GETTING IN SHAPE
By Pete Eromenok
All across America, dog owners are gearing up for upland and waterfowl hunting. They are buying the latest model of appropriate fire arm, the stealthiest of camo patterns to blend into their environment, and whatever is needed to have an enjoyable day afield.
The one thing they usually forget is the most important. Rover’s conditioning.
Since the end of last hunting season Rover has been sleeping on the couch and eating bonbons. Rover cranks the AC on high when his master leaves in the morning and has been in hibernation for the last 9 months.
So it’s finally opening day of pheasant hunting. Rover gets to his destination all excited and ready to go. You grab your gun and both of you head into the field. You walk the 150 yards from the road and as you look for your dog you spot him lying under a shade tree. The walk coupled with the excitement was too much for Rover.
This is not an uncommon scenario for a lot of hunters and their dogs. Conditioning should actually be a way of life for a hunting dog. When a dog is over- weight and out of shape it will not only tire faster, but he will also forget what it is supposed to be doing, which is looking for birds.
A good way to prevent this from happening is to take the dog out on the weekends for a long run. Getting him involved in some type of hunting dog club can actually be your best way of keeping your dog mentally and physically sharp.
Hunting can be hard on tender feet. So conditioning their feet is as important as conditioning their muscles. Long runs on concrete would work
The training part is equally important. You can cover all the bases of conditioning if you can get out a couple of times a week to train. You can do all you need to do in a half hour. Just like at the gym.
Whether your dog is in shape or not, you need to watch out for heat exhaustion. They over heat more quickly on a humid day,. They may become glassy-eyed or wobbly. You need to stop immediately. Some dogs because they are so driven won’t last too long. Some are plodders and can last most of the day.
Feeding should take place 3 or 4 hours before hard exercise. This will reduce the chance of bloat.
Some dogs are prone to a condition where the stomach twists thus closing off the exits to release the gases which naturally build up. The end result is usually not a happy one. The dog will want to drink large quantities of water under these conditions, but don’t let him. Like any athlete small drinks more often is the best way to go.
Also, your dog’s tongue acts as a radiator, cooling him when he exerts himself. His tongue swells a bit when he is working, but if the swelling is more than you would normally see under these conditions, let him recuperate. Labored panting also accompanies the swollen tongue. The tongue is one way you can gauge his comfort level.
We need to be aware of our dogs’ condition. Many dogs will go until they drop, because they love the work. Take care of your dog and have a great time this season!