Managing bird dog weight in off-season
I just took my Lab to the vet for an annual checkup, and she weighed 70 pounds. This is at the high end for her, but I know the reason: She has been sidelined since the end of December. Rough ice conditions during our last Minnesota pheasant hunt absolutely shredded her paws, so she’s been laying around the house for a couple of weeks doing nothing. She’s almost healed up, so we’ll return to our daily sessions afield and she’ll be back into the mid-60s on the scale. That’s the ideal weight for her frame, and what her vet recommends.
Her vet, not coincidentally, tells me that at least 40-percent of the dogs she sees are overweight. Another veterinarian I interviewed for my podcast recently said the same thing, but he referred specifically to sporting dogs. That’s an ugly statistic, and it doesn’t bode well for the health of those hefty canines.
Without question, many of them will experience arthritis, joint issues, and potentially more deadly health consequences for being overweight. The sad part? Nearly all of this is avoidable, especially for hunting dogs naturally inclined to exercise given the opportunity.
An all-too-common phrase I hear from sporting dog owners is, “I’ll just hunt him into shape.” That implies that the other nine months of the year we allow a dog to be out of shape, a philosophy that isn’t good for any species. Instead, it’s a better idea for your dog’s physical well-being and mental health to engage in daily activities that require some exercise. Like training, this doesn’t need to consume three hours a day.
Fifteen or 20 minutes will likely cut it, and not only will it keep your dog in better shape before next bird season, but it’ll pretty much ensure a better quality of life overall.
That is no small thing.