Every time I hear someone say that they hunt their dog into shape, I cringe. There are two reasons for my reaction. The first is that it's absolutely unfair to get a dog little to no exercise and then expect them to hunt hard as soon as the opening bell rings. None of us would run a marathon with zero training, and we shouldn't ask our dogs to either.
The second reason I react so negatively to that statement is that it means the dog hasn't been worked with much, if at all. That means not only physically is the dog behind, but mentally as well. Summertime drills serve two purposes, one of which is to keep a dog learning, problem solving, and mentally sharp. Of course, these drills benefit greatly from the right gear.
Following are several tools any trainer should have in his arsenal.
ALPS OutdoorZ Water-Shield Blind Bag
You're a diehard pheasant hunter who is above duck hunting right? So, why would you need a blind bag? Because you should be training in the water — that's why. During hot summer months there are few better ways to ease an upland dog into shape than through water-based drills. The best way to cart your training accoutrements to the water's edge is through the Water-Shield Blind Bag, which is designed with TPU waterproof material to keep its contents dry. It weighs only two pounds, can hold a lot more than it first appears, and is an excellent training bag. Plus, if you duck hunt at all it's absolutely essential to time in the blind, boat or simply sitting pond-side.
Dokken Dog Supply DeadFowl Trainer Pheasant
What self-respecting dog trainer doesn't own a couple of DFTs? Not one that I can think of. Here's the deal about training dummies — Tom Dokken reinvented the category by realizing he could make a dummy that would encourage proper holding behavior with every retrieve. A lot of companies have slipped in and tried to copy his idea, but the reality is that DFTs are the way to go. The Pheasant is the most popular in the upland crowd, but you can find a dummy to closely mimic your favorite quarry in the extensive lineup. Pick up a Power Throw Grip to attach to your DFTs to be able to toss them farther, and get ready to watch your dog learn during every drill.
D.T. Systems Master Retriever 1100 Training Collar
This e-trainer is waterproof, features a 1000-yard range, and boasts 16 intensity levels of Gentle Touch Nick and Continuous e-Stim. It's expandable to a two- or three-dog system, compact, fully rechargeable and offers Vibration Assist, which is a no-shock vibration option for soft training. If, in addition to hunting your way through the high ground for everything from quail to ruffs, you also happen to enjoy a little waterfowling, you can opt for the 1100 in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades camo.
Gunner Kennels G1 Medium
Bomb-proof kennels are the best way to transport your upland pup to and from the training grounds (and the CRP fields come fall). For this task, it's difficult to beat the G1 Medium from Gunner Kennels. This kennel is designed for dogs up to 45 pounds (they offer larger and smaller models as well), boasts a 5 Star crash rating, a lifetime warranty, elevated feet, an escape-proof door, and a drainage system. Gunner Kennels aren't cheap, but they are built to last and are worth every single penny.
Kinetic Performance Dog Food Supplements
Kinetic produces some of the best sporting-dog food on the market, and for 2018 they've stepped into the supplement category. This is good news for dogs. Three options — Hydration, Digestion, and Weight Gain are available and each is designed to give hard-working dogs a health and performance boost. If you've ever worked out hard for weeks on end in preparation for a serious physical challenge, or simply spend some time each day keeping yourself in shape, you know how important the right supplements are. It's no different for dogs, so give them an edge this summer with Kinetic's latest offerings.
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Purina Pro Plan Sport Chicken & Egg Formula
It's pretty hard to beat Purina Pro Plan Sport when you're working with a canine athlete. Their latest formula contains real, high-quality protein from chicken and other sources. What it doesn't contain is grain or soy. Chicken & Egg Formula also offers omega-3s and antioxidants, which work to nourish the immune system. If you've got a couch-potato dog, this 30/20 formula probably isn't the best choice, but if you're dog is working through drills every day and prepping for the hunting season, you could do a heck of a lot worse than filling up his bowl with this high-end nutrition.
YETI LoadOut Buckets
The thing that ticks me off about YETI is that they keep telling me what I need. For example, I saw their LoadOut Bucket and thought, "Well, that's stupid." After all, I can get a five-gallon bucket at the hardware store for the price of an iced coffee down the road. But then I looked at the handle, and the overall shape, and realized the LoadOut was different. I put one to use carrying a bunch of dummies to work water drills with my Lab and realized once again, that YETI was like my mother and had nudged me in the right direction in life. Now it's a mainstay for my training drills. If you use a five-gallon bucket in any part of your life, I promise you the LoadOut is better than what you're using. Try one, you'll see.