Get your dog (and yourself) in shape for hunting season
Following a record-breaking July, with more 90-degree days than ever measured in Pennsylvania history, there’s no doubt hunters are looking forward to fall. It was understandable not to want to be out in the oppressive heat, but the lack of exercise could have equally measurable results on the waistline of both you and your four-legged hunting companion.
With August temperatures finally bringing some relief to the heat, now is the time to focus on getting your hunting dog, as well as yourself, back into shape so you both enter the season in peak condition.
It is important to take a calculated approach to pre-season field work so as to not over-exert your dog or cause undue injury. Start small with daily walks, preferably in the morning or evening hours to avoid peak mid-day temperatures. Gradually increase the distance and pace of these walks week by week to get your pup back into top form.
Revisit basic obedience commands along the way, such as sit, stay, heel and come (or any variation of these four key phrases) to reinforce what is expected between dog and master, being sure to give plenty of praise for positive behavior.
It’s also a great time to reintroduce e-collars and/or bells if they are not part of your year-round routine. Most hunting dogs associate these items with in-the-field action, so take some time to get out and make it a fun experience with hunting-like scenarios such as find it, point it or fetch it trials. The point is to gradually remind them of their natural instincts to hunt as the seasons grow near.
If you have access to water, such as a creek, pond or lake, this can be an outstanding place for retrieval work, as it is fun for both the dog and owner, it provides practice and repetition of key hunting skills, and serves as an excellent form of exercise while keeping dogs cool and hydrated.
Be sure to pay close attention to nutrition and water consumption as activity levels increase and check your dog after each session for ticks or any other ailments that could lead to further complications down the road — sound advice that serves hunters just as well as their dogs.
By focusing on the health and well-being of your dog and yourself in the weeks leading up to the season, you both will be better prepared to take on all the excitement that fall hunting has to offer.