The weather doesn’t feel much like fall right now but come August, I’m dreaming about upcoming hunting plans and trips. Now is the time to prepare both you and your dog. You can have the best hunting spots and the nicest shotgun, but plans can quickly go awry if your dog isn’t ready.
Here are four things to do now to get everything in shape.
1. Check your dog’s weight.
This is absolutely crucial, not only during hunting season but for the dog’s all-around good health. An overweight dog can’t perform its best in the field and could get in trouble with overexertion, especially in extreme heat. A crash diet isn’t the best answer. Rather reduce your dog’s weight slowly. (See our entry titled “Feeding For Ideal Body Condition” for more information.)
2. Make sure your dog is in good health.
Lingering parasites and bacteria that don’t cause problems normally could become issues when your dog is stressed. Betsy and I have had had Lyme’s disease occur many months after a tick bite. It also might be a good idea to get a stool sample checked by your vet for giardia, coccidia and worms.
3. Get your dog in shape.
It takes a good 6 – 8 weeks of regular exercise to get a dog in top-notch shape. Start slowly with moderate exercise and progress to more strenuous routines as the dog improves. Conditioning your dog in the cooler part of the day will provide the most benefit.
4. Make time for training sessions.
Schedule training sessions to tune-up your dog on obedience and bird work. Expect your dog to be a little rusty. Don’t try to get all the training done in one or two sessions. Short sessions spread over a period of time will give the best results—and keep your dog happy and motivated, too!
Make sure your dog gear is in good working order. Check that your ecollar batteries still hold a charge. Better yet, technology improves all the time and perhaps it’s time to upgrade to newer equipment. Buy now and you’ll still have time to learn how it operates.
pa-tience (pa’shens) n. 1. The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset.
For several weeks, I’ve been exercising three male littermates out of our Ox x Chablis litter and Molly, a female from Sean Derrig’s breeding. All are five months old. I run them off a four-wheeler and plan routes to pass ponds along the way.
At a very young age, the three males took to the water like fish. They loved to swim—but not Molly. She would ease up to the edge of the pond, get a drink and then watch. She was just as hot as the others, but unsure of the water.
This happened time after time….until today. When the other puppies jumped into the pond, so did Molly. She swam around and played like she’d done it all her life. It was so satisfying to see.
I didn’t teach Molly to swim. I just gave her ample opportunity and then she figured it out.
The key was patience.
There comes times when it is absolutely necessary for the breaker to go afield with his dog and do nothing but let the dog develop.
~ Training The Bird Dog, C. B. Whitford, 1908
Dogs develop on different schedules and at different paces. To get the best out of your dog, don’t rush it.
Remember this the next time you head out to work your dog. Be patient.
…the distinction between a good and bad specimen in the canine world is conformation.
~McDowell Lyon, The Dog In Action
Good conformation in a dog is highly valuable but essential for a working dog. It allows a bird dog to perform its job effortlessly and gracefully. It provides stamina for long periods of work. It endows the dog with durability for many years of service. Also conformation that is pleasing to the eye can be appreciated even when a dog isn’t working.
Northwoods Nirvana displays ideal conformation for strength and endurance.
Two characteristics form the foundation of good conformation: balance and symmetry; angulation of the front and rear limb assemblies.
Balance and symmetry refer to a dog having proportional size and structure from front to rear, top to bottom and between the individual parts. Some examples of improper balance and symmetry are:
- heavy fronts combined with light rears (a common fault in setters)
- heavy bone without corresponding musculature
- overly large heads
- short necks
- long bodies with short legs
Northwoods Lager shows how the parts should fit together.
Correct angulation provides the propulsion for the dog which gives it strength, speed and stamina. These angles work like levers, multiplying the result for a given amount of effort. It is critical that both assemblies are angulated in unison and don’t work against each other. Examples of improper angulation include:
- straight shoulder blades which cause the front legs to hit the ground too hard
- straight rear legs which cause a reduction in drive and speed
- over-angulated rear legs that interfere with the front legs when in motion, also called crabbing
Northwoods Parmigiano displays good shoulder angulation and balance between front and rear assemblies.
A well-performing dog is the result of good conformation.
~ Robert G. Wehle
At Northwoods Bird Dogs, Betsy and I apply a singular conformation standard to both our pointers and setters. We adopted it from legendary pointer breeder Robert Wehle.
These are the details we look for:
- square, balanced head
- long neck and smooth shoulders with angular blades that are well laid back
- feet should be tight with the dog standing well up on the pad
- front legs should be straight with a medium-deep chest (as opposed to wide)
- back should be slightly arched and have strong, developed loins
- well-tucked stomach
- well-angulated hind legs
- hind quarters should be square and straight
- tail should be set and carried high
For more information about conformation and locomotion in dogs, read McDowell Lyon’s excellent book, The Dog In Action.