How to boost your hunting dog’s performance
5 simple ways for you and your dog to have a better hunt
There’s much more to the bird-dog game than simply getting a good pup and watching him (or her) grow. Obviously, your canine partner is going to need some training. But even then, there are still more ways to help boost your dog’s performance in the field—and help keep him comfortable and safe in the process.
Leave a dish of water on the ground by your vehicle when you begin your hunt. Do this regularly so the dog will learn to expect it; once he realizes the hunt is over, he’ll go directly to the vehicle for a drink rather than race all over the woods. It’s especially helpful if you have to park near a road, since the dog will be less inclined to wander into danger after he gets back to the vehicle. While hunting, meanwhile, carry a soft-plastic squirt bottle filled with water. That way, both you and your four-legged partner can get a drink whenever you need one. But be careful not to touch the bottle to your mouth—you don’t want to give the dog your germs. A better idea? Carry a bottle for each of you.
Active, athletic field dogs should eat meals comprising at least 26 per cent protein and 18 per cent fat, especially in the fall when they’re working hard. The food should also contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which will help lubricate the dog’s joints. According to numerous studies, field dogs should be fed 22 to 24 hours before hunting to ensure maximum performance. Yes, this differs significantly from what our bodies need, but dogs process food differently than we do. When the hunt is over, feed your dog within 30 minutes to refill his tank.
Write your dog’s name and your cellphone number on his collar. Your home phone number won’t help if Fido gets lost while you’re hunting, because home is the one place you won’t be. There are collars available with brass plates ready for engraving, or you can order a collar with the information embroidered right onto it.
If you hunt where your dog is frequently out of sight, put an electronic beeper collar or a bell on him. Retrievers and flushers do well with either, but a beeper is best for pointing dogs. That’s because the collar continues to beep—usually with a different and identifiable tone—when the dog is standing on point, so you can go right to him when he’s found a bird. A bell will, of course, be silent when the dog is on point, making it harder to find him when you most want to.
Carry an old towel in your kit for drying off a wet and muddy dog before letting him into the vehicle. A towel is also handy for wiping your hands after you finish dressing that limit of birds.