19 Sep

Best Duck Loads

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 19, 2016 |0 Comments | Shooting Tips | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How To Pick the Right Shell for the Right Bird

With different shot materials, pellet shapes, and configurations available, wildfowling has become as much a science as it is a sport. Many hunters may be puzzled as to which load is best for their duck and goose hunting. Shot like Kent’s Tungsten Matrix and Environ-Metal’s Classic Doubles are for older shotguns, but then there’s Black Cloud, Blind Side, and Hevi Shot, which makes selection more difficult. These guidelines, broken down by species and size, should make shell buying easier.


Small Ducks


Kent TealSteel 12 ga., 3-in., 1,350 fps, 1¼ oz.,
No. 5 & 6 steel
Effective Range 30 yards
Recoil 35 ft.-lb.
MSRP $13/25 rounds

Because of this speedster’s size and erratic flight, small pellets are desirable to fill a wide pattern from a Skeet- or Improved Cylinder–­choked gun.


Medium Ducks

Gadwalls, Wood Ducks, Wigeon, Scaup

Federal Black Cloud
12 ga., 3-in., 1,450 fps, 1¼ oz., No. 3
Also consider
Winchester DryLok: 12 ga., 3-in., 1,265 fps, 1 3/8 oz., No. 4; or Kent Fasteel: 12 ga., 3-in., 1,300 fps, 1 3/8 oz., No. 3
Effective Range 50 yards
Recoil 39 ft.-lb.
MSRP $23/25 rounds

For medium-size ducks over decoys or close passing shots, the traditional 3-inch load of 1¼ ounces of No. 3s provides good pattern density and power over normal ranges; also an excellent all-around swatter load.


Large Ducks

Mallards, Canvasbacks, Small Sea Ducks,
Small Geese (Cacklers and Ross’ Geese)

Remington HyperSonic Steel
12 ga., 3-in., 1,700 fps, 1¼ oz., No. 2
Effective Range 50 yards
Recoil 52 ft.-lb.
MSRP $26/25 rounds

The high velocity delivered by this load increases the effective killing range on large ducks. However, don’t be tempted to stretch your gun barrel beyond ranges at which you shoot well.


Large Geese

Canadas and Large Sea Ducks

Hevi-Shot Speed Ball
12 ga., 3-in., 1,635 fps, 1¼ oz., No. 1
Effective Range 50 yards
Recoil 48 ft.-lb.
MSRP $25/10 rounds

These tungsten-steel pellets pack the heavy punch often needed to bag Canadas and tough sea ducks like eiders and scoters. They’re expensive but worth it to ensure clean kills.

19 Sep

5 Key Points for Training Your Retriever

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 19, 2016 |0 Comments | Training Tips | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1. Obedience First

The most common deficiency in the average hunter’s gundog training program is a lack of emphasis on obedience and steadiness.

If I could persuade the average gundog owner to do one thing better as a trainer, it would be to spotlight obedience and emphasize the non-retrieve. The non-retrieve is when the pup sees a bird or dummy fall but doesn’t get to retrieve it. The trainer or another dog retrieves it while the pup watches.

We took a wrong turn somewhere in the evolution of training and now go about the retrieving and steadying processes in a totally illogical manner. We take a young dog and give him hundreds of retrieves with no restraint. For the first thousand retrieves, we encourage the dog to take off at will after the falling dummy. Then, after we have him well trained to break, we change the rules and decide to make him steady—which requires a certain amount of punishment to counteract the breaking behavior we have just trained.

The sequence should be reversed. Train the pup on obedience first, and train him to be steady by teaching him to expect to be steady. This is done with non-retrieves.

As soon as the pup is proficient at basic obedience, the “stay” drill should include some falling dummies. While he’s sitting, toss out a dummy or two. Then go and pick up the dummies while he watches. If you are picking up 75 percent of what the pup sees fall, then he doesn’t expect to retrieve everything that drops from the sky.

He becomes steady, with little effort and no punishment. Additionally, he develops into a calm, pleasant hunting companion. The same principle applies to the older dog in hunting situations. If you send the dog immediately every time a bird falls, then you are training him to break. Make his life easier by making him wait.


When duck hunting, wait until you have several ducks on the water before you send your pup to retrieve. Unless wind or current is carrying off the ducks, it won’t hurt them to float for a half hour. If you are shooting doves, pick up the short, easy ones yourself. Let your pup sit for 10-15 minutes before he is sent for the difficult retrieves. The exception, of course, is the crippled bird, for which you must send the pup quickly to reduce the odds of escape.

The practice of delayed retrieving also pays dividends by making it easier for your pup to learn hand signals and blind retrieves. If you have four or five dead ducks on the water that have been there a while, your pup is not going to remember exactly where they are. He knows they are there and will eagerly cast off in their general direction, but his certainty will waver and he will be prone to seeking help from you.

Conversely, when you engage in the practice of immediately sending your pup on every fall, you are training him in self-reliance. When he’s launched on the splash, he knows exactly where that bird is and will quickly pick it up. After he’s found several hundred birds all by himself, it is going to become difficult to convince him that he needs help from you in the form of hand signals.

2. Coming on Command

One of the most common obedience problems is failure to come on command.

This is as prevalent in young, green dogs as breaking is in older hunting dogs. Both problems stem from a lack of obedience. If a dog is well trained to heel, sit, stay and come, he’ll do nearly anything you want. The problem lies in the definition of “well trained.”
A dog is well trained in obedience when he is obedient in the face of any level of distraction. That means he will respond properly when the neighbor’s cat walks by, when another dog is playing next to him and even when shotguns are going off and ducks are falling.

3. To Much Dog

The average hunter appears to be “overdogged,” or to have a dog that is too hot for him to handle.

I place the blame for this on our field-trial system. Our retriever field trials were brought over from England in the early 1900s, along with the golden and Labrador retrievers. The trials were small and very representative of a day’s shooting, and the skills judged were those that had value to the hunting dog and hunter. The trials emphasized game-finding ability, softness of mouth and calmness of demeanor.

The typical Labrador retriever of 30 or 40 years ago was a gentle, calm dog. Today, an unfortunately large number of Labradors are hyperactive and difficult to train. The basic reason for this shift in breeding selection appears to be our field-trial system.

Unfortunately, our field trials—mainly because of increasing entries—have evolved over the years into elimination contests that evaluate skills that are of little importance in a hunting dog. These behaviors include lining, angle entries into water, pinpoint marking and precise handling at long distances. Gone by the wayside are line manners and obedience, as well as game-finding initiative.

Moreover, training precision lining and long-distance handling require a great deal of repetition and some degree of punishment. The dog that excels at these skills tends to be hyperactive, with a high pain threshold, which is exactly the type of dog we are breeding today.

4. Electric Collars

The electric collar, which can create as many problems as it solves, is becoming far too predominant a training tool.

The electric collar is a great training tool in the hands of a good trainer. However, there is an astronomically greater number of electric collars than there are good trainers. The truth is, in order to train a dog with the electric collar, you must be able to train him without it.

The collar does not magically impart the knowledge and skills of dog training to the guy holding the transmitter. Most folks buy an electric collar to solve a basic obedience problem, and they generally end up abusing the dog and not solving the problem, or trading one problem for an even bigger one. Proper training can solve nearly all problems in basic obedience, and you don’t need an electric collar to do so.

5. Selective Breeding

We have forgotten the basic goals of breeding selection and have embarked on a course of producing better dogs by training rather than breeding.
The Labrador is the breed I most commonly work with, and I am alarmed at the trends I see. It has become the general custom to force-fetch train every dog. This corrects any tendency to drop birds, mouth birds or run off to the bushes with birds. It also masks the genetic tendencies toward those behaviors.

We are now masking with training the major trait that we spent a hundred years developing through selective breeding—namely, delivery to hand with a soft mouth. If we take a hard-mouthed dog and put him through the force-fetch program so that he delivers gently to hand, then he will behave like a great dog. We may even make him a field champion through superior training. However, his puppies will still have that genetic tendency toward hard mouth, and we will be going backwards in the selective-breeding process.
Two other examples of behaviors that have a very significant genetic component that we mask with training are:
We train the hyperactive dog to be under control and be a gentleman. The electric collar is quite popular for this. Put a hyperactive dog in the hands of a good trainer with an electric collar and that dog will make an excellent gun dog or field-trial dog, but his puppies probably will inherit the same hyperactivity. His puppies will be just as difficult to train as the sire was.
Cooperative Nature
We generally characterize these dogs as “soft” and tend to give them away as pets when they flunk the electric-collar program. Thus we are tending to remove from the breeding pool dogs that exhibit this valuable trait. This trait of “cooperative nature” is of extreme importance to the average hunter, because the average hunter is usually quite unfamiliar with dog training.
The gist of all this is that the average hunter is low in dog-training skills, which is as it should be. The community of dog experts should be promoting the selective breeding of a dog that the average hunter can train and enjoy. We should not be breeding a dog with a bundle of genetically transmitted behavioral tendencies that make him difficult to train into a good working dog. The average hunter should not have to get a Ph.D. in dog training in order to come up with a dog that is pleasant to hunt with and pleasant to live with.
We probably need to look back to England for solutions. They still have the same field trials they had 80 years ago, still selectively breed for major traits and still get rid of dogs that lack a cooperative nature and predisposition toward trainability.
I, for one, get my personal dogs from England. They are calm, cooperative and pleasant to live with, and they find all the birds I shoot. I’ve gotten lazy and prefer a dog that has gotten most of the required talents through selective breeding.

18 Sep

Good Manners

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Training Tips | , , , , , , , , ,

Helpful tips on how to raise a well-behaved retriever


With all due respect to hard-charging, never-miss-a-mark retrievers, performance in the field isn’t the only measure of a quality duck dog. Deportment counts, too. How your retriever minds you, reacts to other people, and behaves around other dogs is a good measure of his socialization.

Most of your retriever’s days are spent not in a duck blind or goose pit but at home. Even if your dog hunts every day of waterfowl season, he still spends far more time around the house than in the marsh. And let’s face it, nobody wants to live with an out-of-control canine.

Having hunted waterfowl from coast to coast in just about every imaginable setting, I have been introduced to any number of retrievers. The vast majority were well-behaved and a pleasure to be around. Some of my personal favorites were the snugglers, who could not seem to get close enough to me while dodging rain, snow, or bow spray (during early-morning boat rides). The ear lickers were a little bit too much. But all these dogs seemed to have one thing in common: they were comfortable sharing a familiar place with a stranger. Their owners had undoubtedly done something right.

Undesirable behavior can assume many forms. There are the growlers, barkers, whiners, diggers, and chewers, to name just a few of the most common types of canine offenders. Some dogs may be guilty of all these transgressions; others perhaps of just one. Dogs misbehave for a variety of reasons that are not always readily apparent to their owners. The gene pool is at least partially filled with murky water these days. Check out a pup’s sire and dam in person whenever possible. Keep in mind, however, that sound parentage does not necessarily guarantee ideal offspring.

The truth of the matter is that you have to consider each dog as an individual. Even pups from the same litter will have different personalities, regardless of the breed you select. To develop a well-adjusted retriever, your goal should be to promote confidence, inquisitiveness, enthusiasm, and obedience. Approach this project correctly from the start and you will avoid many troublesome issues later on.

While it is highly unlikely that any single set of exercises will ensure a well-mannered retriever, there are a number of important steps you can take with a puppy that will encourage good behavior. Bonding with the dog through play is a positive start. Be sure to give your pup plenty of attention. Assume a leadership role from day one and keep the games fun for all involved.


A short dog training video teaching sit come stay for hunting dogs and all others.
I hope this video helps you in your dog training.

Expert shows how to start with puppy training from simple command Sit. For more details on puppy training please check our “Family Dog” DVD which shows you how to easily and quickly have a well behaved member of your family. Using a proven reward system with food treats, taking only 15 minutes a day, you can have a family dog who comes immediately when called, walk by your side when you walk or run, sit and stay whenever you command and go to the bathroom outside every time. And, you can complete this dog training in a few short weeks.

Much of a dog’s personality evolves from what he has learned. Be patient. Offer encouragement whenever an opportunity presents itself. Pups yearn for human approval. Positive reinforcement gives the dog a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence. Dogs embrace stability and consistency, not drama.

Pups that become habitual barkers, diggers, and chewers are probably not getting enough exercise. In short, they are acting out due to boredom. Give your dog an outlet to burn off energy. This will require much more than a two-minute walk to the corner and back. Let the dog run or swim. Expose him to the sights, sounds, and smells of woods, open fields, and water. There’s no better learning environment for a young retriever than the outdoors.

Biters and growlers are likely insecure, or afraid of something unfamiliar. This may include strangers and other dogs. Allow your pup to interact with people as often as possible. While on your walks with the dog, let your neighbors pet him if they choose to do so. Visit a local park and allow the pup to interact with friendly dogs and people. Socialization serves to alleviate distrust of strangers. Fear brings out the worst in most animals. A pup that becomes comfortable in the company of new faces-human or canine-will not be ill at ease when placed in unfamiliar social situations.

18 Sep

Establishing a training, conditioning and feeding regimen for your duck dog

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , , ,

Retrievers are athletes that need a regimen. It’s important to establish a yearlong training, conditioning and feeding program to help your dog be consistent in the marshes come fall.

In preparation for fall hunting, your retriever isn’t going to rebuild his or her strength and endurance overnight. Therefore, you should gradually begin a conditioning program. Professional retriever trainer Tom Dokken of Dokken’s Oak Ridge Kennels in Northfield, Minnesota, advises, “When a dog is getting back into shape to prepare for the season ahead, you should have him or her run and swim short distances, gradually increasing the distance over time. This is key to regaining strength and endurance.”

When trying to increase your retriever’s endurance, you should be aware that when going for a walk with your dog, what may be a walk for you is actually a crawl to him or her. Dokken suggests that if you live in or are traveling to a suburban area, you should seek out a place where you can let your dog loose to run, such as a soccer or baseball field. Make sure to be a responsible owner and clean up after your dog.

“For retrievers, 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 safe places where your dog can really run.”

It’s also important to adjust a training and conditioning program according to your dog’s age. Puppies don’t yet have the long-term drive, energy and mental endurance of adult dogs, so short bouts of exercise are more effective for them. As they get older, you can gradually increase the amount of time spent training as they begin to have greater attention spans.

“You can’t exercise pups as you would adult dogs because they are still developing mentally and physically,” says Dokken. “You should make training and conditioning a gradual process.”

Similarly, when a retriever reaches the senior life stage, he or she begins to slow down. Purina Research Nutritionist Brian Zanghi, PhD, explains, “When a dog is anywhere from 8 to 10 years old, his or her full recovery is going to take an extra 24 hours. When working with your senior dog, make sure he or she gets enough rest afterward.”

A key component to a solid training and conditioning regimen is keeping your duck 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 marshes.

“Petting your dog daily becomes a prime opportunity to feel his ribs to check his body condition. That way, you’ll notice subtle changes faster,” advises Dr. Zanghi.

When a retriever 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 is working. A sleek, shiny, healthy coat indicates a dog is getting the proper nutrition he or she needs.

18 Sep

Performance Dog Foods Give Retrievers Energy for Waterfowling

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , , , , , , , ,

Waterfowling is a high-energy sport – especially for retrievers

A hard-charging retriever and cold weather, combined with long swims and retrieves, can sap even a well-conditioned dog’s energy reserves. Nutritional priming your retriever with a high-protein/high-fat performance food helps provide the right nutrients needed for optimal strength, speed and endurance.

“You can improve a dog’s athleticism during hard work by feeding a performance food because it metabolically primes the dog to use these fuels for exercise,” says Dr. Brian Zanghi, Purina Research Nutritionist. The harder retrievers work, the greater their fat and protein metabolism, Zanghi explains. “Fat is the preferred source of energy during exercise. A high-fat diet increases the number of mitochondria in muscle cells, which promotes burning fat for energy. Protein helps to support strong muscles and maintain the body-protein balance during hard work when exercise activates protein breakdown.”

A scientist who studies the role of nutrition in optimizing the performance of active dogs, Zanghi is a passionate retriever enthusiast who takes to heart giving dogs the best nutrition possible. His now retired black Lab, Baxter, 15, titled as a Hunting Retriever, adored going to the duck blind, and Zanghi is training a new puppy, Aspen, 4 months old, who was sired by DU mascot Deke, to enjoy the sport as well.

“Ideally, sporting dogs should be fed a performance food that provides from 28 to 30 percent protein and from 18 to 20 percent fat to sustain their high-energy demand,” advises Zanghi.

A performance food should be year-round. “Switching to a maintenance diet in the off-season is like metabolically detraining your dog,” Zanghi says. “Maintenance dog foods contain higher levels of carbohydrates, which decrease the metabolic capacity to use fats, which ultimately results in reduced endurance. It is best to reduce the portion fed in the off-season and monitor a dog’s body condition to keep a dog healthy and fit.”

An important tip before heading out to go waterfowling is not to feed your retriever beforehand. “Eating creates an insulin spike that inhibits the body’s ability to use fat,” Zanghi says. “It is best to feed a minimum of 10 to 12 hours before exercise, such as the night before hunting. Feeding 6 hours or sooner before exercise contributes to reduced endurance and energy generation. If you feel you must feed in the morning, a small amount is best followed by the rest of the daily ration at the end of the day.”

Complete digestion takes from 20 to 24 hours and thus feeding a dog before exercise could result in the retention of fecal matter in the colon that could compromise performance by adding extra bulk in the intestine. Exercise alters the gastrointestinal time and can change nutrient digestion and absorption resulting in a decrease in blood flow, and therefore, oxygen to the gut.

Nutritional priming should be part of your retriever training. Dogs fueled with the right nutrients have what it takes to optimize performance and give big results when it matters most – from the duck blind

18 Sep

Reducing Stress to Optimize Performance in the Field for Retrievers

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , , ,

As the owner of a hardworking dog bracing for the upcoming Light Goose Conservation Order season, you know that he is prone to stress from days spent retrieving in the field. The duration and intensity at which your dog retrieves, combined with cold weather, travel and exposure to other dogs in a new environment, are contributing factors to this natural stress that challenges a dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

A dog’s GI tract is associated with a large portion of his immune system. Here, specialized cells help protect his body against invading organisms, such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses, while recognizing beneficial bacteria. When the digestive tract is inflamed, digestibility and absorption of nutrients are reduced, which can compromise your retriever’s performance.

“Because 70 percent of a dog’s immune system is associated with the gut, an upset digestive tract can result in reduced immunity,” says Purina Senior Research Scientist Arleigh Reynolds, DVM, PhD, DACVN. “When digestive tract inflammation and reduced immunity occur, an imbalance of the intestinal microflora also can occur, resulting in digestive upset.”

If your dog experiences digestive upset, you may notice a decrease in stool quality and a reduction in energy levels and performance. Other signs include loss of appetite, excess gas, vomiting, constipation, loose stools, and fatigue.

To help handle stress and promote a healthy immune system, your dog can be given Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets FortiFlora canine nutritional supplement. Prescribed by veterinarians and containing a special strain of probiotic that has been proven to restore normal intestinal health and balance, Enterococcus faecium SF68, FortiFlora may help nutritionally manage diarrhea from stressful situations that can disrupt a retriever’s digestive system.

“You can begin using FortiFlora as early as during training,” Reynolds says. “Support healthy immune function in your retriever by starting FortiFlora before a big hunt.”

After a day of hard work in the field, it’s important to make sure your retriever recovers and is well-rested. Maximizing rest helps to minimize stress. Warm, soft, dry bedding is crucial, as is comfortable, not cramped, quarters when traveling.

You also can maintain your dog’s immune function by feeding a high-performance dog food, such as Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Formula. The foundation of optimal performance and recovery, this complete and balanced formula sustains a dog’s energy needs and helps keep him properly conditioned.

The role of the GI tract as a dog’s natural defense system often is overlooked. Supporting digestive health in your dog is key to reducing stress and to helping ensure he performs in peak condition from the blind.

18 Sep

Preventing Hard Mouth

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Training Tips | , ,

Advance preparation is the best way to keep your retriever from mangling birds

Most waterfowl hunters do not mind if their retriever brings to hand birds that are a bit rumpled or missing a few feathers. But no one likes being presented with a duck that has been mauled by his dog. If the bird is not fit for use as table fare, the retriever is not doing its job properly. This habitual proclivity to mangle waterfowl or upland birds is commonly called hard mouth.

Many professional trainers believe that hard mouth can be a hereditary affliction. When selecting a puppy, by all means check out the parents first. Still, there is really no surefire way to tell if a dog is going to be predisposed to damaging birds once it grows up. That part likely falls in the luck-of-the-draw department. There are, however, precautions you can take while training your retriever puppy that may help prevent the dog from developing hard mouth. Common sense applies in most cases.

Last summer, while walking in a local park, I watched as a youngster played towel tug of war with a gorgeous golden retriever pup. After back-and-forth yanking and jerking, the boy elevated the game by quickly spinning in circles, thus lifting the dog off the ground and sending it airborne. The puppy, hanging on for dear life, had its jaws locked in a death grip on its end of the towel. The point here is that you should resist the temptation to play tug of war with bones, chew toys, leashes, bumpers, or towels. Games of tug of war only teach your dog to bite down hard on whatever is in its mouth, which is not a good thing for a dog that makes its living picking up birds.

On a hunt several years ago, one of my companions had a young Labrador retriever just beginning its first season afield. This was an extremely well-mannered dog and it was obvious that the guy had dedicated many hours to training his treasured Lab. Shooting commenced early. A wing-tipped mallard drake fell just outside the decoys and the pup was sent to retrieve the duck, which put up an incredible fuss. Every time the dog picked up the duck, it would wiggle free and the pup had to start over, not sure how to handle this wing-flapping, foot-kicking, neck-stretching greenhead. What the dog learned that day was that it had to clamp down extremely hard to keep the duck in its mouth. This was not a positive lesson. The pup simply was not yet ready for that type of confrontation.

Introducing your retriever to real birds prior to actual hunting is an important training component. Think about it: if all you use during training sessions are bumpers, what’s a young dog going to do when he finally gets hold of an actual duck, goose, or pheasant? The smells and the feathers are going to be all new to the dog. He’s probably going to get extremely excited, perhaps overzealous. And a hard-mouth habit can be the result. Even bird wings taped to a bumper are better than nothing. But real birds are best because they help condition your dog to the texture, smell, and taste common to wild game.

What do you do when you are convinced your dog has hard mouth? Some trainers are of the opinion that all retrieving should be stopped until the problem is addressed. One camp suggests using an electronic collar to correct the problem. Another insists that a structured force-fetch program be introduced. Either can work. But be careful on both counts, because if not done properly these methods can lead to other issues. There are no snap-of-the-finger fixes. When in doubt, contact a professional trainer, discuss the problem at hand, and proceed accordingly. In many cases, hard mouth can be cured, but only if you go about it the right way.

18 Sep

9 Essentials for Traveling with Your Retriever

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , ,

Pack these items when planning a hunting trip with your dog

As a professional dog trainer, John Luttrell has traveled extensively with retrievers and other gun dogs over the past 19 years. He has a checklist of essential gear that he takes with him to keep his dogs not only safe but also as stress-free as possible.

“The most stressful thing we can do to our retrievers is to take them on a trip,” says Luttrell, who owns Luttrell Kennels in Clark, South Dakota. “Dogs are not like humans; they love consistency, and the mere act of traveling throws them off their normal routine. Everything I do here at the kennel and on road trips is to reduce stress, because it saps their physical and mental energy and hurts performance.”

Following is Luttrell’s list of items you should always pack when traveling with your retriever:

1. Travel Kennel Letting your retriever ride in the backseat is asking for trouble, and having him roam freely in a pickup bed is downright dangerous. A travel kennel will help keep your dog safe in a moving vehicle—but only if the kennel is properly secured in place. Kennels are also indispensible for keeping dogs under control and out of trouble when left unattended in hotel rooms or friends’ houses. Some hotels and hunting clubs require them.

2. Food and Water Suddenly changing a dog’s food will upset his digestive system, so be sure to pack your retriever’s regular brand of dog kibble. Luttrell also recommends taking along a good supply of fresh water from home. Water can vary widely in chlorine level and sulfur content, which can throw off a dog’s digestive system and make him not want to drink. To perform his best, a retriever must be well hydrated. Also be sure to pack your dog’s regular food and water bowls.

3. Leash and Collar Having absolute control over your retriever near roadways and around unfamiliar dogs is a must. Always keep him on a leash when walking him in public places where he might be tempted to run away or dart into traffic.

4. First-Aid Kit This is the one item you hope never to use, but it could save your dog’s life. According to Luttrell, a retriever first aid kit should include gauze wrap, medical tape, blood-stopper powder, tweezers, scissors, and hydrogen peroxide. The scissors are for clipping the back ends of porcupine quills, which makes them easier to remove. And the hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean wounds or to induce vomiting should your dog ingest poison. Consider loading your cell phone with the contact information of veterinarians in the area you’ll be visiting; it could save your dog’s life.

5. Towel or Chamois A dry dog can handle cold temperatures. Being wet in cold weather, however, will cause a dog to burn needless calories and stress his system. “Even if your Lab sleeps in the truck, bring him inside, dry him off, and let him warm up. This is an essential part of good dog care and will extend your dog’s life,” Luttrell says. He recommends equipping your travel kennel with an insulated cover, especially if you plan to keep it in an open truck bed.

6. Neoprene Vest and Stand Properly fitted dog vests not only trap a dog’s body heat; they also keep his fur surprisingly dry. When hunting where dry ground isn’t available, always bring a stand to keep your dog out of the water between retrieves. Nothing leaches warmth like sitting in frigid water.

7. Dog Bed If your dog sleeps on a bed at home, pack it. Having his own “comfort spot” will help keep your retriever under control, particularly around other dogs.

8. Whistle and E-Collar Use the same whistle for hunting that you use for training. A different-sounding whistle might not even register with your dog. If you train with an e-collar, bring that along as well.

9. Training Dummy Luttrell packs a training dummy for fun during a long road trip. A few retrieves can also get a dog’s digestive system loosened up so he’ll do his business faster during potty breaks on the road.

18 Sep

Cold-Weather Retriever Care

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , , , ,

Here’s how to keep your dog healthy and safe when hunting in frigid conditions

Most retrievers aren’t afraid of cold weather and will throw caution to the brisk wind when hunting waterfowl, fetching birds in icy water and braving even the harshest elements. Properly conditioned duck dogs are built for the cold.

Breeds such as Labs, goldens, and Chessies have thick double coats that repel water to help keep them warm. Nevertheless, retriever owners should recognize that they must take precautions to protect their canine partners as the temperature drops. Frigid weather requires special vigilance and care.

Proper nutrition is the key to keeping your retriever healthy in cold conditions. The more your dog hunts, the more calories he burns. Factor in extremely cold weather and his fuel consumption increases even further. To meet your retriever’s energy needs you must feed him larger portions of high-energy, nutrient-rich dog food. This will help him retain body fat, which acts as insulation and reduces the rate of heat loss from his torso. At least one study suggests that gun dogs may need up to 80 percent more calories per pound to maintain a healthy weight during the hunting season than what they require during the off-season.

This does not mean that you should stuff your dog with a heavy meal just before heading to the duck blind or immediately upon returning home from a hunt. Feed him in the early evening, after he’s had a chance to rest and recover from a long day in the marsh. If the increased rations are too much for him to handle in one meal, try feeding him in two installments, allowing him to sleep between meals. Keep in mind that your dog will also require ample water to stay properly hydrated. The more food he eats, the more water he needs for his digestive system, and the rigors of hunting only increase this demand. Always carry clean, fresh water with you on the hunt and give him a drink at regular intervals throughout the day.

The importance of maintaining a retriever’s body weight in cold weather can’t be overstated. If your dog is not properly nourished, prolonged exposure to the cold, wet conditions of waterfowling could result in a drop in body temperature. This burns up available energy and lowers blood sugar, which can lead to hypothermia. Signs of this serious condition include violent shivering, listlessness, and apathy. If you suspect that your dog has become hypothermic, rap him in a blanket and take him indoors. Give him a warm bath followed by a vigorous towel rub to dry his fur and skin. Hypothermia can be deadly. If you feel that your retriever might be in danger, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Frostbite is another concern in wintry weather. Pale skin is one telltale sign of this condition, which typically affects a dog’s toes, ears, tail, and scrotum. To avoid frostbite, always be sure to remove any ice or caked mud from your retriever’s feet. Paw pads that are severely cracked or bleeding should be examined by a veterinarian. Prevention is important because frostbitten tissues are more susceptible to repeated freezing.

Neoprene dog vests have become quite popular over the past several years. These vests not only provide insulation, but also serve to protect your dog from abrasions caused by ice shards or tree branches. Always make sure the vest fits snugly. A loose fit can allow moisture to get trapped between the vest and the dog, which is not a good thing when the thermometer bottoms out.

Ice holds its own inherent dangers. A slip on the ice can cause your retriever to sustain joint and ligament damage. Worse still is the prospect of your dog falling through the ice and becoming trapped beneath it. Don’t take any chances.

Putting your retriever in jeopardy should not be an option. There may be days when it is best to leave him at home. Let common sense prevail. And be careful out there.

18 Sep

Hunting Retrievers Benefit from Healthy Hydration

by Shawn Blackmore |Sep 18, 2016 |0 Comments | Dog Care | , , , , , , , , , ,

Early-season waterfowling is about to begin with the arrival of blue-winged teal and green-winged teal and the start of early local Canada goose seasons. Heading to the marshes with your loyal retriever could be a steamy proposition, thanks to late-summer heat and humidity.

Driven to please, your retriever enjoys waterfowl hunting as much as you do. To help your hunting partner do his job well, you want to make sure he or she is physically fit and in shape to retrieve. You also should practice healthy hydration. Retrieving ducks is a heat-producing activity that can lead to dehydration. Warm weather temperatures also can add to stress and fatigue.

“Hydration is not something to be taken lightly,” says Dr. Brian Zanghi, Purina Research Nutritionist. “Dehydration can occur rapidly. Dogs that swim to make retrieves at 70 to 80 degrees can experience mild to moderate dehydration pretty quickly based on how hard they swim and for how long.”

Dehydration also can occur after multiple days of hunting. In extreme heat, cold and humidity, water turnover increases several times. Some dogs will have problems consuming enough water, so it is important to monitor their hydration.

Dogs also can become distracted in a hunting environment and lose interest in drinking water. Here are tips to help keep dogs hydrated:

  • Offer small amounts of water every 15 to 20 minutes when dogs are working, as frequent small amounts of water are better than a large volume
  • Make sure a dog has access to water when working but always wait until the painting slows down before allowing the dog to drink a large volume of water
  • Mix food kibbles with water and/or add a little low-sodium chicken broth, creating a light soup, to help boost water consumption
  • Try giving ice cubes after a hunting outing
  • Never give ice cold water, as it could cause vascular constriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels

“In short, maintaining hydration in working retrievers is critical,” says Zanghi, who studies performance nutrition for active dogs. “Hydration helps to remove the byproducts of energy metabolism and helps exercising muscles function optimally, the most important determinant of endurance over multiple days of waterfowl hunting. Water helps dissipate the heat from work and cool a dog’s body temperature.”

Healthy hydration combined with feeding a performance food enriched with the right nutrients will help give your hunting partner an optimal start to the waterfowl season. A high-protein/high-fat performance food helps to support a working dog’s fat and protein metabolism. Zanghi advises feeding hunting retrievers a food that provides from 28 to 30 percent protein and from 18 to 20 percent fat to sustain their high energy demand.

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