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Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
'Heel and sit'
Friday, September 28, 2018
Assessing Performance

Dove season 2018
With the opening of dove season just around the corner, I hope you and your dog are properly prepared. It can be a real mistake to take a dog out to the field to work if he’s not in good shape. This year, especially, may be hot and dry and an unfit dog can really suffer under those conditions.

It’s never too late to exercise your dog if you take care not to overwork the dog in your haste to get him fit quickly. It’s best to work up to longer work sessions gradually. Walking with your dog is ideal and foxtail season is mostly over. Of course, it’s wise to walk any field before taking your dog out, to be sure there aren’t trash hazards or snakes.

A park is great because it’s usually mowed and crowds keep varmints away. Even a stroll in the cool of the evening is helpful, and is better than no exercise at all. The ideal hunting spot is one with a pond that is familiar to you and poses no hazards for the dog’s safety.

Of course, if your dog isn’t fit and you still want to take him hunting, you will need to be especially vigilant. Overheating can occur quickly and is probably the most common danger I see in the field. If a dog goes down from heat and exhaustion, he can certainly be revived, but the likelihood of having the dog collapse in the future after such an episode can be more likely.

An overheated dog should be cooled off as soon as possible by taking him into a shady area and allowing him to pant until he recovers. If he’s not too unsteady, a swim can help. Whether or not to put the dog in icy water or pack him in ice is debatable. Some trainers suggest using ice, but a recent article in Retriever Field Trial News says this is a bad idea.

The author, an experienced veterinarian, explains that dogs cool themselves solely through panting. His advice is that ice contracts the capillaries in the skin and inhibits panting — both part of the dog’s self-cooling mechanism. So, probably the best advice remains that care should be taken to avoid overheating a dog in the first place.

A productive hunt with a fit dog is, of course, every owner’s goal. The experience of enjoying the companionship of friends and dogs is something I cherish. Preparing a dog to be the best he can be — trained and in shape — is a worthy goal. The very process of training a dog is enjoyable, but the hunting experience remains the real reward.

Have fun hunting.

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Grady’s articles generally appear in WON every other week and he can be reached at

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