Conditioning Our Canines
We have been asked to write an article on how we condition our dogs during the off-season and prepare them for test, trials and hunting season. By keeping our dogs in good condition throughout the entire year, we believe we will add longevity and years to your hunting partner. Understanding that there is an equal comparison to being physically and mentally fit has helped us to continue our conditioning program year around. During our training program we notice that if the dog enters our kennel physically out of shape, it will take them longer to learn the techniques we teach. The attention span between a well-conditioned person and animal is greater and therefore the learning process is expanded as well. Risk of injury is also reduced in the field during both training and hunting when we strengthening the muscles and tendons along with lubricating the joints. Training the body to recover to from a work out will allow us to hunt longer and more often. Our conditioning program is built around several key factors that play a very important role in not only the time it takes to get into condition, but what level we can take our dogs in their abilities to keep going. We feel that plenty of fresh/clean water, quality and quantity of rest between workouts along with the proper nutritional fortification. The nutritional program we choose is key to replenish, rebuild, and repair muscle tissue while obtaining their immune system, along with many other sub clinical functions often overlooked. Every time we fill up our vehicles with gasoline we have a choice between a "Premium", "Mid-Grade", or "Lower Price" fuel. This is what we think of when we choose which dog food provides the best fuel for our hunting companions. We all know that the "Premium" fuel will cost us more up front, but in the long run with the higher octane we should get better fuel efficiencies and cleaner engine with fewer problems on filters and the rest of the fuel system. The "Mid-Grade" is kind of in-between the more costly and higher octane yet better for our cars then the bargain priced gasoline. We all agree, the "Lower Priced" fuel that is more gallons for our money but understand that we are not getting the extra ingredients that keep our engines running smoothly our help us improve our efficiencies. With this scenario you can imagine which of the above fuel we put into our dogs. In fact, we search for the best dog food that will give us the performance we need to achieve the accomplishments and goals of our kennel. There are several "Premium" dog foods available that are formulated to meet the needs of the most discriminating dog trainer. We feel that you need to feed a dog food for a minimum of 6-12 months before you can make any decisions or observations on the results. There are many variables that may affect the results of which brand of dog food you choose. Many times we choose one dog food over the other by what we see on the out side or out put of what we put into them. Reading stools are very important if we understand what a stool should look like! Timing of feeding has been the best move for our kennel and has made our dogs much more efficient by having a healthier digestive system and running cooler in trials and tests. Feeding time in our kennel is at the end of the day after all of the work is done. This will allow the food to digest over a length of time while they rest.
When we develop and draw out our conditioning program, we must first understand what our goals are before we begin. Making sure that our animals are healthy enough prior to starting by visiting with a veterinarian as very important! Make sure that you submit a stool and blood sample for external and internal parasites along with a complete and thorough physical examination.
We base our conditioning program around three basic areas that compliment one another for a complete workout of the entire body and organs.
- We road our dogs early in the morning
on gravel, often before daylight when the traffic is sparse.
We hook four dogs to a harness to pull a four-wheeler 3 miles
with out starting the four-wheeler. This helps build endurance
and the strength needed to reduce injuries in the field and
also conditions pads to prevent blow outs. It is always important
to water the dogs during this work out and make sure you do
not offer free choice water after this work out! Thirty minuets
is long enough for this exercise.
- During the heat of the afternoon we
"free lance" our dogs off the four-wheeler in large pastured
areas to at a slow but steady pace. This allows the dog to
learn many different training techniques as well as improving
lung capacity and scenting abilities at the same time. It
is important to condition a dog in the same heat of the day
that they will be exposed to during hunting or trialing. If
we road our dogs in the morning we do not "free lance" them
in the afternoon. We free lance dogs for 45 minuets at a time.
- We swim our dogs several nights a week! This improves cardiovascular and works different muscle groups creating less stress on tendons. We notice a big improvement in our winnings shortly after we introduce this to our condition program! Swimming dogs will take 1 hour out of your day!