Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

September 14, 2013

Bob Gwizdz: Time to get your bird dog ready

SAND LAKE — It happens every year, Tim Fox said. Bird-hunting season is suddenly here and someone is on the phone with him with a bird dog problem hoping to get it fixed. Stat.

“Not everybody has got it together enough to have their dog ready,” said Fox, a veteran bird-dog breeder/trainer. “And if you don’t have them ready, they’re not going to be able to do their job to the best of their ability.”

Fortunately, the season is not lost, said Fox, who attended his first dog-training seminar as a 12-year-old — 42 years ago — and has been a hunting dog trainer ever since. But from here on out, any day not spent working the dog is a day you can’t get back, he said.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is fitness,” Fox said. “Hopefully, you’ve been walking your dog at a minimum. Going into cardio running is pretty imperative. A lot of guys’ dogs are couch potatoes and fitness is paramount.”

Think about it. Hunting dogs are athletes. Even professional ball players go into training before the season begins.

Complicating the fitness equation is the often intolerable heat of early bird season. Hot weather does not excuse you from working your dog, Fox said.

“When running dogs, water them early and often,” says Fox. “I believe most dogs need to be watered 10 minutes into their run and then regularly afterwards. They need to be watered before they get thirsty.

“If you’re going to get your dog fit, you’re going to have to keep him hydrated while you’re working him.”

Fact is, Fox generally rubs a dog’s face and muzzle with water before he starts working it.

“It helps keep moisture in their nose,” he said. “It washes the dust off, which clogs their nasal passages, and it keeps their nasal passages moist so they can use their nose.”

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