Dogs Unlimited Issues Pre-Season Warning - The 5 Things You Need to Know for the Upcoming Upland Bird Hunting Season

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Conditioning, Training, Feet, Nutrition, Patience - Dogs Unlimited advises that these 5 vital pre-season items be addressed so your hunting dog is prepared for the hunting season.

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"Conditioning is number one on our list..."

For decades, the folks at Dogs Unlimited have been hunting upland birds and training their hunting dogs for the season ahead. Season after season, they've built up a routine so their dogs are in top condition and ready for a full season.

1. Conditioning Your Hunting Dog

As Alan O Davison, owner of Dogs Unlimited says, "Conditioning is number one on our list because we think it's the most important aspect of getting ready for the upcoming season. A hunting dog that hasn't been conditioned will find it hard to perform, and it may potentially be hazardous for them, but it's also frustrating for their owner."

Conditioning can take many forms. If time or location is limited it may be as easy as walking your dog through the neighborhood or at a park for longer and longer periods of time to build up stamina. This will greatly help your hunting dog and it will also help get you ready for the opening day as well.

If you have the resources, roading your hunting dog may be the best way to get them in condition. Typically, roading is done from an ATV or off of horseback and will greatly increase your dog's stamina and endurance. Check out this video by Dogs Unlimited for a brief discussion of "roading."

2. Training Your Hunting Dog

Depending upon your breed of choice and the age of your hunting dog, the amount of time you spend training them will vary. Also, your expectation of the level of training will be a determining factor as well. The closer to an absolutely finished bird dog - one that will stop to flush, honor/back another dog on point, hold point until released - will take considerably more time, effort and knowledge. Choose what level of dog training will work best for you and the type of hunting experience you would like to have.

Davison says, "The last time your gun dog was trained for the upcoming season shouldn't have been the last day of last season. Your hunting dog is an athlete and during the off season they should be kept tuned up. The pointing breeds require more commitment during the off season especially the younger dogs who are going through the breaking process. For the older dogs, we like to start tuning them up approximately 2 - 3 months prior to opening day."

3. Your Hunting Dog's Feet

Your dog's feet are often the most overlooked part of any hunting season preparation plans. Once their feet are compromised it may be up to a month before they heal up enough to get back into the field.

Davison explains, "While most dogs don't require any attention to their feet, if your hunting dog does blow their pads or are susceptible to foot sores and tenderness you'll want to address this approximately 1 month prior to the hunting season. There are foot conditioning products available like Tuf-Foot and Blue Foot, or a good set of quality dog boots may do the trick."

4. Hunting Dog Nutrition

Your hunting dog's nutritional intake has a direct correlation to their performance in the field. During the off season, most veteran gun dog owners will move their dogs from a high performance dog food to a maintenance level nutritional value food. A dog's food needs to be adjusted back to the high performance formula when their training and conditioning starts in earnest. As an athlete, your dog should begin receiving the correct nutritionally balanced food along with the right vitamins and minerals to keep their system functioning properly.

Davison further explains, "You can't skimp on your dog's nutritional needs when they're working hard and demanding a lot from their bodies. Depending upon the individual dog all they may need is a quality high performance dog food while some dogs may need additional supplements to help them maintain a high level of performance. Each dog is different and making sure they have the best nutrition will help guarantee a productive season."

5. Patience, Patience, Patience

Things aren't always going to go according to plan during hunting dog training sessions, and the best approach a dog trainer can have when this happens is to have patience. Training, at times, can be myopic in nature and can lead to situations where trainers think there's only one way to get a particular lesson accomplished. Stepping back requires patience and often a different approach will reveal itself.

Davison points out, "Sometimes it's a good idea to take a step back and look at the situation for what it is and then try to determine if a different approach may be better. Patience is the key and if used correctly it will give the dog trainer the time they need to re-evaluate the situation. Often, it's better to simply walk away when things aren't going well and come back to it later with fresh eyes. Each dog learns differently and patience gives us a new perspective on what we're trying to accomplish."

Also, while an inexperienced dog trainer may think they've made great strides during their training sessions ultimately it's the dog that will determine what has been accomplished. Every trainer should remember that sometimes taking a step back is not a bad thing, it's just something that has to be done - patience, patience, patience.

Follow these tips like the folks at Dogs Unlimited do and get ready for a rewarding upland bird hunting experience with a gun dog that's ready and willing for the challenge ahead.

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Alan O. Davison

Alan O. Davison
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