Top Tips to Ready Your Hunting Dog for the Upcoming Season

July 19, 2023

Preparing for a Successful Hunt

As avid hunters, we know what we need to do to prepare ourselves, and our gear, for the next hunting season, but often we overlook the most important friend we have in the field, our dog. While it is easy to think that once our dog is trained, it will always be ready, but just like us, our canine hunting partners need offseason work and conditioning. Keeping yourself and your dog in shape and ready for the fall can be tedious and time consuming, but following these simple steps ensures that both you and your hunting dog are ready to get into the field and have a successful season.

Keep them in top physical shape

Extreme weather and demanding conditions during the hunting season not only require you to be physically ready, but your dog needs to be in great physical shape as well. Offseason physical activity and exercise is essential. Letting your dog run freely and taking them on controlled runs are simple ways to ensure stamina and increases their endurance. During the hot summer months, early morning or late evenings are the best time to get your dog active to prevent heat exhaustion or keep them engaged in the training.

Taking your dog swimming can be even more effective as it lets them use their whole body while preserving their joints and muscles through the low impact exercise. Trainers and vets recommend having your dog in top hunting shape two to three months before the season starts.

Provide them with a healthy diet

Ensuring your dog continues to eat a healthy and balanced diet throughout the offseason is critical. Be sure to monitor your dog’s food intake based on the level of physical activity they’re receiving. When you get into longer hours of work with your hunting companion, additional fat and protein will be essential. They need good muscle strength and strong bones to catch or retrieve game and walk long distances.

Hunting dogs work up quite the appetite in a day’s work. That is why it’s important to choose a hardy dog food that will satisfy their hunger while ensuring they receive the proper nutrients to maintain an active lifestyle. Allowing your dog to get lazy and gain weight will only make the adjustment to hunting season even more difficult and providing a healthy diet is a great place to start.

Practice training and stimulation

It may seem like a way off but hunting season will be here before we know it and it is important to not let your dog lose its expertise and edge during the offseason. Work on behaviors and obedience commands you expect your dog to follow in the field. Make sure they know where they are supposed to be in your truck, boat, blind, or ATV, and how to get into and out of those locations when needed. Spending 30 minutes every other day on training sessions focused on common commands may be enough through the offseason and as we get closer to the start of the season, plan to increase the intensity of the training.

Adhering to a pregame program means they always make it through the entire season and work each and every day without the conditioning injuries and ailments.

Prep them for field safety

The summer is a great time to shop for new gear for the upcoming season, but don’t forget about new gear for your dog too! New safety gear, including a bright orange vest or reflective collars are fundamentals for the field. If you have a dog that tends to roam a little further, consider a new GPS collar or even an offseason microchip for added security.

Accidents inevitably happen in the field so make sure the first aid kit for your dog is fully stocked and updated. And if it’s time for a new kit, look for a canine trauma kit that treats abrasions, puncture wounds, sprains, eye injuries, hypothermia, and more. This is also a good time of the year to take your dog to your vet for a full health screening and get them up to date on any immunizations and vaccines they might be needing.

One of the most important things to remember this hunting season is that you and your dog should have fun while training and exercising just as you would chasing birds and retrieving waterfowl.

Taking the steps to prepare your dog for the field is essential. That means proper exercise, nutrition, and training are a must for the dogs this time of year. Expecting your dog to withstand the intensity of work in the field without offseason preparation is setting yourself and your dog up for failure this hunting season.

So, get out there with your dog and get him as excited and ready for the hunting season as you are!