We discuss how to prepare your gundog for next season.
Q: What’s the best way to get my dogs fit and ready for the season?
Laura Hill: As summer progresses, and you have been able to get out and do more training with your dog, his overall fitness and stamina will gradually be increasing anyway. It is a mistake to do too much repetitive training though, as the dog will become bored and stale. Try to vary where you go and what you do, if you are getting out more regularly. Also, think about the type of ground you are working on at home, and what you will be required to work on during the season.
There is a big difference between exercising dogs on flat arable land and then expecting them to work on undulating heather and moorland. Steep hills quickly tire dogs that are not used to them.
If you have access to water, swimming is a great way to improve your dogs’ overall fitness and tone, without over-stressing their joints.
Another fun way to improve stamina, is to try cycling with them. If you have access to a mountain bike, there are lots of cycle tracks in local parks and woodlands, that provide an excellent opportunity to get out with your dogs. If that sounds a bit too energetic, then many trainers swear by straightforward road-walking on the lead, to increase fitness gradually over time.
Q: How can I prepare my peg dog for next season?
Jayne Coley: Even out of season, you should be mindful that your dog is obedient; doing as he is told and has good manners. It’s very easy to let standards slip, but conditioning yourself to ensure your dog behaves at all times will pay dividends. For example, sit him up to have a lead put on and taken off, sit him up to be told to come out or go into the kennel or vehicle. He should sit and wait to be told to “go and have a run”, come back straight away when called or whistled, and walk nicely to heel on and off the lead. Everything must be done in your time. Although these exercises are small and relatively uninteresting, they are hugely important and will make a big difference to the pleasure of having a well-behaved companion on and off the shooting field.
Think about your dog’s weaknesses i.e. steadiness, stopping on the whistle, taking hand signals, coming back straight away when called, good delivery. Every dog has at least one area of training which needs to be polished up.
If you need guidance to do this, make some enquiries and contact a reputable dog trainer to have some lessons, or join a local gundog club. Most clubs have a summer training programme, usually in the evenings. It might be an ideal opportunity to meet up with some like-minded shooting friends. Take advantage of the light evenings and arrange to train on a regular basis.
All of this will help in maintaining a good bond with your dog, getting him fit, and sharpening up both of you for the coming season.
It’s also a good time to make sure your dog is up to date with his inoculations. Worming is recommended every three months. Parasites are rife in the summer, so treat him on a regular basis to prevent fleas and ticks. Regular brushing will remove dead skin and hair and enable you to check your dog for any abnormalities. Nails may need trimming and check the ears to make sure they are clean. If he is carrying a few extra pounds, gradually cut his food back until he is down to an ideal weight.