Old age doesn’t mean that your dog’s hunting days are over. You owe it to him to provide the tools he needs to succeed. If the heart and body are willing; there may still be a lot of mileage left in your faithful companion.
With Dove season opening around the country, we want to provide some tips to prepare your hunting companion for upcoming warm weather hunts. Hopefully, you have kept your senior dog on a decent exercise and diet regimen during the offseason; if not, today is a great day to start.
Keep your dog at a healthy weight. As a dog ages, most health problems begin with being overweight. Metabolism slows with age resulting in weight gain. They typically do not require as many calories from fat, instead protein is still critical to ensure muscle maintenance.
Proper nutrition. There are many dog foods on the market made for specific nutrition needs. Some are fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which can help maintain cartilage and joint strength. Consult with your vet and choose a premium dog food to help give your old hunting buddy what he needs. Sometimes supplements may be needed to help with arthritis and inflammation. This can better your dog’s mobility, mood, and even sleeping patterns.
Exercise. Your older dog will have limitations. The main point is to keep him active. Try to exercise during non-peak heat hours like very early in the morning or late in the evening. When he gets tired, call it a day. If possible, try swimming as your exercise of choice as it is easier on his joints than say running on a solid surface. Give your dog all the exercise he needs, but recognize signs to know when he has had enough.
Find the shade. When setting up on opening morning, find a shady spot that will give you and your dog refuge from direct sunlight. Bonus points if you find shade by water. Keep in mind that dogs do not perspire like us. Instead, they cool off by panting and through the pads on their feet. Try to find a cooler spot to let your dog rest in between retrieves. Involve water when at all possible, and always bring water for your dog to drink. If your dog is overworked or cannot rest in a cool spot after exertion, heat may continue to build and your dog can experience heat exhaustion. This happens more frequently in older dogs, so take the necessary precautions.
Keep the hunts fun and short. Although his enthusiastic behavior might say otherwise, your dog may not be what he once was. Remember that and try to make the hunt enjoyable. Your dog may not be able to walk as many fields, or hunt as many hours as he did in past seasons. If you see your dog getting tired, do not be hesitant to just end on a good note. Keep a careful watch and call it a day once you think your dog is tired; most hunting breeds will push themselves to exhaustion to please their owner.
You’ve had some great years with your hunting buddy and with proper exercise, nutrition, and maintenance, you can have many more. Dove season openers are an exciting time to get out and enjoy the outdoors with your gundogs. We understand, as good as anyone, the bond between outdoorsmen and their dog; with these tips, we wish you limits of doves and many more years with your seasoned dog.
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