For many of us, opening day is just around the corner (44 days for those of us in East Tennessee). Make sure you and your dog are ready for it. These simple guidelines can help you make the most of the off-season:
1. Maintain a Balanced Diet
During season; it’s easy to remember to feed your dog the best food available, all the proper supplements and to not indulge on treats. The
off-season can sometimes lead us to be more lax on these standards. Spending more time around the house can often means more feedings and treats. While this may seem like a great reward for an excellent season, you may be putting your hunting partner at a serious disadvantage. Packing on some extra pounds will mean it’s harder for your dog to function on the hunt, and the first few weeks of your season will be spent getting back in shape instead of getting game. Make it a goal to keep your dog on his season diet, and encourage the whole family to do the same. The occasional treat is not only ok, but encouraged. Just make sure to exercise moderation.
2. Keep Up a Regular Exercise Program
Olympic athletes didn’t spend the last three years kicking back on the couch, then just hop a plane to London, and neither can your pup. If you want your dog to be able to put in the miles come season open, he needs to be doing it right now. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of time to keep up his endurance and muscle tone for the season. Walks and hiking are great ways to get your hunting partner up and moving, and regular swims are great to beat the summer heat. Anything to make sure your dog gets to build and maintain muscle and cardiovascular performance will be an advantage come opening day.
3. Visit the Vet
Make sure opening day goes off without a hitch by getting your hunting partner to his doctor before the big day. Not only is this a great opportunity to have all of his immunizations updated, it also gives you a chance for a professional to give your pup the once over. Ensure that your vet does a visual gait analysis and joint inspection. Dogs are very good at hiding pain or discomfort. Your vet should be able to notice symptoms you may not. Finding and diagnosing any potential problems in this area are vital to a healthy, happy season for you and your dog.
While you’re at the vet, you should go ahead and grab your dog’s records. If you intend to do any traveling with your dog during the season, these will be important. Some states require a veterinary health certificate as well, which your vet will be able to provide.
4. Get Out the Grooming Kit
Make sure you adhere to a regular schedule of grooming your dog, even in the off season. Untrimmed nails pose a threat of injury to your dog in thick cover, and even around the house. Regular baths and brushings will help remove excess hair that can hold in warmth and increase the risk of heat exhaustion in your dog. Keeping a steady grooming routine going all year long will reduce these risks through season and summer training.
5. NEVER Stop Training
We know we sound like a bit of a broken record with how much we push off-season, but it is that important. Think back to your first few days of school after summer vacation as a kid. It was tough to get your brain back in gear and to get the routine back down. Those will be your dog’s first few days on the hunt if he doesn’t receive regular training throughout the year. It’s certainly OK to take vacations here and there, but consistency is key for your pup to be running at the top of his game.
Follow these guidelines and you and your hunting partner will enjoy a much more productive and fun opening day. What other tips do you have for optimizing your dog’s performance?