Another season of boats, blinds, calls and retrieves is over. The duck gun needs cleaning before it's put up, and quail and pheasant over-and-unders are not far behind. For me this means getting all the junk out of the boat, cleaning all the mud off the decoys, repairing what can be repaired and chunking the rest.
For your dog, the end of the season should mean a well-deserved rest. It is a good time to reassess feeding regimens, give attention to nagging injuries, and give your pooch a good clean up as well.
The performance demands on our dogs diminish greatly during the offseason. If you have been feeding more than once per day to maintain energy requirements, you can cut back to once daily feedings.
Late winter and spring are still cold for most areas of the country, so feeding a diet with additional protein is beneficial. High carbohydrates are less necessary since activity levels are generally decreased. Less activity and performance stress can also lower the need for fats.
If nutrient levels are adequate, diet changes can sometimes be achieved simply by lowering the volume of feed. If you are feeding a diet with 20% fat, decreasing from 4 cups to 3 cups can effectively lower fat intake by 25%. Sticking with the same diet can also prevent gastrointestinal upset that follows a food change.
There are many injuries that have a hard time getting completely well during hunting or trials. The offseason is the time to take the steps necessary to return your dog to 100%.
Retrievers that work in the marshes, rivers, and other big water, sometimes just can't overcome ear problems while they are continually exposed to wet conditions. Once the season is over, giving your dog's ears a few months of dryness can really help.
Field dogs are hard on their feet. Abrasions and cuts to the paws and pads occur from the terrains that our dogs navigate. Even under the most ideal conditions, these areas are sometimes hard to get healed. If your dog has any of these areas that don't want to heal, check with your veterinarian about special bandages and pads that you can use to promote a full recovery.
A clean dog is a happy dog
The naturally occurring oils are an important part of skin health. For field dogs, these oils repel mud and debris helping the skin to breath. For cold weather water-working dogs, oils on the skin help shed water and keep them warm. For these reasons, it's a good idea to limit bathing during the season.
But then after a long hard season, my dog is typically pretty nasty and due a good scrub. While hunting he usually stays outside, but during the off time, he sometimes weasels his way inside so I want him to be clean.
Large groups of bird dogs kept in a kennel will probably not receive such care, but many hunting dogs also are companions and a good bathing is beneficial for their skin and will add to the pleasure of their company.
Just because the season is over doesn't mean it is time to park your dog and forget about her. Use this time to take care of business that might have been postponed during busy times afield.