It is hot. 

 So now that I have gotten that obvious statement out of the way, let’s talk about the summer and how we can continue to prepare for the upcoming season, which we all know is right around the corner.     

 The first thing I would like to talk about is not our four legged friends but the person who is behind the gun. Yes, you and I. So let’s start with the gun. It is that time to start preparing to take the shots that our four legged friends work so hard to set up for us. We have all gotten that look from our dogs when we miss a shot. You know, the one that says “Miss another one and I am getting a new owner.” So for us to avoid that look, we need to get out and practice.   

 I am talking about getting to your local range and shooting the games that they have to offer. If they offer Five Stand or something with multiple presentations, then I would recommend that over the repetitive nature of skeet and trap. However if that is all they have, then get out there. Either way, you breaking clay is better than not getting any practice at all.

  Now let’s talk about you being able to keep up with the dog. We know that it takes some time to get ourselves ready to walk behind our dogs for about three hours or however long you hunt. Now is the time to start getting yourself in shape to keep up with the dog so you can be successful. You can start walking. Start at a moderate pace and a distance that is not too difficult to attain. Keep the goals as you get started realistic in this heat. As you get stronger, increase the distance, speed, and then start adding the weight that you will be carrying. This is a simple way to start getting ready. Of course you can add weights, swimming, running, or biking to further improve your fitness and ensure you can keep up with the dog power you are following.

  So now that we are a lean and mean hunting machine that can hit a target from any angle or presentation, let’s talk about the most important part of this team.

  Our dogs are very much aware of the heat during the summer. They can actually teach us a thing or two. Lay around, enjoy the sun, and when you can roll in the grass. This may sound like an ideal summer but there is work to do.
  Let’s start with conditioning. The thing I like is getting out in the early morning and letting the dogs free run for about half an hour. I don’t start the summer this way; it usually is about ten minutes and we work up to it. Again it is hot and I am not going to run them just to cause a heat injury. This gives me the rest of the day to do what I need to and then work on yard work in the evening.
  Speaking of yard work, I am deep in the throws of obedience training with the new puppy. We are working on sit, stay, recall, and heel. We do some informal retrieving training with the retrieving dummy. This I will translate later in the summer to retrieving some frozen birds and some that I freshly kill for him. A little caveat here: I teach my pointing dog to sit because they are a pet most of the year and need to have some manners. I can work around it when the breaking time comes.
  Also in the yard I work on having the dog stay in front of me as I walk around and then when I switch direction I get him to change with me. This is to make the transition in the field easier and makes him pay attention to me.
  One thing that is a great way to condition the dogs in the summer is swimming. It has a low impact on their joints and spine. It gives resistance to the muscles so they develop and get stronger. It also gives them some serious cardio training. All this is provided and the risk of the dog overheating is eliminated by being in the water.

  A word of caution, especially in the Southeast: Algae blooms in ponds are a bad thing. The algae can cause a dog to get gravely ill or even take the dog’s life. So ensure that the pond that you are using is aerated or has fresh water pumped in or something to keep the water from getting stagnant.
  The last thing I want to talk about is that there are other factors to consider when training in the summer. The ones I am thinking of are the reptile kind. The snakes are out in the summer and they are just doing their thing. This means the likelihood of you and your dog running up on one or more of these critters is pretty high. Hopefully your dog has no interest in them and will leave them alone. However, we all know that bird dogs are a curious bunch and a critter on the ground is something that they are going to investigate. So I recommend getting your dog snake broken if you can. This will help your dog learn to keep away from snakes and will save you a lot of time (and cash) at the vet.
  All in all, the summer is a time to train not just your dog but yourself as well. Enjoy the time outdoors, and be creative to get your dog and you safely tuned up for the season. Hope to see you in the field this season.


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