Jul 6, 2012, 1:02 AM EDT
By Jerry Sather
With what seems like the whole country in the midst of record-breaking heat it’s hard to realize that we’re closer to the new fall waterfowl hunting seasons than we are to the end of the last ones. Less than two months now and we’ll be back after the resident Canada Geese. In states fortunate enough to have an early teal season, the timing is about the same, too; not to mention those hunters … and their dogs … fortunate to head to North America’s far north to get a jump on the rest of us waterfowlers. Of, course with the great report in the annual duck count, there’s every reason to be excited. As a dedicated greenhead fanatic I’m looking at a banner season for me and the Labs Unlimited Kennels team.
So that means there’s less than eight weeks to get the dogs back in shape and steadied again. Whether you do your own training or use the services of a professional, times wasting. Get started now … today! However, heed some strong words of caution. This incredibly hot weather is no time to begin putting an out of shape hunter or canine companion back in condition. Review the earlier, “In the Dog House” blogs on dealing with hot weather training conditions. If nothing else, train e-a-r-l-y in the morning and have an ample supply of cool water on hand.
This is the place to start. Most dogs that come back for “pre-season training” are significantly out of shape. They are overweight, have tender feet, and reduced stamina. They need to be carefully built back to hunting form.
Just like human hunters, the physical condition of dogs results primarily from the combination of diet and exercise. If your dog is overweight, you will need to adjust its diet via a combination of less food and/or lower calorie food. How do you know? Well if you stand above your dog looking down on it you should see a distinctive hour glass shape. The ribs and hips should be easily seen as wider than the abdomen. If your dog is a straight line front to back, it’s overweight. If there’s a discernible bulge at the abdomen, the dog is obese. Viewed from the side, it a well-conditioned dog, you’ll be able to make out individual ribs as it moves.
If your dog is overweight, consult your vet about an appropriate diet regimen and get the dog out for regular exercise. And don’t just go crazy like running an out of shape dog for miles and miles harnessed to an ATV. Just as you’d wisely do for yourself, start slow and build. Far more than humans, good dogs will try to please and will get themselves into serious problems before they quit. You must be the judge of your dog’s condition because it won’t until it’s too late.
This is a great opportunity for you to get back into hunting condition, too. Remember, it’s probably been at least six months since you felt what it was like to wade through thigh-deep black ooze with a couple dozen decoys on your back, a shotgun on one shoulder and a blind bag full of shelves on the other. So consider getting your dog (and yourself) back into physical shape Step One in hunting season prep. In upcoming posts we’ll look at helping your dog regain the skills most commonly lost during the off-season.
(Laurel Miller photo)
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