Hunting season and gun dogs
Has your pointing dog noticed the change in the weather? Does your retriever look skyward when a flock of Canadian geese announce their passage?
The experienced hunters in your pack know what season is approaching; you can count on it.
You've bought license(s), stamps, shells, perhaps even some new equipment. But have you gotten your dog ready?
Training and Conditioning
These two naturally go together. Brushing up on obedience, marking and retrieving skills before season starts will make the hunt more successful and more enjoyable.
Get out the electronic collar and review recall skills.
Don't let last year's retrieving successes lull you into training complacency for this year.
This preseason time spent readily accomplishes both goals.
Young dogs often appear to have a limitless supply of energy.
As they are active by nature, those first few days in the field seem to have minimal effect on them.
However our older dogs really need some hours of conditioning to build stamina before tackling a full day in the field.
Stretch out the distance and numbers of retrieve drills you practice.
For the dogs that like to swim, give extra water retrieves as the hunting season approaches.
Your dog should be up to date on all his vaccinations--rabies, the distemper combination and bordetella.
You never know who or what you may encounter in the field, at the boat landing or even at the motel (if you are lucky enough to make a trip or two somewhere to hunt.)
Fall is deer tick season so keep up on the Frontline, Advantix or Revolution products.
I vaccinate annually for lymes disease in addition to using the topical tick control; just a little extra insurance.
I keep a dog first aid kit in my vehicle.
You can purchase commercial ones or build your own using a fanny pack or small tackle box.
I stock mine with hydrogen peroxide, 2x2 and 4x4 gauze dressings, adhesive tape, tweezers, toe nail trimmer, EMT gel, triple antibiotic salve, a thermometer, and the emergency phone numbers for my veterinarian.
If away from home I also try to get the phone number of a vet in the area where I will be hunting.
If I am going to be hunting for several days, I contact my vet ahead of time and ask for a few Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory) tablets and some type of antibiotic, along with dosage instructions for both.
If my dog does get injured or sore, then I can do a phone consultation with my vet and administer the correct medication.
During the hunting season, I carry an extra collar with identification in the event my dog loses his in the field.
I have also spent the money to have each a microchip implanted in each of my dogs as an added precaution.
Before season opens is a good time to make sure your electronic collar is working and fully charged.
If you use a skid plate to protect your dog's chest and stomach or a neoprene vest for your water retriever make sure each item is in good repair and still fits properly.
Packing an extra whistle never hurts as I have managed to lose them as well.
A small nylon or cordura bag with a couple of side pouches organizes Rover's gear quite well.
A dog involved in scent work goes through a tremendous amount of body fluid. Your dog needs to replace this often.
I carry a bottle of water in my vest and more in the vehicle.
Most dogs quickly learn to drink from a sports bottle. Collapsible bowls are easily carried.
A small piece of plastic used to line a depression in the ground creates a makeshift bowl as well. Should your dog become over heated, get him into the shade and pour water on his arm pits, paw pads and groin areas; anywhere the hair coat is thin and the water will reach the skin, then evaporate.
If it is possible to get the dog into water and back out, do so.
High Energy Food
Your dog's energy supply will dwindle through the course of the day just as yours does.
There are dog energy snacks and water additives that will help replenish his calories and electrolytes without filling his stomach.
If you hunt your dog a lot, you will want to increase either his feeding size or perhaps change his diet to a higher fat content food to boost his caloric intake during the season.
Take the time to thoroughly check your dog at the end of each hunt day. Pick out any burs or seeds that have attached to his coat.
While brushing out dirt and tangles, look for ticks, abrasions, and cuts.
Run your hands over his entire body feeling for lumps, heat or tender areas.
Check his feet, both the pads and between the toes.
Roll him onto his back and check the armpits and groin for injury and irritation.
A little triple antibiotic salve applied in the evening to a small injury, can make it more comfortable for the following day.
Don't forget to check his mouth and ears as well. Then supply a good quality bed that supports those tired joints.
Just like you, your gundog waits twice as many months as he gets to hunt each year.
Make the most of the time you get to spend in the field together.