Preventing Gun Dog Injuries [Back to Monthly Pro Staff Articles]
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Your retriever is not only your hunting partner; they’re also your best friend. Every year, as waterfowl hunters, we start preparing ourselves months before the season opens. We want everything to be perfect, so that our hunts are successful. Just like we prepare ourselves for the season, we also need to prepare our four-legged friends. Here are some tips from Pro Staff member Rhett Riddle on how to physically prepare your dog for the season, as well as, a few first aid tips.
Conditioning and preparation should start months before the season opens. Having your gun dog in tip top shape by opening day will make your hunting experience much more enjoyable. You’ll not only increase your dog’s stamina, you will also help prevent injury. An overweight and out of shape gun dog is more susceptible to an injury from the heat or cold temperatures compared to one that has been properly conditioned. There are several ways we keep our dogs in tip top shape. We suggest getting outside and doing regular training routines. Try to do approximately 3-5 marked retrieves per day at least 4-5 times a week. We also condition our dogs by running or “roading” them behind four wheelers 2-3 times a week to increase stamina. The only way to get your dog in shape for the elements is to get out and train.
Once the season starts you will also need to consider the risk factors for injury and have a plan in place to prevent injury before it happens. It’s also important to understand how to treat injuries if they do occur. We always have a dog first aid kit in the field with us. A few key things to have in your blind bag are: toe nail trimmers, a blood clotting agent, eye wash, Benadryl, and bandages. Keep a close eye on temperature and weather conditions. Heat related injuries are much more common but cold weather can be dangerous for your dog too. Having a high quality, tight fitted, neoprene vest for your dog serves multiple purposes. It can help prevent hypothermia and protection from the elements, as well as, prevent puncture wounds from underwater hazards. Keep your dog out of the water as much as possible. Gun dogs lose heat quickly when they remain sitting or standing in the water. Water that doesn’t seem cold can quickly drop a dog’s core temperature. Get them on land, on a log, or on a dog stand to prevent this from happening.
Lastly, you should always have a plan in place in the event of an emergency. It’s important to know where your closest vet clinic is in relation to your hunting location, and have your vet on speed dial. Make yourself familiar with the hours your vet is open and have a backup plan if your vet is closed. Find the local emergency vet and have their phone number handy!
So start your planning and conditioning early to ensure that you and your hunting partner will have a safe and successful hunting season together.
For more information on conditioning and canine first aid, feel free to email us at: