It’s almost that time of year again, fall hunting season. You’ve spent all summer anticipating this time of year. Your guns are cleaned and your equipment is ready. It’s time to put the finishing touches on your gun dog’s health and training.
Baseball Has Spring Training Hunting Dogs Have Fall Training
Your Dog’s Health
The health and well-being of your hunting dog(s) is extremely important. You probably have considerable time and money invested which can be quickly lost due to disease or injury that could have been prevented. Attention should be given to this well before heading afield in the fall.
Schedule a checkup with your veterinarian to make sure your hunting partner(s) is in good health and that all vaccinations are up to date. If you are in or will hunt in Lyme disease country, you should add a Lyme vaccination to the list. If you are in or will hunt in rattle snake country, you defiantly should add this vaccine as well. If you are lucky enough to be heading to Canada for some waterfowl hunting (or any other kind of hunting), you will need to have an up-to-date rabies certificate for each dog.
First Aid Kit
An injury or other emergency can really take the fun out of a great day in the field. BE PREPARED. One of the items needed is a good (up-to-date) canine first aid book. Really good advice would be to spend time studying it. If you have questions, visit with your veterinarian as they will be more than happy to help. There are numerous commercial canine first aid kits on the market, some good and some not so good. You can build your own, save money, end up with higher quality components and have fun at the same time. Click here for our suggested list of items needed to make up an excellent kit. You can print it out, spend part of an evening on Amazon and have everything necessary. What about a bag? If you have been paying dues for Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, etc., you probably already have a suitable bag. If you hunt in areas with lots of ground vegetation that may be hard on hunting dog feet, then a pair of dog boots should be included. In addition, dog vests can provide protection for their underbelly and also provide some heat in cold wet conditions.
Back to School
Most of us lose a little hunting prowess over the summer—it’s hot or we are busy with other things. Before the “season” kicks off, we may need some physical rehabilitation for the miles of walking, trudging through wetlands for upland birds or packing that 12-pointer out of the woods. There are also required trips to the shooting range to fine tune our shooting skills. Your hunting dog is no different. Unless you train every week in the off season, your dog’s level of obedience is bound to slip. In order to regain the highest level of obedience in the field, reinforcement is necessary. Time is well spent going through the basics.
Sit – Sit means sit and stay until released. Give the command once—anymore is just telling them to ignore your initial command. Command the dog to “sit” and if no response, no more talk is needed. Go to them and force them to sit. If the dog is conditioned to an e-collar, a stimulus may be used to reinforce the command.
Here / Come– when the dog hears “come” they should be immediately in route to you. If he/she has gotten lax in this area, get out the check cord and do some refresher training. Remember to give the command once, then enforce if there is no or poor response.
Heel – Whether five feet or ten yards, if the dog hears “heel,” they immediately come to heel at your side. The command lead is an excellent tool for retraining here.
On Lead – Going on walks on lead is a good way to refresh this activity. You want a good citizen on the end of the lead—no pulling or trying to drag you around. You want to be able to meet or pass people or other dogs without creating a stir. Some businesses, Bass Pro for one, will allow dogs on lead in their stores. This is a great place to practice canine citizenship and another excellent place to use a command lead.
Gun Fire – If your hunting dog hasn’t been around gunfire since last fall, they need to be exposed to the sound before the season. If you have a gun range or shooting club that has a weekly trap/skeet shoot, take your dog out and sit in the background while shooting takes place. They will enjoy watching the people and get back in the groove of being around gunfire again.
Boat – If you hunt from a boat with your dog(s), it would be wise to renew the experience during the off season. Practice remaining in place in the boat being the most important rule.
After the basics, you need to spend some time doing refresher training as needed for any advanced training your dog has received in the past.
Conditioning Your Dog
Nothing is better to get your hunting partner (or you) back in shape than swimming, and they love the water. Caution: hot weather swimming combined with hot sun beating down, can cause an over-heating problem. Swim early or late in the day.
Nutrition for Your Hunting Dog
Buy quality dog food. That does not necessarily mean the most advertised. We prefer non-grain dog foods and have found it reduces many of the problems some dog foods present.
Keep a close eye on our dog’s weight during the off season. If your dog is getting a little too heavy, reduce his intake. Nutrient levels in quality dog food make this easy to do.
If you use a high performance diet during hunting season, you should gradually change over to it as your dog’s level of exertion rises.
These suggestions will go a long way in getting your hunting partner(s) ready for hunting season. Enjoy the outdoors and hunting your dogs. Good luck and have a great season!