Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Off Season Fun- Don't Let Them Forget and Get Fat

Pearl has a covey of Huns locked!
Montana Sharptails

Georgia NSTRA 2016 State Champion- Ruby
Top 4 2016 GA NSTRA

Hunting and Field Trialing your bird dog in the Fall is a payoff for what you do in the heat of the summer.  Too many times we let our best hunting buddy lie around the house, or kennel, soaking up the sunshine (or the biscuits) and figure it's time off and a reward for great hunt last year.  While that may be true, these animals are working animals, with the emphasis on "working".  

Once they are out of shape, it is such a pain to get them hunt ready.  I can remember, one year, when the opening day in South Dakota pheasant, dawned clear and hot.  The temperature made it to over 90 degrees that day, where we hunted! I was near Pierre, SD, and I remember taking great pains to ensure the dogs were in the shade and had plenty of cool, clean water.  Later, it was on the news, one hundred dogs around the state, a majority Labradors, died due to heat stroke! (https://www.in-depthoutdoors.com/community/forums/topic/dogs_69482/)  So, one of the things I concentrate on in the summer is conditioning and nutrition.  

Keeping them cool!

To keep them from bulking up over the summer I make sure every week to road my guys a few miles at least twice per week.  To make it a little more fun, I'll road two and let two run free. The run-free guys will follow or forge ahead, as suits them.  On hot days, we'll stop near my neighbor's lake and take the path through the woods to a little, cooling off swim. Some days I'll go with them, some I'll just wait at the 4-wheeler and watch the ripples on the lake as they splash into the water, swim around and return.  Usually that, coupled with reduced summer rations, will keep the pack from getting fat.  To reduce the food, I will feed only dry food (Royal Canin- Medium, or Victor Performance) and adjust it downward a little.  The exact amount is based on numerous factors, but I always start at the recommended amount on the package and go up or down depending on the individual dog. 
Cap backing Ace in Montana- Sharptails
Rather than go through the entire litany of training events, I keep the training to the 'skill' events. Backing, retrieving (water and land), and some obedience training.  Just like us, they tend to get rusty, and even lazy, after a while.   So, I will work one dog (or two dogs together) through backing drills and retrieving some shot birds or bumpers.  I will work on "whoa", "leave it", "here", "fetch", etc.  I'll try to keep it fun, short, and pleasant.  I know each dog, so well, that I can tell when they are tired, etc.  Rather than force them through a lesson, in the summer I will end on a positive note and head back to the barn. 
Ace with a Sharptail

Don't let them get soft and lazy, and, when September rolls around, and Montana opens up, it might be a good time to load up the F250, hook up the camper, kiss the wife and head out for some early season Sharptails and Huns.   Or, have the best conditioned dog at the early season field trial!