Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Preparing Your Dog for Hunting Season

Photo by Wildside Images

Hunting season is almost upon us and one of the most common questions Scott and Beth Ward of Over the Top Retrievers are asked is “what should I do to get my dog ready to go for the season? “I recently had the privilege of training with them and got to pick their brains for few tips for your four legged hunting buddy. 

Conditioning. Humans don’t run a marathon without training so ease your dog into activity. Starting with a walk, jog, run get that heart rate up.  Throwing a bumper, a ball.  Swimming is always a great cardio exercise for dogs making sure you are watching your dog and realizing they have limits, a dog can get hot fast once they get out there doing what they love to do.  Avoid high jumping, and sharp sudden turns because out of shape joints, muscles and ligaments do not need additional stress. Short reps with bumpers or Avery® birds still gets them excited but hopefully prevents injury prior to the opener. 

Remember to keep your dog wanting more, stop retrieves on the upswing where you know they are crazy to get that bird again!  Water retrieves are always good but be mindful, dogs can over heat in water, in late summer water temperatures can be high mixed with the muscle fatigue your dog could get into trouble.

Photo by Wildside Images
If you are lucky to have some property to get out on a run with a 4 wheeler or a long horse ride gets the heart pumping.  Planting birds/bummers and working on hunt it up drills helps reintroduce the dog to the mindset of the hunt.  

General health must always be a priority. Short nails, healthy pads and checking eyes, ears and nose to make sure they are clear of debris and signs of infection.  Proper gear for your dog, I know I may have packed on some pounds since last hunting season, has your dog? Ill-fitting skid plates or vests can lead to nasty skin issues from chaffing/rubbing.

Diet. Proper nutrition can build the energy and fuel your dog needs to plow through icy waters or keep quartering to get the rush of the flush.  Sometimes a decrease in calorie intake is needed to get some extra pounds off prior to hitting the fields. Keep in mind that you couldn't run a marathon after big plate of grandma's chicken Alfredo, you shouldn’t ask your dog to do this.  Get them on a healthy diet with appropriate servings. 

Photo by Wildside Images
Stand Alone marks (drills). Put your dog on a sit, walk away a good distance 30-50 yards, (farther than you could throw a dummy/bird/bumper while standing next to your dog).  Once the mark is thrown, release your dog to retrieve.  Although this is a hand thrown mark, you are working on your dog sitting, waiting/honoring the mark, the dog should not be sitting in the heal position next to you, you need distance between you and the dog.

Must haves for your dog hunting first aid kit:
Nail trimmer: cuts nails, barb wire, small sticks

Leash: restrains dog, helps with trap removal, works as a tourniquet or muzzle

Saline: to flush eyes, nose, ears, wounds

Water: Don’t forget to hydrate!

If you have more questions or concerns about getting your dog ready for the hunt feel free to contact us at Over the Top Retriever,763-244-0819.

Check out Over the Top Retrievers at We offer all breed obedience, pre-season/refresher hunting course, gun dog, and hunt test training.  Private lessons available upon request.

Because if you are going to go...Go Over The Top!

-Samantha Andrews-

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