September 03, 2021
Bird dog days of fall!
It’s that time of year. Vacations are over, kids are back to school and our favorite teams are back on the gridiron. That can only mean one thing - time to do some hunting. If you are like me, this is the time of year that we look forward to the most. It’s the only way I can get through the dog days of summer. First on our list of fall activities is dove season. This year is extra special as the season opener in Georgia starts early in the morning instead of having to wait until noon. We know y’all are scrambling looking for shells and places to shoot. In fact it may be easier to find a place to shoot than it is to find shells this year!
Along with all that pre season prep work you need to think about your dogs. What have you done to get your dog ready for the season? Has Champ been sitting on the couch all spring and summer? Or maybe he has been in the kennel with little to no work. I’d venture to say that early dove season kills more dogs than any other time of the year. When you see the signs of heat stroke in dogs, it's almost too late. So let's take a moment to talk about getting your dog ready for early season work. The do’s and a few don’ts that will get everyone home from your day afield safely.
First and foremost, the dog needs to be in shape. Just like an athlete, he must maintain some type of acceptable body weight and conditioning. Have those summer days around the house been paired with slipping him treats? Does Champ look a little more like Fluffy? If so, evaluate his body condition and make the changes to his diet to get him back to his fighting weight.
The pup must have some type of stamina to last in the early season dove field. Dogs, when conditioned well, can stand heat and some running. Now we have to be smart about it... we can't let him pick up our limit and your buddy’s limit and the 3 that your friend from work knocked down. Not in the early season. Most good hunting retrievers will want to, but it's your duty to make sure he isn’t over doing it.
Resist the urge to send your dog to do a bunch of water work this time of year - especially in an effort to cool him off. Swimming a dog in water that is too warm, for too long of a time can overheat a dog faster than him running on land. Why? Think about it. In the south in the summer, the top one to two feet of water in a pond can be upwards of 90º. When the dog is swimming he is encapsulated by the water, that means he is basically swimming in a hot tub, with no way of letting the heat escape his body. Short swims will not hurt him but you have to be careful.
Ok, now we are getting ole’ Champ back into physical shape, how about his manners and his skills? Have we worked on that at all?
One thing I hate is having my dog at a good dove shoot and him not getting to pick up my birds because someone else’s dog is out of control and running all over the field fetching every bird he sees hitting the dirt! Ok, so your dog breaks once, it's early season and that’s understandable, but twice and you can't stop him - now you and I are going to have a talk. Get in the yard, work on his obedience, make sure he is steady, throw him some marks. Dogs don’t usually forget what they have learned, but they do need refresher classes. Just like shooting my bow, I haven’t forgotten how to shoot my bow, but if I don’t practice, when the time comes, I can't be upset if I miss. Same with your dog. If you haven’t thrown him some marks so he can practice, then don’t be surprised if he has to hunt all over creation to find the bird.
While we are talking about marking, let someone else throw the mark for you. Most people can only throw a bumper about 30 yds. If that’s all the dog ever sees, then he won’t be able to mark that winged bird that sails out to 50 or 60 yds. Dogs have incredible eyes. If they are conditioned to work at longer distances, those short 30 and 40 yd marks will be a breeze.
Ok, we have our dog fit, he is very obedient and he is marking well, let's talk about what we need to take to the field. WATER! Water is the most important thing you can have for your dog. It doesn’t have to be ice water. Water from a bottle is just fine. Carry a collapsible bowl for him to drink out of. They take up very little space. A leash, if the dog gets super excited and out of control, you can leash him up and calm him down. Shade, you can't carry shade with you to the field in most cases but get there early enough and request a stand on the wood line so you and Champ can sit in the shade.
Enjoy opening weekend! Join the conversation and leave your comments below. If you need some help we are here and happy to serve.
Wes Chester is the owner of Shady Acres Retrievers located in Statesboro, GA. He is a Christian, proud husband to Stacy and father to 3 boys that are going to be men before we know it. A Georgia Southern College graduate and consummate outdoorsman, his knowledge of and ability to bring the best out of a dog is unmatched. Follow along as he shares his view on God, good food and the great outdoors. Shady Acres Retrievers