Winter Blues: Keeping Your Dog in Hunting Shape

Hunting Lab Dog
Winter Blues: Keeping Your Dog in Hunting Shape
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance

Columbus, OH –-( As the fall hunting season reaches its peak, all those hours of summer training are hopefully paying off for you and your favorite hunting companion.

But how can you keep your dog in peak hunting shape throughout the late winter months when all of us, including your pet, feel like going into hibernation?

Brian Lynn, Gun Dog blogger for Outdoor Life and an expert on dogs and training, recommends working your canine friend two to three days a week throughout the winter months to keep them in shape.

“You have to train like you hunt,” explains Lynn. “Giving your dog a couple of sprints in the backyard, a few retrieves, calling it good, and expecting your dog to run 10 miles over a course of a day for upland hunting is just not going to work.”

Being in great physical shape is not only important, but also a necessity when it comes to man’s best friend. Entering hunting season out of shape and overweight can be dangerous for all breeds. It could lead to heat exhaustion, illness, drowning and more.

Running is the best physical activity you can do for your dog before and after hunting season according to Lynn. He recommends the use of ATVs if available and also resistance training to build muscle mass and endurance. Resistance training can come in the form of turning your pet into a “sled dog” for the winter. Sled dog harnesses can be purchased for less than $50 and you can turn an old tire into a cheap and easy resistance trainer by simply attaching it to your dog’s harness.

There are also some unconventional methods you can use to keep your dog in top shape when not hunting.

Jeremy Moore, owner and founder of Dog Bone – a shed antler retrieving system, says the winter months can also be a “new season” for your dog by training them to hunt dropped antlers.

“Shed hunting keeps them in tune with using their nose and making retrieves,” said Moore. “But it also keeps them in shape physically because they cover a lot of ground. It’s similar to pheasant hunting only with different terrain.”

Moore explained that shed training can be used as an extension of upland dog training. Basic retrieves and many other drills can be simulated by using his system.

“Pheasant and other upland game hunting can be simulated by simply practicing with the antler shed,” explained Moore. “With my dogs, we do a ton of retrieving into the winter and the antler shape and scent is the reward rather than bird dummies.”

Moore also recommends using the snow to your advantage when trying to keep your dog in shape. Heavy snow can be used to “intensify” the workout, according to Moore. Running through fresh snow is hard enough on hunters, so pushing your dog to run and make cuts in the snow is a workout in itself.

Often times winter weather can be unpredictable and you can find yourself stuck inside for days at a time. Using small training sessions such as walking to the mailbox is the perfect opportunity to reinforce your basic commands.

“Use every day type things as training opportunities.” said Moore. “If you have a long driveway, take your dog with you to the mailbox and work on heel, stay and sit. It’s a perfect mini lesson.”

The winter months may seem daunting for some, but can prove to be an excellent season for keeping your dog in tip top shape. For more tips on dog training visit:

Brian Lynn, Gun Dog blog

Jeremy Moore: Dog Bone Antler Retrieval System

About:The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen’s organizations that protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs. Visit