The hunt ends and we keep the rifle, the shotgun and all our gadgets, but we cannot forget the dog, which we must continue to care for. In the following notes, we will cover the basic notions of handling the hunting dog in periods of inactivity, as well as some actions that should be carried out at this time, such as vaccinations or planning reproduction with females that have worked well during the season.
Perhaps the main characteristic of the closure is that dogs cannot be taken out into the field, and this has important consequences for their physiology and metabolism. I remember that when I was a kid, we used to take them out to the fields all year round, and nobody said anything. What’s more, they were loose in the town, and they went hunting themselves, so they maintained good muscle tone and optimal weight 365 days a year.
During the closure, dogs go from a period of high activity to another of total inactivity, and if you do not know how to handle this situation it can have really harmful effects for the animal.
Currently, it is absolutely prohibited to remove dogs during the closure, so they must be confined in a kennel until the following season.
This means that dogs go from a period of high activity to another of total inactivity, and if you do not know how to handle this situation it can have really harmful effects for the animal.
Therefore, it is good to take into account certain behavior guidelines so that the period of inactivity is as bearable as possible, and that the dog reaches the next hunting season in good condition.
From this point of view, it must be taken into account that hunting dogs are high-level athletes and if we are guided by what elite athletes do we will see that they follow protocols to be able to develop their potential to the maximum. These are based on interspersing periods of activity with periods of rest, so as not to exhaust yourself.
Activity periods are workouts in which they try to do a little more exercise each day than the day before so that the muscles become stronger, the joints become more flexible and elastic, and the cardio-respiratory system acquires its Maximum capacity.
When they have reached the maximum level that their organism allows them, they can maintain it for a time, after which they have to rest, for another period of time.
But this rest should keep a minimum of work to preserve a certain muscle tone, flexibility and respiratory capacity.
With hunting dogs, the same thing happens, and the hunting and closed seasons are perfect to carry out the activity and resting phases. But rest should not be absolute, and the dog must maintain a minimum background by performing a minimum of activity. To maintain that necessary “base tone” it would be enough to take the dog out to the field for about 45 minutes, two or three times a week, and take a good walk, leaving him freedom to run.
In the area where I live, in Navarra, the hunting management plans of each preserve contemplate a dog area (normally a terrain of low hunting interest) where dogs are allowed to be taken out all year round. This is quite interesting and allows you to do these weekly “workouts”, although they are not suitable for all races.
Going out into the bush with hounds or big game dogs has problems, since it is very possible that they take a trail and not only leave the dog area, but also leave the preserve (and some of the province). With these breeds, the approach must be different and have fences where they can be free and do some exercise.
FOOD, THE OTHER IMPORTANT POINT
Many hunters assume that during the hunting season dogs tend to be thin (they even think it is good because they hunt better) and that during the closure it is normal for them to be fat. As with the subject of training and rest, it is convenient that one end and the other do not move away.
A well-groomed dog, while hunting, must maintain a good weight and not be thin. As we mentioned in the previous number, a dog is at his weight when looking at him, his ribs are not visible, but when he touches his side, they are perfectly visible. In addition, in the middle of the hunting season, you will have very strong, hard and voluminous muscle masses (especially those of the hind limbs).
For this to happen, food is very important, in quantity and quality. The dog must be supplied with enough food to compensate for the energy expended during hunting, and also that consumed by maintaining the internal temperature and the animal’s own metabolism. Thus, we said that a medium-sized dog that hunts a whole winter morning at 0ºC of room temperature, may need more than 600 g of good quality feed.
On the contrary, the caloric needs of the same dog at rest, and if the temperature is good and the kennel is well designed and the animal is not cold, it can drop to 270 g of the same quality feed. This shows the great difference in the amount that a hunting dog needs to ingest during the winter in full season and the inactivity of the closure during the summer.
And that is why different types of feed appear for different levels of activity. This is what homeowners know as high energy, maintenance feed. We could say that a maintenance feed is the one that covers the basic needs of a dog so that it is in perfect condition. As a reference we take the amount of protein and fat that said feed has. Although the figures vary from brand to brand, the average value of a maintenance feed is usually around 25% protein, and around 10% fat. With this, a dog that ingests 270 g a day would get the 1800 kilocalories it needs a day.
In high-energy feed, the amount of protein is increased by around 30% (or above this amount), and the amount of fat by 15% (or above). This assumes that, by ingesting the same amount of feed, the incoming kilocalories increase. So why not feed the dog high-energy feed all year round? With less feed, it can provide all the kilocalories it needs.
The correct thing is to feed the dog with a maintenance feed all year round, since the protein / fat ratio of 25/10 is correct for the animal’s physiology. Furthermore, I advise that if exercise is moderate, it is enough to increase the amount of maintenance feed to adjust it to the increase in caloric needs at that time.
Only when the exercise is very high, it is convenient to change to a high energy feed, since the high levels of protein that these feeds have is not good for the dog’s body. It has been shown that long diets high in protein, end up damaging the kidney, and therefore shortening the life of the animal.