6 Tips for Keeping Your Gun Dog In Shape

dog_in_shape_5Imagine a buddy showing up at your house at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning dressed in a running outfit. He's competing in a 10K race and is urging you to join him. The event starts in an hour. Could you make it to the finish line?

Your days are spent sitting in a chair tapping on a keyboard; your evenings are centered around dinner, a couch and a television. Thank God for remote controls. Odds are your dog leads an equally sedentary life this time of year. When opening day comes around, however, you expect your dog to finish the equivalent of a 10K without a day of conditioning. He'd fail as miserably as you would.

Your dog needs training right now. In much the same way that professional athletes must keep in top physical and mental shape during the off-season, your four-legged hunting partner needs to stay sharp and strong, too.

Kerkhoven, Minnesota resident and Avery Outdoors territory manager Mark Brendemuehl works his Labrador retrievers virtually every day outside of hunting season. If he's not in the field, there's a good chance he's tossing bumpers, even putting his dogs on live birds at least an hour each day. Much of the activity is general conditioning.

A dog that stays in shape throughout the summer will hunt harder and last longer in the fall. Brendemuehl, however, also keeps his retriever's hunting skills sharp through regular training.

"A dog can certainly forget what she's learned over the course of a few months if the things they've learned aren't reinforced on a regular basis," he says. "We forget how to do things if we don't do them often. Dogs are no different."

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