The unwavering courage and desire bird dogs demonstrate in the field are nothing short of amazing. Because sporting dogs have no quit in doing what they love, the respect and care you have for your dog, as well as the ability to understand the stress a sport such as hunting or field trialing puts on a dog, is important in minimizing his or her risk of injury.
Pro retriever trainer Mike Lardy of Handjem Kennels in Montello, Wisconsin, partnered with sports medicine veterinarians at the Purina Canine Sports Medicine Symposium
this past September at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, Missouri, to discuss the little things that can make a big difference in a dog’s performance. Follow Lardy’s tips, which are helpful across the board for all sporting dogs, on proper training, conditioning and care to help keep your dog healthy and prevent injuries in the field.
- DO Take It Slowly – In training, it’s a long haul to get from a puppy to a finished gundog. There’s a misconception that more is better, but it is not true. Do not progress to advanced training until your dog masters the basics. Injuries can be the consequence of doing too much too soon. Don’t forget to also take time to warm up your dog before every training session.
- DON’T Forget Your ABCs – During training, stress the ABCs, or Attitude, Balance and Control. A dog should be obedient, independent and focused when performing a given task. As a trainer, you should find the right combination of positive reinforcement and correction with success and failure. Maintaining these principles are crucial to your dog’s field success.
- DO Take Notes – During each training session with your dog, take notes on his or her progress on every skill. Your notes can help you detect slight changes in your dog’s performance and help identify a potential injury sooner.
- DON’T Downplay Downtime – Downtime is important. Your dog needs a vacation from the field just as you need one from the real world. For example, every year, Lardy gives his dogs six weeks off, plus a weekend to rest after every two field trials.
- DO Supplement with Conditioning – Exercises such as roading, water sprints and kayak conditioning increase a dog’s aerobic base and decrease his or her risk of injury. Simply put, a well-conditioned dog has a better physical performance.
- DON’T Ignore the Little Things – Your dog’s physical and mental soundness matters. Be sensitive to his or her abilities and attitude. If your dog seems off, there’s a reason. Should you notice anything awry in your dog’s field performance, stop physical activity and get your dog to the veterinarian.
- DO Establish a Feeding Schedule – The frequency and timing of feeding makes a difference in your dog’s field performance. Bird dogs should work on an empty stomach, so it’s best to feed once a day and as many hours before heading field as possible.
Nutrition plays a major role in maintaining good health and achieving optimal performance in hardworking bird dogs. It’s important to feed a nutrient-dense, high-protein/high-fat dog food, such as one of the Purina Pro Plan SPORT
Formulas. Please visit www.proplansport.com
to learn more about top-notch nutrition for canine athletes.