Preparing Your Dog For the Upcoming Hunting Season: Part 2 – Building on the Foundation

Don’t Wait

Last post, I covered some of the fundamentals of building a training and nutrition foundation for your dog. This week, I want to talk through some of the practical steps you can take. The best advice I can give is don’t plan on hunting your dog into shape, get them out and get going now!

When training your own dog, strategize on these same issues months before the season opens:

  • How hard and how often am I going to hunt this season?
  • Is my dog in condition for this level of activity? Can they get in condition? It takes 6 to 8 weeks of conditioning to build up a dog’s muscular and cardio systems to toughen them up for the rigors of hunting!
  • What can I do on a daily or weekly basis to get myself and my dog(s) in condition to perform?
    • Walk in the park or around the lake
    • Take them swimming
    • Roading on a bike or ATV
    • Trail hiking
  • Can I join a hunting or conservation group in my area to support my training needs and provide locations, dogs, and people with whom I can train?
  • Are there local dog handling and shooting events I can join? These local KC groups all love to host events and help new members learn the ropes:
  • How about heading to the local gun club for a tune-up and to get my dog juiced to be around guns and gunpowder?
  • Are there local shooting preserves that I can take my dog to for an assessment before I head out on an out-of-state trip?
  • Can I afford a professional trainer to provide the necessary skills, time, and effort to get my dog ready for the season?

Opening Day: Emergency Heat Stress Essentials

I’ve gotten my dogs in shape, our vet has signed off on their health exam and off we go to the Dakotas. For the past several years, opening days in October have been hot and in some areas in drought. Having sufficient water on hand and with you cannot be stressed enough. A dog doesn’t sweat, so its critical to provide routine flushes of the mouth and tongue to keep their radiator working in the field. I routinely carry 3 bottles of water and pass around others in my party to have on every pass. I’ll also reduce the number of dogs on the ground to assure the water on hand will get us to the end of the field.

When working pheasants to blockers, assure that the blockers are well stocked so when the dogs reach them they have access to water. At the rig, I routinely carry a large 18” pan to fill for all the dogs to be able to access for drinks and feet bathing.


It is easier for me to see stress in a well-conditioned dog versus an out-of-condition one. When our dogs get heat stressed – their gait and pace slows down dramatically. For a slow-running dog, it may not be as evident and you should routinely check their temperature. Their standard should be at 101 to 104 degrees, once it goes above that they are in distress.

At the earliest signs of heat stress, get your dog stopped and in the shade. Flush the mouth area with water and wrap them in wet towels, don’t let them drink too much. You can use ice packs, but don’t immerse them in ice water. Get them to a vet if there’s one nearby.

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