Summertime training… Where do we start? Do we have the time? What do we work on? I believe that summertime training is vital and important in dogs’ development and readiness for fall and winter hunting.
I know during the summer it is time for family fun, vacations and trips. It is hot and humid most days, and in reality most really don’t feel like fighting the heat. But we must have determination, discipline, sacrifice and commitment. If we don’t have these qualities our dogs will certainly not be all we want them to be. I recently designed a t-shirt that simply said “It’s not how good they are, but it’s how good we want them to be.” So during these summer months what are some basic things we can work on?
All dogs are different and are at different stages in their life and development, so all dogs will be different in what we work on with them. But I believe what we want out of our dogs in the field is what we should work on during the summer. Whether you have a solid, broke dog or a new puppy, keep them working during the summer.
You may say “I don’t have a place or farm to work on.” Well, you can use your yard for the basics such as obedience, whoa training, socialization and recall training. These things do not take much space, just the commitment to do so.
Also our dogs’ health status is just as important, and it’s very easy for our hunting companions to lay around and get fat and lazy. Summer training needs to include the right nutrition for our dogs, environment for our dogs, and the physical fitness for our dogs. These elements are vital in the summer training process. Just as much as humans need to eat correctly, exercise, and hydrate during hot months, so do our hunting buddies! Providing cut offs and boundaries for your dog is all on you as an owner and trainer.
In the elements of summer training do not overdo it. Take 10 to 15 minutes each day per dog and work on the things you need to work on to make your dog field ready. And if your dog is not physically able to work certain times of day, or at certain temps, do not work them, period. Your dog’s health is of first and foremost importance. So as we are training this summer, make sure to pay close attention to your dog’s actions and physical behavior. You may think 10 to 15 minutes is not a long time, but in my experience, those minutes will bring lasting results in your hunting season and help save your dog’s life in the summer months.
Another good way to keep your dogs in shape and working this summer is through an obstacle course or agility training. This will help your hunting companion mentally and physically. I use this method for exercise and bonding with the dogs. We have to remember our hunting companions are athletes, and summertime training and conditioning will help them get to where they need to be. Heat control is very important as you work during these hot months, so make sure to carry plenty of water.
I personally start early in the morning and take all the dogs scheduled to work in the morning with me to the field or to the water. This saves time from driving back and forth to the kennel. The dogs I work with in the morning will have had their sessions by midday. Then, I take the dogs scheduled to work in the afternoon out during the late afternoon hours to work them. This allows dogs a good 15 minutes each in a session and allows all dogs to be worked daily.
Summer training is a great way to spend bonding time with your hunting companions. Especially young pups that may be coming up on their first hunting season. You want to make sure you have bonded and socialized with them well before hunt season.
As much as training is important, make sure your dog has fun, especially your pups! You want training to stay positive at all times. As long as things stay positive your dog will look forward to the next step and next session of training.
What you do with your dog now has a direct impact on your dog’s readiness for fall. We cannot wait until a week or a month before hunting season to think about whether our dog will be ready. There is no way to cram all these summer training tips into a week or two. It will not end well, nor will we get the results we need from our hunt dogs.
Make sure you invest the time into your dog’s training this summer. As we invest this time, make sure you take each dog at the pace they are ready for and need to go. A dog’s progress is not always accomplished at a fast pace. My grandfather used to say, “Slow and steady will get you there.” I can hear him now, “Don’t rush the dog!”
So as we train during this off season, make sure not to rush, and let your dogs develop and come into the dog they were bred to be. If it’s in them it will come out as you work them and put that training time in.
Last but not least, as we are out in the yard, in the fields, or on the water with our dogs, make sure they have been treated with flea and tick prevention, along with any snake aversion. I believe this is vital during these peak summer months. Check your dog daily for fleas and ticks as they come in from training. Be aware of your surroundings, as snakes are also bad during this time of year. If possible, teach your dogs how to avoid snakes. There are many snake aversion clinics that are held during summertime, so that can be good training for you and your dog too.
The best thing you can do this summer is keep your dogs active, happy, and focused! Fall and the cooling temperatures are not that far away.