We all know how important it is for a hunting dog to be, not only in great mental condition, but to have great physical health as well. During the off season, it is really easy to let your dog get out of shape. Many opening day trips full of promise end up in disappointment and frustration when the poor pooch just can't meet the rigorous demands of the hunt. Below are some great exercises for your dog, no matter what you choose to hunt.
Run, Don’t Walk
Cardio and endurance should be the first focus. Cross country running can be a fantastic way to exercise your dog. The uneven terrain forces muscles to get a more well-rounded work out as well. If you are now personally in condition to do that type of run, most hunting dogs are easily trained to run alongside a bicycle. If fields to run in are not readily available, you can also try a harness leash while you are pulled along on roller blades. This method isn’t recommended if you have a young untrained dog, or if you can't skate. You'll also want to make sure to limit this activity, as you don't want to damage the pads on your dog's feet.
Swimming in Style
On those particularly hot days, swimming is a wonderful cardio workout for your dog. For retrievers, it also doubles as a training exercise for hunting water birds. Water exercise keeps you dog's body heat regulated and, if you aren't at a pool, you have a readily available source for much needed hydration. Remember to make sure to use a non-motorized boat only area for the safety of your friend.
Faux hunting is also a great way to keep your dog in shape and happy. Retrieval exercises, lure coursing, and scent training, depending on your chosen form of hunt, can be a great way to keep your dog engaged in the process as well. If you just got a new retriever puppy, see if suppliers like Red Fern Companions have puppy training classes. These can help you to get down the basics before doing any hunting training. Don't be afraid to exercise your pet in different weather conditions as well. As always, check with your dog's vet to make sure they are healthy enough before implementing any workout.
An off season of laying on the couch can make both you and your pet unprepared for hunting this year. But starting now, maintaining conditioning is easier than obtaining it. A dog in peak physical condition is a joy to hunt with, and is safer to be around.