Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Off-Season Gun Dog Training

Off-season training reinforces good habits in your gun dog for the hunting to come. Here Elvis, Mike Checkett’s yellow Lab, retrieves an Arkansas blue goose.

By Steve Hickoff

Your gun dog needs to stay in playing shape too. This week we look at some off-season options as fall hunting approaches.


Walk your dog or go for short runs with your canine hunting buddy leashed at your side for safety’s sake. It may have been a long time since you got outdoors together, so begin the process of getting back in fall hunting shape slowly. Reinforce training at a nearby farm or open area as well for both exercise and command practice.


Obviously pre-season dog training is done during summer heat. To gain an advantage, get out during the margins of the day — early morning is especially optimal. Watch for symptoms of heat stress in your dog (and yourself). A panting canine is common, and you should carry a soft collapsible dog dish and water bottles to hydrate your animal. Symptoms of trouble include: confusion, unsteadiness and weakness in the dog. Again, go easy during summer days. A little goes a long way.


If you hunt with a retriever, tossing a dummy regularly will reinforce good habits. If you run pointing or flushing dogs, take your canine buddy to a preserve and put them on released birds —again, do it early in the morning if possible and 45 minutes of work is better than none at all.


You should be the only one making commands to your dog. If friends or family members join you during pre-season tune-ups, patiently ask them to keep their comments (including whistling) to a “minimum” (implying none at all). Dogs may become confused when a child or another adult is also telling them what to do in the field. This goes for hunting season later on as well. If you’ve a pup in training, this is particularly important to note.