4 Offseason Hunting Dog Tips To Live By

Travis Thompson

As conservation seasons come to a close, we begin to turn our attention to preparing for the fall.  Decoy repairs, equipment maintenance, personal conditioning, deal shopping – all part of our regular offseason maintenance routine.

One part we cannot get lax on is dog training and conditioning.  It’s easy to turn our labs loose in the house to chase bacon scraps and steal your wife’s socks all summer, but this is one area where a little extra effort will pay off in a huge way once the winds shift and the leaves begin to turn.

Follow these simple steps to maximize your down time, tuning your lean, mean, duck getting best friend into an even better companion in the field.


This is paramount – your pup has been hard charging for so many cold mornings all winter, it’s almost too easy to relax his conditioning.

Regular walks are a simple way to burn off some energy, retain muscle tone, and keep his wind up.  For younger dogs (under 5) running is a great way to exercise both yourself and the pup, but be careful with the impact on smaller breeds.  I prefer 2 daily walks during the offseason, totaling anywhere from 1 to 3 miles.

Think of exercise in the same manner you would for humans.  Waterfowl season is a marathon you have 6 months to train for.  Don’t slack off now!


It’s important to closely monitor your canine’s intake during the offseason as much as you would during the hunting season.

It’s easy to undo a strict diet if you allow your dog table scraps, or feed them “just a little extra” . . . Feed your pup a high protein food appropriate to their breed and size recommendations.  If you’re uncertain about your portions, consult your vet.  Extra weight, as well as leading to conditioning issues, can also lead to difficulties later in life as arthritis and joint issues begin to manifest.


For most sporting dogs, hip and joint issues are not uncommon . . . Labs, Shorthairs, Pointers, Brits . . . all of these breeds are subject to arthritis as they grow and age, particular when you consider the athletic lifestyle when they are afield.  Much like a professional athlete, the nature of the job can lead to sports-related injuries and scar tissue in the healing process.

One of the best products on the market is a liquid glucosamine called “Renew” . . . Cursory research will bare out that glucosamine is THE supplement for joint and hip health.

From personal experience with 30 plus years of sporting dogs, waiting until a dog shows issues in their hips and joints is NOT the time to start a supplement, although it can still provide some relief and reversal of symptoms.  It’s better to start glucosamine at an early age, acting as almost a lubricant as the dog grows and exercises.

Why do we choose Renew?  It’s made in the USA, created by hunters specifically for hunting dogs . . . It’s available in a 32 oz size, meaning a minimum of 30 days worth of treatments (depending on breed size) . . . Plus, it’s liquid, giving a huge absorption advantage over traditional chewables and tablets, resulting in faster results and a higher ceiling.

In addition, it contains other recommended supplements such as Chondroitin, Manganese, Grape Seed Extract, Boron, and Horsetail herb, all of which work together to provide maximum results for your pup.

Click here to purchase this supplement today.

Field work

This could probably fall under the “exercise” portion of this column, but we’re calling it out separately.  Why?

Field work during the late spring and summer is what separates good dogs from great dogs.  This is where skills are developed and honed to a razor sharp edge.

Scent training.  Blind retrieves.  Open water retrieves.  Crossover training to flush or point, if you use your dog for upland hunts as well.

While many waterfowl dogs are welcome companions in the house, they are a tool and asset to the hunter in the field.  This is what they were bred to do, and sharpening these skills only enhances your toolbox.  It also gives your pup tremendous joy.

I attempt to field work my dogs at least twice a week during the late spring, and once a week during the summer.  Make sure to keep your dog hydrated as the temps creep upward.

These sessions will have moments of enjoyment, as well as moment of frustration (and, if you’re me, moments where you’ll threaten to list your dog in the “Free to good home” section of the internet).  Either way, you are sure to see the results when the shells start flying.

There you have it.  While our list is far from comprehensive, these are the 4 things we do to ensure peak performance from our pups each season.  For the hardcore fowlers, we spend thousands on equipment; we may have spent thousands on our dog . . . Spending a bit of time and a little more money is really an investment in our future seasons.