These beneficial exercises for hunting dogs encourage greater success out in the field, while helping to protect your dog’s long term physical health—a win-win.
No matter if it’s off-season or you have plans to go hunting with your pup next weekend, regular exercise is crucial for hunting dogs. After all, they are true athletes and should be treated as such. If you attend competitions or hunt clubs, you’ve likely seen a dog collapse from exhaustion after only retrieving a couple birds. With the proper muscling and stamina, your dog is sure to outlast a couple retrievals.
First, you gotta put in the work to get there! These top exercises for hunting dogs can help achieve a well-balanced and strong dog with the stamina to go hard out in the field.
Top exercises for hunt dogs #1: Swimming + Water Fetch
Hunt tests and real-life hunts include retrieving on land and water, so it’s important your dog is prepped to play fish. Swimming is a great way to get your dog more comfortable in the water, while getting a great workout. Swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise, so it’s easy on your dog’s joints and bones. Just like any other exercise, start slow and increase distances over time. Water training is ideal on hot days, as it can help prevent heat stroke while still ensuring a good workout.
Keep your dog active in the water by having him retrieve a decoy. Even hunt dogs in premium condition struggle going non-stop full speed. A couple short retrieves followed by one long retrieve is a good way to break it up. Lots of praise in between retrieves will keep your dog enthusiastic.
Top Exercises for Hunt Dogs #2: Walking
3 to 4 times a week, take your dog on a one-mile walk. It’s best to walk your dog on grass, dirt, or some other soft surface. Asphalt and pavement are rough on paw pads, as well as joints and bones. Walk through parks, public places and unfamiliar locations to get your dog used to seeing people and other animals. In the process, you’re killing two birds with one stone; training a successful hunt dog involves both physical and mental preparation.
Top Exercises for Hunt Dogs #3: Jogging
Start slow with short and paced jogs that progress into longer and faster runs when your dog is ready. Your dog will tell you when they are burning, you just need to know the signals to look out for. Pay close attention to your dog’s signals and give breaks as needed. Free running is a superb way to increase stamina.
Your physical fitness is important too. For the best results out in the field, both dog and hunter should be in good physical shape. Running with your dog helps you improve stamina too.
Top Exercises for Hunt Dogs #4: Field Play
Around one or two times a week, take your dog out on the field for some faux hunting exercise. Set your dog up just like you would out in the field, with him trailing ahead of you. Use your whistle to tell your dog when to turn. When your dog is sitting, blow a few whistles, commanding him to run towards you. This is a great time to work on different whistle and hand cues. Don’t forget positive reinforcement when your dog is especially quick to respond.
Exercises Tailored to Your Hunting Dog
Every dog is different, and that’s why every exercise program should be a little different. Start slow and build up. Pushing your dog too hard or fast in the beginning increases risk of injury. Hunt dogs tend to persist even in the face of exhaustion or pain, and the last thing you want is to overdo it and injure your hardworking dog.
Consider the type of hunt dog you are working with when creating an exercise agenda. For instance, retrievers are often tasked with running short distances through muck, heavy aquatic vegetation, or water, and then returning to their handler as quickly as possible. This requires a lot of muscle and physical power. On the other hand, upland pointers and flushing breeds require greater cardiovascular conditioning and stamina to run across longer distances.
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