By Todd Mills
Keeping your hunting dog in shape during the summer can be challenging, to say the least. With nothing to hunt, and kids and family activities getting in the way, it’s easy to neglect your hunting companion. Unfortunately, that can lead to frustration when fall rolls around. An out-of-shape dog can lead to handling issues as well as physical problems — all can result in anxiety, and in some cases, disaster.
Although keeping your dog in hunting form may seem close to impossible during the summer, getting them ready to hunt isn’t. Try these simple suggestions to help keep your dog physically ready when it counts.
Inactivity can lead to weight gain, and nothing will slow down your dog like carrying extra pounds. Since your dog will be expending fewer calories this time of year, switch to maintenance food. Almost all types of quality dog food have different activity and calorie formulas. On average, with a 50-pound dog, you should avoid anything over 5 pounds of weight gain during the off season.
Keep Them Steady
After a certain amount of down time, your hunting dog will often think she’s off the hook. Some just look for reasons to break the rules, so this is the perfect time for them to test your patience. Short, structured training sessions that reinforce the basic commands can keep your dog steady when the season arrives. Continually review sit, stay and heel while providing distractions. This can be done in your backyard, in your living room or in the field. Do this three times a week throughout the summer months, and you’ll avoid stressful moments when the bullets are flying.
Partner With Others
Finding someone to run dogs with can help hold both you and your dog accountable. Some of my good friends have come from the dog circuit, and the ability to troubleshoot and bounce ideas off each other is immeasurable. Find a mentor or companion you can get together with and work dogs. Having someone to throw marks and help with blind placement will not only save you time, it also pays off dividends in the long run.
Or, look for a dog training club close by that you can join. If you run Labs, the Missouri Valley Hunt Club near Valley is a good option. ■