We’re less than a month out from the Ruffed Grouse opener here in Minnesota, so it’s time to make sure your four-legged companion is in tip-top shape when you hit the woods opening morning. We intentionally didn’t address the care for dogs in our last post as we felt it warranted its own. I’ve outlined below what I feel is essential to make sure your dog has what it needs to get out there and find some birds for you.
- Vet Check. I like to bring my dogs in about a month before the hunting season begins to make sure they get a clean bill of health before they hit the woods. Talk with your vet to ensure you are up to date on all shots and vaccinations. It is also a good idea to bring in a stool sample and have blood drawn to rule out any internal issues they may be dealing with. Talk to your vet and tell them your hunting plans for the fall, some vets are willing to supply you with prescriptions and or medical supplies so you are well equipped when you are out of town. If you can get a broad based antibiotic, medication to help with intestinal issues, and a sterile cleaning solution, you are well on your way to care for your dog. Also remember to continue applying a flea and tick preventative. You’ll still find plenty of mosquitoes and ticks well into October.
- Trim Nails. Sometimes this one gets overlooked but can be extremely important. Short, healthy nails help protect your dog from a number of potential injuries. The most common you hear about is split or cracked nails. They bleed a lot and I can only imagine that it hinders your dog’s ability to perform at the top of its game. I have two different methods that I prefer. The first, when I’m being diligent about maintaining nails, is to use a Dremel tool to sand down the nails to a reasonable level. The other, when the nails get a bit long, is a two-step process. I clip them down and then round off the edges with a Dremel. I like to make sure there are no sharp edges because they can rub and create hot spots on their pads.
- Condition Your Dogs! This one is important. You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, would you? I can only imagine that it’s a shock to a dog’s system going from lying on the couch day after day to being expected to run and hunt for a day, weekend, or extended trip. I like to allow my dogs a variety of activities throughout the year to stay in shape, but I typically ramp up the month before we go out hunting. I road my dogs on rollerblades about twice a week, this is where I hook them up to harnesses and they pull me. Weather permitting, we do this for 20-30 minutes and prior to hunting season, I’ll stretch it out to 30-45 minutes. On off days, we go to an off leash park and the dogs are free to range and roam for an hour or so. I’m lucky to have a park close by that also offers access to a lake where the dogs can swim and get low impact exercise. Another benefit is that we’ll run into wild pheasant every once in a while and in the spring and fall, the woodcock migrate through so I get some bonus bird exposure. If you are just starting your conditioning program, make sure you keep a close eye on your dog’s health, specifically while exercising them in the heat. The other main thing to monitor is their pads, heat and terrain can wreak havoc but if done correctly, your dog’s pads will toughen up and be better off come opening day.
- Training Tune Up. There is still time to get out and get your dog tuned up and reinforce commands. It doesn’t matter what kind of dog you are running, there is always something you and your dog can work on. Now is your opportunity to get them responding how you want because once the season opens up, you are going to be focused on shooting birds rather than correcting or reinforcing your commands.
- Gear Check. Don’t put it off any longer. If you need to fix or replace any equipment, you need to address it now or else you may be left without come opening day. I like to go through and inspect my e-collars, transmitters, chargers, bird vest, and first aid kit. These are all essential items that could make or break a trip.
- First Aid Kit. I’m typically hunting in remote locations so I like to have a kit put together with a few essentials items. While this list likely isn’t perfect, I feel I have what I need if I encounter all but the most severe situations. I keep the kit in a bin in my truck throughout the hunting season and I also carry a number of items on me in my bird vest for addressing issues in the field. You can get a generic first aid kit like this one, Gun Dog First Aid Kit and add to it as you see fit. You can find just about everything listed below at Lion Country Supply.
- Pliers – this can be used in many different fashions but last year, mine got plenty of game time pulling out porcupine quills.
- Vet wrap, athletic tape, gauze, antiseptic ointment. This can be used to clean and treat small cuts, scrapes, etc.
- Eye and ear wash to ensure you can flush out any foreign objects.
- As noted above, my vet supplies me with Cephalexin, Metronidazole, and an antiseptic solution. She also provides me with a write up of the doses and directions for each. I suggest calling your vet with any specific issues to ensure you are caring for your dog correctly. I supplement my dogs with a probiotic called Pet Dophilus during the hunting season. This helps with healthy bacteria in their digestive tract.
- Skunk Spray Solution. I’ve been lucky so far that I haven’t had to use this but I’m also not naïve enough to think that I won’t ever need it. I’ve heard the following solution works well. 1 Quart of Hydrogen Peroxide, ¼ cup of Baking Soda, and 2 tablespoons of dish washing soap. Mix it all together in a bag or bowl and apply to your dogs affected areas. Be careful to ensure you keep it out of their eyes. Some people apply with a paintbrush. It is also recommended that you wear rubber gloves. Massage the solution in, let it soak for a couple minutes and wash/rinse thoroughly. Reapply as needed.
- Dog boots. No, I don’t use them on a regular basis but they can help you out in a bind if your dog has a paw or pad injury.
- There are probably a million uses for paracord, but the main reason I carry it in my vest is because it is a useful tool to assist in getting your dog out of a body trap.
- Duct Tape. I have about an inch wide roll that is in my vest. Never know when you’ll need it.
- Leatherman or multi-tool. I carry one in my vest at all times; again, there are a million uses for it so it is handy to have around.
There you have it. Let me know if there is anything else you are doing to prepare your dogs for opening day success and if you have any other essential items for your first aid kit.