Late summer means bird dog tune-up season
About a month ago I got together with a buddy to work on a few treestands in Wisconsin. As is often the case, he brought his dog and I brought mine. His, a 1-year-old golden retriever, looked kind of funny. Her puppy head was fitted to a larger, wider-than-expected body.
When I mentioned his dog was out-of-shape, he was shocked. Spending every day with her had given him a different perspective than someone who only sees the dog every couple of months. We then got into the topic of keeping a dog in shape versus whipping a dog into shape.
My buddy’s mindset is to hunt them into shape when the grouse season opens up. I’m of a different opinion. I believe that bird dogs should be kept in shape and gradually pushed to even better physical conditioning as the season looms ever closer.
This is because I don’t want my dog to die or get injured. That may sound dramatic, but look at it this way: Would you run a marathon having never trained? If you attempted to, what do you figure are your odds of finishing? I’ve been running for four years, and I can safely say that even now, with a really solid base, I wouldn’t attempt 26.2 miles without really ramping up my program. I believe bird dogs deserve the same attention to health.
If you’ve got a waterfowl or upland hunter who happens to be a bit pudgy (talking dogs here, not people), there is still time before even the earliest seasons open up. This time of year, running a dog or working retrieving drills where they’ll be sprinting is best left for the early morning or late evenings due to heat.
This is one of the reasons why I swim my dog so much during mid-summer. Swimming is a low impact, high-cardio workout that a lot of dogs love. My Lab, Luna, spends at least three sessions a day in the water, and she not only loves it, but is in the kind of shape I want her in for grouse season and early ducks.
Even if your dog isn’t overweight, it still might be out of shape cardio-wise, so no matter what, make a plan for your dog to get some exercise daily. By the time the season rolls around, the risk of injury or worse will be gone and your hunting will be better.
Who doesn’t want that?