Sep 7, 2012, 1:02 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
Depending on where and what you hunt with your bird dogs or hounds, your hunting season may have already started. If not, it won’t be long now.
Your hunting dogs are athletes. How well and how long they perform will be based on the training and conditioning you’ve given them in the weeks, months and even years leading up to the hunting seasons. It’s no coincidence that the same word “training” is applied to the preparation human athletes make for their endeavors as well as to what we do with our canine hunting companions. It’s all “training” for peak performance.
When the “big game” or “opening day” roll around the tale will be told of how good and comprehensive the training was. At that point it’s too late to do anything else about it. However, there is a critical performance enhancer you owe to your dog to employ at the conclusion of every performance. Even better is to do it at any rest break. It’s called the “tailgate checkup.”
Anytime you’re back to the truck with your dog, have it kennel up on the open tailgate to make a quick inspection. Here’s your checklist:
Eyes – check to see if any seeds, grass or other debris have collected on your dog’s eyes. Carefully check behind both the upper and lower lids. If you see any debris rinse gently with eyewash solution or clean water in a pinch. For stubborn seeds, use the corner of a wet handkerchief to capture the debris. If you need to go this far, you may need assistance from someone else to hold the dog while you hold its eye open.
Ears – Examine the outer and inner sides of the dog’s ears for cuts, tears and holes. Apply first aid as appropriate. Examine the ear canals as deeply as you can without inserting anything in them. Be thorough. If some types of seeds can entrance through the ears or nose they can migrate through the dog’s tissues and cause serious problems.
Nose—Same as ears. Look as far in the dog’s nose as you can to detect seeds, grass stems and other foreign matter.
Coat –Give the dog’s entire coat a good going over. You’re looking for cuts, tears, punctures and the like. High intensity dogs can often be injured, even pretty seriously, and not show any signs. Hopefully you’re attuned to your dog to be able to detect even minor indications in the field, but the place to “double check” is on the tailgate during the breaks.
Paws – Look over each paw carefully – top and bottom – especially the pads, nails and between the toes. Overlooked injuries to the paws are the most common problem that will lay a dog up for days afterwards. If you catch and treat minor paw injuries early, you’ll get the best performance from your canine athlete day after day in the field.
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