Dive in a lake. Retrieve the duck. Run through the mud to bring the duck back to you. Repeat. Hunting with your dog is a unique and bonding partnership that dates back thousands of years. Dogs aren’t just good at hunting, they also love it—maybe even more than we do. Whether you have a pointer, lab, spaniel, or hound, hunting dogs are reliable companions in everyday life and necessary partners on a hunt. Keeping them healthy is a must to prepare you both for your adventures together.
Keep these three things in mind before, during, and after hunting season:
Hunting dogs work hard! They’re exposed to more extreme temperatures, exercise, and wild animals than “normal” dogs. They’re more likely to get injured, too. Before the big season of conditioning, training, and hunting, get your dog a full physical exam. Then, during the mid-season (i.e. after the main hunting season), get a recheck to make sure all is well, even if you don’t see signs of discomfort or illness.
Look for the following during training and hunting (Game and Fish):
It’s important to get your dog in shape for hunting season. Like humans, they can’t wake up one day and run a marathon. It takes training and practice. No one wants their hunting dog to fatigue two hours into the hunt. According to Game and Fish, you should begin conditioning 6 to 8 weeks ahead, gradually increasing the amount of exercise prior to a big hunt. Try these activities:
Let’s face it, hunting is dirty. Mud, grass, rivers, and dead animals are a big part of hunting—everyone needs a bath afterward! Bathing your dog properly keeps you from bringing the mess and smells home, and helps you protect your pet from ticks and injuries.
Caring for your hunting dog is a labor of love for both of you. Regular checkups, hunting games and practice, and careful bathing and grooming are all great ways to bond with your hunting dog for years of happy and healthy hunting together.