Cold Weather Work-Outs and Comfort Tips
Now that all that sunshine and nice weather is gone we still need to keep in mind how to help our hunting partners stay in shape and keep healthy. They are going to be spending less time hunting and more time wondering when all this white stuff is gonna disappear. Of course there is going to be the occasional beautiful day to go out, but if it's anywhere like my home we spend a lot of time trapped because of the snow. I want to share with you some of the ways we help our dogs stay fit.
If you have access to a large area such as a shed, garage, or other indoor area take advantage of it. We have a large garage that I try to keep cleared out for this very reason. Each evening I will bring the dogs in from the kennel area and we play for awhile, then we work on obedience, then some honor training, and finally just running some laps together around the open area. They have their area outside but if I want my dogs to get the exercise they need then I would have to train them to run laps in the kennel on their own time. Which obviously isn't a realistic option. I spend two hours with the dogs in the garage and then we take a good 15-30 minutes outside running free before returning to the kennel depending on the weather. It may not seem like much but it does the trick.
This may prove difficult for many but access to a swim area for your dogs is a great way to keep in shape. Swimming is one of the best ways for a dog to exercise and it is one of our biggest assets in training. Like I said it may be difficult to find a place for this but if it is a possibility then I would definatly recommend swimming sessions during the winter months. We are lucky enough to have such an opportunity and it helps greatly with getting them proper exercise as well as giving the dogs something new and exciting to do ever so often. During such "down times" dogs can easily get bored and dis-interested in doing anything which leads to bigger problems. They need to have entertainment as much as we do and finding something new and exciting for them to do is a great thing.
The other option you have is to find a public area such as a park or designated pet area if you live in a city. Try to get your partner out to run at least 3-4 times a week if not more and when I say run I mean run! Play fetch or do something to get them excited and moving around. The whole point is to get as much exercise as possible in the time you may have because of the weather conditions. You don't want to over do it though either! It is very easy for a dog to freeze their lungs in such cold weather and end up with pneumonia or worse. Be sure to read your dog and if you feel they are not responding to wanting to run and play then don't force them. They will know how much they can take and when they want to stay right at your side or go back to the vehicle they are telling you they are done.
The other aspect of winter conditioning is the diet you provide for you dog. It is okay for them to put on a little extra weight if they are kenneled outside so that they have a little extra "blanket"
as I like to call it. During the winter months I give either 1/2 or 1 full cup extra food to the outside kennel dogs to get that blanket going. If it gets to be too much and they are gaining a lot of extra weight cut back. There is no reason for a dog to get extremely fat over the winter months. This is just going to make it more difficult for you to get them into proper shape when hunting season rolls around. If they are an indoor dog nothing much really needs to change and with the one dog we have as a house dog it doesn't. He gets the same type of food as he normally would in any non-hunting season. Of course when it is a hunting season they get a very high protein - high fat diet to keep up energy.
Also keep in mind that even though an outdoor kennel area is nice the dogs need something to shelter them from extreme conditions. Try to provide your dog with a heat source other than their own body heat.
We have a small heater that runs off a thermostat in the kennel and it cost us no more than $35 to put in and it only affects our electric bill by average $5-10 per month. Something that is completely worth the safety and comfort of our beloved hunting partners. It is also a lifesaver in keeping the water un-frozen so that we didn't have to have the expense of buying numerous electric-heated water pales. So it kills two birds with one stone you could say.
These are just a few helpful hints that I thought sharing with you might help.Hopefully these winter months won't last long and we can get back to those beautiful spring days for training and hunting as usual!
Professional Gun Dog Breeder
Hunting Your Dog In Extreme Conditions