Proper Conditioning For Hunting - Spaniels

Proper Conditioning For Hunting - Spaniels

The latest training techniques for spaniels.

"To tell whether a spaniel is in good hunting condition," Don said, "stand behind him and look to the front. His neck should be apparent so that his head doesn't appear to grow out of his shoulders. His rib cage should be well defined, with just a suggestion of rib bones. Between his rib cage and his hips, he should have a slight 'Barbie-doll' indentation."

Don has found that some spaniel owners let their dogs get badly out of shape between hunting seasons. Their dogs spend most of their off-season time as family pets, getting little or no strenuous physical exercise, especially during the harsh winter months.

"Overweight is usually the major issue," he said, "brought on by too little exercise and too much food, especially table scraps and other treats. When you start conditioning your spaniel, you should stop the excess feeding and rely on a high-quality dog food in appropriate quantities."

Don recommends that you start the conditioning process with a trip to the vet for a check-up, followed by a grooming session to remove mats from your dog's coat.

That done, you should start taking your spaniel for daily runs in the field, ideally in hunting cover. Don pointed out that if you walk along while your dog runs and hunts, you'll be less apt to overwork him. When you're tired, so is he, so quit.

"When you're walking," he said, "your dog is covering three to five times as much ground as you are."

Proper Conditioning For Hunting


Pointing Breeds


As your spaniel begins to get into condition, you can add some training drills to your program: patterning work, hunt-deads, retrieving, and so on. But you should keep these drills short and fun for your dog.

Don recommends limited swimming for conditioning a spaniel, such as tossing fun dummies in water, swimming with your dog, and short marking and blind retrieve drills.

"Spaniels are not retrievers," he said. "If you try to swim your spaniel as much as you would in conditioning a retriever, it'll quickly become counter-productive. He may wear out. He may start swallowing too much water. He may start 'puppy paddling.' And he may even refuse to enter the water. So keep his swimming sessions short--and fun."

Don stressed that when conditioning your spaniel in warm weather, you must prevent overheating. In fact, he feels that overheating is the most serious danger the dog faces.

"When you and your dog are exercising together," he said, "he is putting in three to five miles for every one you put in. And he's wearing a fur coat!"

During warm weather, do your conditioning work early in the morning and late in the evening, and have plenty of fresh water available. Never confine your dog in a closed space immediately after exercising. First let him cool down in a lake or in some shade. Then, when you confine him, make sure he has plenty of ventilation.

Don described the signs of overheating as very rapid breathing; hyper-extended tongue; excessive drooling, often followed by a dry mouth and nose; stiff, uneasy movement, weakness; and seeming confusion. At the first sign of overheating, you should cool your dog down immediately with cool water.

If you have cold packs or ice packs, apply them to areas of high blood circulation, such as the groin, armpits, and the front of the neck. If possible, get air circulating around the dog, either with a fan or by putting him into the cab of an air-conditioned vehicle.

"The final, and most important step," Don said, "is a trip to the vet. Even if your dog seems to be stabilized, he's still in serious danger of belated complications, not excluding death!

"An overheated dog needs, and deserves, veterinary supervision."

As a final thought, Don added this: "Hunting is a team effort and both of you need to be in shape so you can support one another's efforts. By working out together in the pre-season, you'll be a better team afield in the fall."

This tip is from Donald P. Krueger of Orion Guide Service, 1825 Lakeview Terrace, Stoughton, WI 53589; (608) 873-8549; e-mail John has been training all sporting breeds (spaniels, retrievers, and pointing breeds) professionally for 14 years. He trains for hunting and hunting tests. He is one of the few, perhaps the only one, to have trained and handled spaniels, retrievers, and pointing breeds to their AKC MH titles. He has judged spaniel and retriever hunting tests, and occasionally breeds Sussex spaniels.

Recommended for You

The Retrieve

Keep Your Flushing Dog within Shotgun Range

Tom Dokken

Here's how to keep your hunting partner from slipping out of range.


Today's Braque Francais

Jerry Thoms

This beautiful breed is more than just a German shorthair with a French accent.


Comeback of the Cocker Spaniel

M.J. Nelson

The cocker spaniel is reclaiming its heritage as a capable performer afield.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Teaching Your Gun Dog Whoa

Whoa is perhaps the most important command that your gun dog will learn. Here's a training process designed to help your dog learn this important step.

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Your Pup's First Year

Bob West - September 23, 2010

A step-by-step analysis on what to expect from your dog By Bob West The...

Shotguns & Ammo

New Upland Shotguns for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

From the 2019 SHOT Show, here are a several new upland shotguns that caught our attention.


Dog Breed Comparison: Chessies vs. Labs

Kyle Wintersteen

Kyle Wintersteen does a dog breed comparison on Chessies and Labs. See how these two breeds...

See More Stories

More Health & Nutrition

Health & Nutrition

Nutrition Guidelines for Your Gun Dogs

John Holcomb, DVM - May 08, 2018

When is comes to gun dog nutrition guidelines, there should be no cutting corners.

Health & Nutrition

Puppy Food for Hunting Breeds

Tony J. Peterson

Why your four-legged youngster need a specific formula

Health & Nutrition

Why High-Performance Dog Foods Are Worth The Price

Tony J. Peterson

Find out why quality is worth the investment for your pup!

See More Health & Nutrition

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.