Gearing Up for Fall Hunting Season & Field Trials

Getting dogs in shape for fall hunting season and field trials involves six to eight weeks of a progressive exercise and conditioning program that builds up a dog’s muscle and cardiovascular systems. Experienced owners know that the best practice is keeping dogs active in the summer. A healthy, fit dog is better positioned to begin brush-up exercise and training as fall approaches.
Before beginning a conditioning program, a dog should be taken to the veterinarian for a basic health assessment. This should include catching up on vaccinations, checking for parasites, determining dental hygiene, and conducting an overall body evaluation. The purpose is to learn of any medical problems that could impact training or field performance.
Heat stress is a concern among sporting dogs regardless of how conditioned they are. Poorly conditioned, overweight and young dogs are more prone to the dangers of overheating. Regardless of the age or weight of a dog, owners should start exercise sessions slow and easy. Owners also may consider adjusting exercise programs during hot, humid weather to include or emphasize alternate activities. Repeated water retrieves or longer swims also are recommended.
Owners should pay close attention to the signs of stress and overheating. Dogs’ body organs function best at a normal \ body temperature of 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. High body temperature equates to exhaustion. Most dogs shut down as body temperature approaches 107 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Become less animated, with his facial expression showing concern or apprehension as stress or overheating becomes a factor
  • Have a slower pace and cover less ground
  • Have lower tail carriage and less tail action
  • Wobble or pant excessively or excitedly


To avoid the dangers of overheating, it is important to keep dogs hydrated. Even slight dehydration results in poor performance and problems with thermoregulation. Clean, fresh water should be offered to dogs in small amounts from a water bottle as often as every 10 minutes during hard work, and a bowl of cool water should always be at hand when dogs are active or at rest.
Normally, body temperature can be safely brought under control by stopping activity, getting the dog to a shady, quiet, breezy area, and allowing the dog to drink small amounts of cool, clean water. A dog also may be immersed in cool – not icy -- water, or cool water can be poured over the dog’s body concentrating on flank, genital and stomach areas. A pronounced effect can be achieved by washing slime and saliva away from the mouth and tongue and flushing the mouth with cool water. This quickly cools circulating blood that cools the body core.
If none of these measures help or if a dog’s condition has advanced to the point of dry panting, lethargy or muscle pain, more drastic measures like ice packs to the head, neck and belly are recommended. You also should take your dog to the nearest veterinarian.
Owners need to make changes to volume according to body weight and daily calorie needs. Overweight dogs appear to have a higher water requirement, making it even more important not to allow a dog to exceed his or her healthy weight.