It’s mid-August and the heat is on, but in just a few short weeks, two months tops, most of us will be getting ready for some sort of season: grouse, waterfowl, quail, or pheasant. Typically, it’s best to keep your dog in good physical shape year-round, but let’s be honest: you take your dog’s physical fitness about as seriously as you take your own.
If you’re one of those who have slacked on conditioning, now is the time to get to work in earnest. The minimum amount of time it takes a dog to get into good enough physical shape for hunting is 60 to 90 days; and that’s only if you’re dedicated to a near-daily plan.
The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation has created a program – called the Canine Athlete Initiative – aimed at helping sporting dogs live happier, healthier lives. By contributing grants to research dedicated to the study of injuries, preventative measures and nutrition, CHF hopes to help researchers treat, cure, and prevent injuries such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture, shoulder instability, tendon tears, and osteoarthritis.
As part of a weekly schedule on topics related to the canine athlete, CHF has released a [podcast on physical conditioning](http://www.akcchf.org/news-events/multimedia/podcasts/ conditioning-for-the-canine.html). The podcast is an interview with veterinarian Joseph Spoo, a hunter who has a passion for gun dogs. In addition to a regular vet practice, Spoo is an industry consultant and also runs a website devoted to [gun dog health](/node/add/http:/ /www.gundogdoc.com).
If you need to get your dog in shape, or just want some new ideas on maintaining off-season programs, check out the podcast. It has some great advice on year-round conditioning, nutrition, weight problems, heat issues and physical condition such as running and swimming.
Of interesting note, Spoo discusses how to train a dog to use a treadmill, so you can still work the dog even when it’s too hot outside. The biggest issue you have to worry about it making sure the treadmill is large enough for the dog; too small and it could become injured or run with an unnatural gait and cause injury. He also touches on what amounts of “core” exercises can be done indoors, but doesn’t specifically explain those. I’ll see if we can get some further explanation on them.
Another point he brings up is a vet visit. As humans, he says, we can recognize when something is wrong with our body and we can stop or ask questions. Dogs don’t do that, especially gun dogs in the excitement of the hunt. They’ll keep going with sprains, torn ligaments, or until they drop from heat stroke. Getting a preseason check-up will give you peace of mind that your pooch is ready to handle the rigors of the season, and should an injury arise at some point, you at least have a time reference as to when it possibly could have happened; or at least know fairly certainly when it wasn’t apparent.