You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: Summer Practice

Those poor kids, training on the field during the summer months for the fall football season. Give thanks to the coaches for recognizing when the students are about to blow a radiator. “Hit the bench,” the boss says. For good reason, too. Nothing worse than a parent-teacher conference where the big guy has to explain to mom and pop why their child had to be rushed to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

Summer is fast approaching. It’s also a time when most hunting seasons have passed. Both you and your gun dog have nothing to do but watch re-runs of “Too Cute” on the Animal Planet or take a trip to the creek and stare at the fish not biting your bait. Suddenly, a burst of brain smarts hits you. The kids are charging around in the hot summer sun after a pigskin, why not put your gun dog through its paces, too.

Pant, Pant, Pant

Not a bad idea. The only thing that’s different is that you won’t be meeting with any authority figures — except for the vet — if you overdo it. You’ve shelled out a fist full of pretty pennies on the breed, spent countless time and money to train them to be your companion in the woods. The last thing you want is your pup to overextend themselves, trying to please you, during the upcoming warm months while you guys decide to break the boredom with some refresher courses.

You’re the coach and you need to know when to bench the mutt. They’ve got something in their blood that pushes them to extremes. That’s why you picked your best friend to begin with. You wanted a buddy that’s got 110% stamped on their floppy ears. As a gun dog coach, well-bred canines will drive themselves until they explode.

Taking the Fate Out of Fatal

It’s the weekend. You’d like to sleep-in. Forget it. The best time to get the dog in shape is by starting early in the day. As you see the sun start to peek-up over the horizon, summon the pup. Time to play and keep them (and yourself) fit for the upcoming season. Anyone who works for a human fitness center will tell you that exercise is not a “when you feel like it” kind of thing. It’s a regular activity.

Both you and the mutt need to unroot from  the couch on a regular basis. Once or twice a week. Don’t want to lose any beauty sleep on Saturday morning. Get up extra early a couple of days during the week. Remember, the two of you aren’t going to shop ’til you drop. A little daily exercise can save you from cramming it all into the weekend.

Keep It Interesting

One exercise is cover. If they’re always practicing this activity in one particular place, that’s boring. Shake things up by getting the pup into as many different situations as possible during summer morning training. Is the young’un turning up its snout as it pertains to heavy cover? Entice them with a simple toss of a retrieving dummy, thrown smack-dab in the middle of the heavy cover. Using a live pigeon. Check your local laws. Don’t want to get busted by a game warden on their morning run.

Take a Dip

Now here’s something you can do practically anytime of the day during the warm weather months. Water naturally cools down your dog. Exercise-wise, there’s nothing better than the energy expended retrieving while swimming.

Try this: Have your pet take a run beside you on your bicycle. The end point: A pond, lake or river. You get the idea. They steam-up on the run and cool-off taking a dip.

Speaking of water, always carry along an ample supply of H2O in any training practice to keep the pup hydrated. And take breaks every 15-minutes (of whenever you detect the mutt reaching its limits).

One thing we forgot to mention. These training sessions should be done for at least an hour-and-a-half every time you regularly undertake the role as coach.

Exercise is a life-long habit for both your pup and it’s big human pal. As an old-timey philosopher  once said “everything in moderation.” You don’t want your star quarterback watching the game from the stands when it’s time for the Friday Night (or early Saturday morning) lights.

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