Part two of our four part series focuses on physical conditioning. Your dog needs to be “lean and mean” to perform well during a hunt. Don’t over exert your dog, take it slowly and soon the dog’s fitness level will improve.
Step 2-Physical Conditioning
Just like their masters, dogs tend to move less as the temperature rises. The best way to get a retriever back into form is in the water. Swimming will work all of their muscles and trim away excess fat. But you still need to remember that even water work needs to be done at cooler times of the day. The sun can make the first foot or so of surface water very warm and that is where your dog will be swimming during much of the workouts. Go early or late in the day for cooler temps and best results.
Don’t forget about poisonous snakes. Copperheads and cottonmouths can be found around any body of water in the warm months. Visually check out the area you will be running your dog through before sending them into the water. Be careful yourself and have a plan if either you or your dog is bitten. Also be aware of ticks and mosquitoes and take precautions against both.
Feeding your dog in the offseason requires some attention. Change over to a maintenance formula after the season to keep your dog’s weight in check. Maintenance formulas are lower in fat and protein than the performance formulas fed during season. Also, the amount of food can bet cut back on as well. Gradually change over to a higher calorie food as your dog’s exertion level increases.
In review, be acutely aware of heat, use water as a primary tool for exercise, and watch calorie intake. Work your dog into hunting condition and both of you will be happier when the air cools and the season looms.