Gun Dog Conditioning

by Josh Sowada

I want to talk about working out. Some of us work out and some of us don’t. For those of us who don’t work out, simple tasks like walking up the stairs can leave you feeling winded. Now, I highly encourage you all to get out there and start living a healthy lifestyle!

Work outs for your dog are equally as important. Come opening day of the season, you want your pup to be in tip top shape and ready to bring back birds. Remember when I talked about walking up the stairs? How do you think your dog feels after opening morning of hunting season if you haven’t taken the time to condition him or her? 

It is roughly nine months on average from the end of hunting season to the start of the next season. This is the time (especially during the summer) where we can work with our dogs and get them conditioned and ready for next season. Now, before you go out and start throwing bumpers or jogging around the block, there are some factors to consider. Most hunting breeds are at risk of having or developing hip and elbow problems. One thing we can do to help minimize this risk while conditioning is to utilize water training or swimming. Swimming is a low impact form of exercise and is great for physical conditioning. It allows the dogs body to really work their cardiovascular system without straining their skeletal structure.

If you live in the North like I do, then you know all too well that our summers are often short. In the upper Midwest, we can expect roughly three months of summer. The great thing is that at the conclusion of summer, it is time to start hunting. By this time of the year, you need your dog to be ready and three months of swimming and water conditioning is enough to get anyone in shape. This is especially true for your gun dog.

So on that note, I encourage all of you to get out there in preparation for the upcoming season. Really make a focused effort to condition your dog. Water conditioning is best but even condition on dry land is better than no conditioning at all. So next time you are in the pool, at the cabin or going out on the boat, remember to grab a ball, bumper or Dokken Duck to help get your best hunting buddy (the one that never cancels) in shape for the upcoming season.                  

If you take the time to get your pup off the couch and back in the water, it will pay off dividends to your dog and your entire hunting party. If your dog is in great physical condition, they will listen better, they will lose fewer birds, and most important of all, they will hunt longer and later into their life.

Hunt hard and have fun!