Animal Care

Playing Productively with Your Dog

There’s a season for everything. Gardener? Those fresh tomatoes are only going to grace your palate for a month during the summer heat. After that, the hose is rolled up, the shovel is stored and most of the other green thumb supplies are brought into the shed.

Want to go skiing? There’s always someplace to go to do it, but to get the right amount of powder under those slats, pretty much stuck with winter before you can pull out your sticks from the garage.

Do you enjoy taking the dog to the woods to fetch some critter for supper? Unless you want to meet-up in an unfriendly way with the game warden, there’s a set time when you can cook what you kill. Off season, there are only so many times you can clean your weapon before locking it in storage until the next time around.

But, your hunting companion – you can’t just take the mutt and put it on ice during the off-months. Frankly, why would you ever think of such a thing? There are so many productive exercises that will keep both the pup and yourself in shape for another day.

Let’s Play, Buddy

Back in ’31 when the American Kennel Club (AKC) was formed, it wasn’t long after that the group came up with field trials. Games you and your best buddy can do without your trusty shotgun. Good for a another reason beyond exercise. It helps breeders improve the dog’s future brood. There are a half-dozen matters taken into consideration as the AKC evolved the concept:

  • The judges get to design the tests, changing them up every-so-often to improve your mutt’s agility.
  • The competitors are under a time limit. Usually, it runs for a trio of days where the dogs will run four stakes. Generally, it takes about a day-and-a-half for every stake.
  • By making it into a contest, the practice evolved into more-and-more challenges for the animals. That helped to make training – a life-long affair – key to improving the species.
  • From a rules standpoint, every dog has to run the same stake. No variations. Makes sense if you’re having a competition. Think of it this way: If one baseball player was able to use a mitt the size of a garbage can lid and the other members of the team were forced to don regulation gloves, that’s just not fair.
  • Throughout the year, regular trials are held. Every entrant gets points on their performance during these exercises. But if the owner plans to enter them into the biggie – the annual national championship trial – they’re required to have so many points or its back to the farm team until next year.
  • While the Big Kahuna contests takes only the best, the amateur trials are open to anyone.

Hunting Tests Are great, too!

We now have three organizations that hold fairly similar hunt-tests: AKC, UKC and NAHRA.

Briefly, the tests are progressive in nature. And unlike the field tests, there are no winners or losers. No competition rules. Another difference is that the judges are limited as to how creative they can make the exercises.

No prizes are awarded and there are not many people (and their retrievers) that enter. Good thing. It means that the productive playing doesn’t get too wacky. It takes place on land and water situations, making it ideal for the gun dog owner. If you’ve just started training your puppy, these basic games can be a genuine benefit for the mutt.

Need to know more? Check out the AKC, UKC and NAHRA websites for details. Hunting may have a season, but training is forever if you want bragging rights for having the best gun dog in the field. You’ll get that by playing productively with your pal in the no-shooting months.