Establishing a Bird Dog’s Training, Conditioning & Feeding Regimen

2e30b9bb-52db-4ae3-81a0-3cb1fbae493f Canines are athletes that need a regimen. It’s important to establish a training, conditioning and feeding program to help your dog be consistent in the field, according to pro trainer Tom Dokken of Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels in Northfield, Minnesota, and Purina Research Nutritionist Brian Zanghi, PhD.
 
Dokken’s and Zanghi’s “Training and Conditioning Tips for Your Hunting Dog” seminar was one of numerous presentations by professional bird dog trainers on the Bird Dog Bonanza Stage at the 2016 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, held this past February in Kansas City, Missouri. The other presenters were Purina Senior Manager of Sporting Dog Programs Karl Gunzer, Purina Consultant of Sporting Dog Programs Bob West, Josh Miller, and Delmar, Rick and Ronnie Smith.
 
To make the most of days afield next fall, follow Dokken’s and Zanghi’s tips to help ensure a successful season.
 

Slow and Steady

After the winter off-season, a dog isn’t going to rebuild his or her strength and endurance overnight. Dokken says, “When a dog is getting back into shape to prepare for the season ahead, have him or her run and swim short distances, gradually increasing distance over time. This is key to regaining strength and endurance.”
 

Room To Run

When you take your hardworking bird dog for a walk, what may be a walk for you actually is a crawl to him or her. Dokken suggests that if you live in or are traveling to a suburban area, seek out a place where you can cut your dog loose to run, such as a soccer or baseball field. “For sporting breeds, simply strolling along the sidewalk isn’t beneficial because it doesn’t help a dog build his or her endurance,” he says. “You have to scout out places where your dog can really run.”
 
Also, if your dog eliminates in a public area, as a responsible dog owner, be sure to clean up the mess!
 

Adjust According to Age

Puppies don’t yet have long-term drive, energy and mental endurance adult dogs do, so short bouts of training and conditioning are best. As they get older, gradually increase the amount of time spent training to hold their attention longer. “You can’t exercise pups as you would adult dogs because they are still developing mentally and physically,” says Dokken. “Keep training and conditioning a gradual process.”
 
Similarly, when a dog reaches the senior life stage, he or she begins to slow down physically and mentally. “When a dog is anywhere from 8 to 10 years old, his or her full recovery is going to take an extra 24 hours,” Zanghi says. “When working with your dog in the field, make sure he or she gets enough rest afterward.”
 

Keep ‘Em Lean

Keep your dog in good physical condition with a lean body mass. This means the dog’s ribs are palpable without excess fat covering. When a dog carries around extra weight, it slows him or her down in the field. “When you pet your dog every day, that’s a prime opportunity to feel his ribs to check his body condition. That way, you’ll notice subtle changes faster,” advises Zanghi.
 

Coat Check

When a dog is properly trained and conditioned, it shows in his or her performance. The same goes for proper nutrition. A dog’s coat is a good example of how well the dog food you’re feeding him or her is working. A sleek, shiny, healthy coat indicates a dog is getting the proper nutrition he or she needs. “Nutrition powers everything a dog does,” Dokken says. “It’s up to you to feed a high-quality dog food.”
 
A complete and balanced high-protein/high-fat performance dog food, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula, will provide your dog with the correct nutrients needed for optimal strength, speed and endurance, while helping to keep him or her properly conditioned.