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Hunting dogs need to be in shape

September 12, 2009
By Kenneth Cobb

We all know that a dog is man's best friend and his best hunting companion. Dogs love to hunt as much as any person. People need to get his or her hunting companion in proper condition. When dogs are in top shape, they are more attentive to the job expected of them, which produces more game for the table.

Proper conditioning and diet will make a big difference in any dog's hunting performance. A healthy dog in prime condition naturally feels better, hunts harder and will go much longer in the fields or woods, before they get too tired to run.

This week, we are going to discuss a few things a person needs to do to get their hunting dog in good shape. During the summer, a veterinarian should see them for a physical check up and have their necessary shots brought up to date.

Hunting dogs burn more calories than less active dogs, and it is important to keep them at optimum weight. Therefore, it is important for the animal to have a high energy, good protein diet. This is something they should be receiving with their daily meals during the summer.

The hunter with a dog should allow conditioning time of about six to eight weeks before the selected hunting season starts. Short workouts, about 10 minutes a day, are best for starters. Build slowly to about 50 minutes to an hour or more. Provide good, clean water during these workouts. This is very important because it helps avoid heat stress especially on warm or hot days. Remember, endurance is only developed from repeated or extended exertion. During workouts, bring along a small first aid kit for cuts, scrapes, injured limbs, etc.

Chances are, you will never need it, but it is still better to have it.

Here in West Virginia, a resident can train their dogs at any time on private land with the landowner's permission. They can also train their dogs on public land at any time, except on Sunday if this hunting condition applies for the county. People training dogs may not have a firearm or other implements for taking wildlife in their possession during the closed season. People participating in dog training must have a valid hunting license in their possession, and it is unlawful to train dogs on deer or wild turkeys.

It is also possible to overhunt a dog. They need time to recuperate after an all-day hunt. Hunting dogs, like people, need to have an adequate amount of rest. I remember years ago when I hunted with a squirrel dog, I tried to take old Shep out for several days in a row. At about the fourth or fifth day, he was just not as eager as he was the first or second day. I ended up making him stay at the house to rest up. In a few days, he was ready to go at it again.



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