Doggone it, it is time to get dogs ready

Published on Saturday, 12 July 2014 23:28 - Written by Steve Knight

On one hand it is quickly becoming the dog days of summer with temperatures headed toward the century mark.

On the other hand the Texas dove season is only seven weeks away and the early teal season will open a couple of weeks after that.

That means it is time to bring hunting dogs out of their post-season vacation and start them working on pre-season training. The trick is doing it safely. The heat is hard on a dog, leaving hunters to pick the right time and length for a workout.

“If someone has a dog in good physical condition they can train in the evening, but you have to be where you can cool them down in a hurry,” said Grant Huff, a Tyler trainer who has spent years planning his daily schedule in the summer around what is best for the dogs under his care.

He said even training on water can be an issue with water temperatures running into the 80s.

“I was training on a pond the other day, but (the landowner) pumps water and it is deep so the water was cool. Most ponds around her aren’t and dogs builds up that moisture and humidity,” Huff said.

With a kennel full of dogs going through daily training, Huff utilizes both evenings and early mornings. Either time he is cognizant of how long the dogs work based on temperature and conditions.

“This year the grass is so tall and a dog will overheat in high grass in a hurry. Even if you train early in the morning there is no wind, a heavy dew and heavy cover. It is the worst scenting conditions,” the trainer explained.

With dogs working marks, the number he does varies on the conditioning of the dog, but may include only four runs from 80 to 250 yards before the dog is allowed to cool down. That cool down, Huff warns, can take anywhere from a half-hour to an hour.

He added that short time frame makes it hard for a lot of dog owners to work marks every day. Instead, he suggests, owners work on other aspects of training that often get overlooked for no other reason than they aren’t as much fun for the owner or the dog.

Huff said even older dogs need refreshers on obedience training like heel, sit and stay and that is something that can be done in the yard no matter what the temperature. Other backyard drills can work on handling and keeping the dog retrieving in a straight line.

Other often forgotten or never practiced drills include actual hunt training.

“There are a lot of guys that field hunt their dogs now and you want to work on the practical things. Things that might come up on a hunt,” Huff said.

That would include things like climbing over a log pile, or in the case of duck hunters getting in and out of a boat, working off a tree stand and ignoring decoys.

Huff also suggested it is a time for hunting partners to work their dogs together, teaching them to honor the other when it is that dog’s retrieve.

“Guys that hunt together get in the field and they are focused on the hunting and let their dogs break. You need to teach them to work together,” he said

The Texas summer is only going to get hotter between now and September. Putting a dog through its paces now will help it survive the summer heat and be in shape when hunting season rolls around.