By Bob Konz
Hunting season is getting closer, so you have cleaned your shotgun, purchased your license and shells. But is your hunting dog in the condition to do what is necessary for the season? Your dog’s condition is vital for your success.
When the season opens, the weather in your area could still be very warm. Warm conditions may do permanent damage to your dog if you have not planned in advance to precondition him or her. If a dog becomes severely overheated it can cause damage to its internal organs. Three things can happen; the dog recovers fine, the dog will have lifelong health problems as a result, or in the worst case the dog will die. Good conditioning will ensure your dog’s health, and give them the ability to hunt hard and go the distance.
There are steps necessary to precondition your hunting dog. First, take him or her out for a run many times before the season begins. I like “roading”. By that I mean putting a harness on your dog and running it from a four-wheeler or ATV almost daily. This exercise is used to train dogs for sled racing. Some say this is cruel, but I think this is crucial in teaching your dog to run long and hard. Your dog cannot be in shape spending eight or nine months in a ten by ten kennel. Remember, a professional athlete trains before the season begins to prove what he can do on game day. If he doesn’t, he will probably sit on the bench early in the season. So in short, preseason conditioning is vital.
When the season begins, it is also important to feed your dog a larger portion in the evening. If you wait to feed him just before you are ready to hunt for the day, the food may come up, thus of no nutrient value after running for a while in the field. If it looks like your dog needs a little pick me up during the day, use a piece of bread with some peanut butter. This is a fairly mild snack, and should stay down.
There are several signs that your dog has had enough for the day. Extreme heaving breathing, tongue hanging out of its mouth are, of course, outward red flags. A dog runs with its back feet behind his front feet, so if your dog starts to track the back legs to the side, or not directly behind the front legs, you are promoting permanent damage. At this point, sit down, take the shells out of your shotgun, and give the dog a drink letting him rest. It is helpful to put water on his nose and paws. This is the quickest method to cool him down. After your dog has caught his breath, head back to your pickup and call it a day.
If your dog is properly conditioned, he will be able run long and hard, improve his nose and drink from a water bottle in the field; consequently, get more birds, impress your fellow hunters and enjoy a great hunting season.
Editor’s note: Bob Konz is the owner & operator of Hackberry Kennels, Shelby Iowa. Bob has a long track record of breeding champion Pointers. To find out more about Hackberry Kennels log onto www.hackberrykennels.com