Dog Preparation and Care
By Tom Hayes

In just a couple of weeks we will be able to take the dogs out and get them onto some game. Good Go Ing’s season opens on September 1st and the Minnesota and Wisconsin Grouse seasons open two weeks later and then waterfowl another two or so weeks after that. Then next to open are pheasants in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin in the middle of October and Iowa at the end of the month. 

I love this time of year!

In spite of my best intentions to take the dogs out and exercise and train them “every day” as I stated it on my list of New Year’s Resolutions here we are on the verge of the Season and I have not only not followed through on the dog resolution, I myself have not lost the 25 pounds and walked a few miles every day, either.

Nevertheless, the calendar goes on and I will just have to do the best I can with the time left. We are now working on steadying to shot while sitting and trying to spend at least 30 minutes a day running and fetching on typical field hunting type ground (as opposed to yard grass) to help improve the condition of the dogs’ pads.

One of the things I need to do is get my pups trained to tolerate hunting boots so we do not have to go through a trial by fire in the live hunting situation come fall. Right after I bought a pair of doggie boots last fall, I tried to put them on my Anna dog and I thought I was going to have to sedate her! I never did get all four on her. The older dog, only because she is just that, older, and calmer, let me put them on her but would not move. She was content to just sit and stare at me like I had completely lost my mind.

A first aid kit should be standard equipment on any hunting trip.

Either response, of course, is unacceptable if we happen to find ourselves in a field situation with sand burrs, foxtail or crusty ice.

Dr. Bray at Hudson Animal Care Clinic hosted a Hunting Dog seminar that was very good back on the 8th of August. Numerous topics were covered in the ‘booths” but of particular value was the “tailgate check.” As the name implies it is just giving the dogs the once over a couple of times a day during outings to be sure things are not happening that will spell trouble later. Pull a thorn, take a burr out of an armpit, make sure a hunting vest is not rubbing an armpit, and cleaning weed seeds out of the dogs’ eyes can help make sure you do not have to hang it up early. 

Also presented was a video on first aid care. For those who have never really watched such a Field First Aid video it is worth going in together with some hunting buddies ( expect to pay $50 or more for the best ones) and buying one on CD ROM to share. Among the many worthwhile tips and techniques, the one that really jumped at me was to include a muzzle in your first aid kit because the dog may be less than totally cooperative with whatever field procedure you find yourself required to do! 

Good Go Ing Member, Jerry McAllister and I once had to pull a handful of quills out of one of my Labradors. We wrapped the dog in my hunting coat and while Jerry held him down and tried to control the writhing, I went to work on the quills with my Gerber Tool. While I did not get bit, and a real muzzle would not have worked because the quills were mostly in the dogs face, it did bring home the need for “A Plan” in how to restrain the animal in case of emergency. 

Another very worthwhile suggestion, one that I did not do and wished I had last fall, is to get the name and contact information for a couple of vets in the areas where you will plan to hunt come fall. This is especially true when going out of your home locale, such as out of state. Fortunately, the landowner in Iowa where we were hunting had a solid connection with one of the local Dog Docs and was able to get me in touch. Obviously, a good time to get all the information, including what provisions there might be for after-hours care, is a mid-day phone call during the week. 

Remembering that we humans are the ones with the ability to judge whether the dogs are in danger of heat stress or dehydration is also a key. Pre-trip conditioning is absolutely critical and one of the best and most fun ways I know of to get that done is to come out to Good Go Ing and hunt liberated birds two or three times, minimum, in anticipation of a trip to hunt wild birds.

Have a great fall. This is OUR time of year. Take your best friends, and maybe even one of the human kind, and get out there in the fields.