I also like to find a good shade tree to sit under, not only for a good hunting spot, but it can be up to 20 degrees cooler in the shade than in the open sun. If I can’t find a good shady spot, I am sure to take my ground blind for the dog. This not only keeps them cooler, but aids in steadiness as they know they aren’t supposed to leave from the blind until released (it gives the dog a barrier or do not cross line).
If you have more than one dog, taking a couple with you and swapping out half way or frequently during your hunt is another way to help keep your retriever from overheating in the field. Remember that your retrievers color can contribute to overheating as a black dog will get hotter faster than a yellow dog or a white spaniel breed. I try not to let the dog get involved in an extended hunt as that can quickly undue a dog in a hot-temperature environment. A quick handle is always better, even preferred in hunt tests.
Another common occurrence on a dogs first dove hunt, especially if they haven’t picked up many dove is spitting out the bird. The feathers on a dove come out very easily and will fill a dog’s mouth, causing them to spit out the bird to try and clean all the feathers out of their mouth. Hope fully a good job of force fetch has occurred and a simple "fetch it up" will get the dog to pick up the bird and finish the retrieve. Keep this in mind on your dogs first dove hunt and if it happens, deal with it in a simple fetch it up and teasing manner.
As a dog’s body temperature increases, he or she will pant more heavily decreasing sensitivity to smell. A dove has very little scent to begin with and when a dog is panting heavily it can run right over a downed dove in the field, especially a heavily vegetated field such as an recently cut corn or milo field. With this said, don’t get too frustrated with your pal because you think he should have found a bird that he did not. It can be hard on a dog in the dove field on opening day. I have seen Grand Hunting Retriever Champions unable to come up with a small dove on a hot day!! Remember that hunting is fun and try to be as safe as possible as well as health conscious of our dog. Good Hunting!!!
Always check your local and state regulations related to dog training and the use of game birds on private and public property.