The Dog Days of Summer

It is the beginning of summer and the mercury is not rising; it has risen. We as bird hunters are left with the thoughts of what do we do to not only ready ourselves for the upcoming season but what are we going to do for our four legged friends to help them in their preparation for the upcoming season.

While the trainers on the major field trial circuits are getting ready to go north to the prairies and run the dogs of their clients on wild Pheasants and Sage Grouse. Get them in tip top shape with roading and the hands on finishing that only the pros can do.The rest of us that are not sending our dogs to the prairies are left to figure out what to do in the hot weather.

What is usually the topic of conversation around here is force fetch, steadying and backing. Water work for the versatile and retrieving guys.

Last summer my setter and I went through the force fetch regimen.  At the beginning it was a little intimidating but after I did some reading and talking to guys more experienced than me, we got started. It paid off during the past season to have my dog bring the bird to hand. This is the first dog that I ever had to force and take through the entire process. I found it a rewarding process for me to get through as a trainer. I also think it helped me and my dog’s understanding of each other.

The one thing that I don’t hear mentioned too often is fitness. Sure we talk about our dogs and running them and getting them in the water to swim in the hot weather. However most conversations are not about what we are going to do to get ready to spend hours behind a bird dog that we conditioned and is burning up the cover for hours.

If you are like me there was a time that I was into running and lifting weights to ensure that I was able to keep up. Those days have passed with the changing of careers and the aging of my body. I am a little more arthritic than I was and hitting the pavement is not something that is advised for my knees and ankles.  So how am I going to overcome this by walking. I will start with a getting the endurance up to go up to five miles.Then I will start adding a backpack to strengthen my shoulders and back so when I am wearing a vest all day and it is loaded down I will have the correct muscles conditioned to carry the weight. As I condition to the pack I will also work on  covering the distance a little faster as the summer wears on. The goal in mind is to be able to walk up on a point late in the day.

Another part of my plan in this preparation to go is involving some calisthenics and exercises that I learned over the years. Being able to cover ground with some weight on your back is important with everything that we carry in our vests these days but you also need to be able to carry the gun, shoulder it and make the shot after covering some miles.

As I am doing all of this the goal will be to have the endurance to walk up to a point at the end of the day and not be dragging my feet or sucking wind. I will able to make the shot and enjoy watching my dog make a retrieve and then we head back to the truck and then be able to go out and do it again the next day.

To sum this all up I would like to say that as you prepare your dog and equipment for the upcoming season remember to take the time to get yourself ready.Your dog will appreciate it.

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