Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gun Dog Training Between Seasons

Picture for a moment an NFL football player in March or April. Although he is not in the height of his season, regularly working with the team to improve plays and build stamina, he cannot afford to be stagnant. Athletes depend on their bodies to continually succeed, so they must train consistently, even when games and events aren’t regularly scheduled.

The same can be said of your hunting dog. Although you are not depending on his prowess during the lazy days of summer, it is still important to maintain your dog’s level of fitness and ability. You cannot expect the dog to jump back into the game without any maintenance of the dog’s skills. Your dog is an athlete who works strenuously to please you during the hunt. And the simple truth is this: it takes more than a week or two before bird season to maintain the level of skill necessary for a successful hunting experience. There is nothing worse on the first day of the hunt than having a dog full of a year’s worth of enthusiasm and only an hour or two of stamina.

Hunting can be tiring for us, but we are not literally running all day long, as are our hunting dogs. The dog enjoys this work, but it is still demanding on his heart and lungs. His muscles should be toned and ready for exertion. Another important thing is that your dog maintains tough pads on his feet. His feet should be able to physically withstand hours of running on rough and unpredictable ground. These are all things that can be maintained with mild, but consistent workouts consisting of runs, retrievals, and basic drills.

Another issue to consider is the dog’s exposure to climate control. If your dog resides in an air-conditioned home for the spring/summer/early fall, exposure to hard work in an uncontrolled climate can take its toll on the dog. The first day of the hunt has the potential to be quite warm or quite cold, depending on the area, and your dog should be prepared to work in that climate. It is not ideal to leave the dog outside all summer either, but consistent exposure to the outdoors will help to prepare him for hunting season.

Worse yet, the sudden exertion on the part of a dog that has been allowed to be lazy for 9 months can cause debilitating injuries. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be damaged if they are suddenly overused. Hunting dogs have such a desire and passion for the sport that they will actually hurt themselves in their enthusiasm. This can lead to a disappointing hunting season with your best hunting buddy out of commission.

An unfit, unprepared hunting dog reflects poorly on his owner. It is as if you have “put away” the dog during the off-season, much like you put away your orange vest. Spend a night or two each week during the off-season to exercise and condition your dog for the future hunt. Increase this time as the hunt approaches, adding drills, swimming, roading, and retrieving.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Importance of Your Dog’s Diet

The better we as humans eat, the better our bodies function. We can avoid excessive sickness, weight gain, and fatigue, among other things, if we are eating well. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” The same can be said of our hunting dogs. If you are expecting optimum performance from your dog, you should be providing the best diet possible. This does not mean you should spend more on your dog’s food than your own, it simply means that you should be cognizant of the ingredients within your dog’s food and make changes where necessary.

Dog Food

The first ingredient in your dog’s bag of food should be chicken or lamb (or it could be a pricier meat like buffalo, duck, or salmon). Meat byproducts are often found in lesser quality foods, which signify the use of any number of extra pieces of the animal that were not able to be used in the grocery store for human consumption. There should be at least 20% protein in the dog’s food, supplied by the highest quality meat ingredients you can afford. Along with this, the food should have about 10% fat. Beware of fillers. Corn is a common ingredient in dog food, but is very difficult for dogs to digest and fills their stomach so there is less room for more nutritious foods. In some packaged dog foods, oatmeal is used as a filler; oatmeal is much friendlier to your dog’s digestive system and therefore a much better choice. Some manufacturers are responding to the needs of healthier ingredients and have begun adding fruits and vegetables, which will also help round your dog’s diet.

Quantity

Depending on your dog’s level of activity, the quantity of food you are serving him or her will change. During a high-activity time, the body’s demand for calories to burn will be higher, necessitating more food. On the other hand, if it is the off-season and the dog is spending a lot of time resting and napping the quantity of food you supply should be less. However, cold weather requires more food than summer temperatures (up to 50% more).

Water

The consumption of water is vastly important to your dog’s health. Water aids in the digestion and absorption of food, as well as regulating the dog’s internal body temperature. Toxins and waste are carried away from the body with water. Just for survival, the dog needs at least 2 ml of water for every pound the dog weighs each day.

Boost

For a dog that is in need of an additional boost of energy or if they are recovering from injury or sickness, you can add a boost to their diet with just a few ingredients. Boil chicken or liver until done, then put in the food processor or mash it well. Add about ½ cup to the dog’s regular food. Other additions can be: a raw egg, ½ cup yogurt or cottage cheese, and salmon oil (or other fish oil).

Benefits

A quality, well-balanced diet leads to energy, well-developed muscles, a thick coat, and insulation against cold weather. Less illness will plague your dog and injuries can even heal more quickly if your dog is well fed.
Friday, May 14, 2010

Pheasant Hunting With A Deaf Dog

I had the opportunity to hit the pheasant fields with Andy Walton from Hillside Springs Hunt Club and his deaf dog Snowball.  Here is a short video story from the event.  Enjoy!

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