When rabbit season opens and you take your first trek out into the field, how is your body going to handle it? Are you going to be energized throughout the day, moving about without issue, or will you instead need a series of breaks during your travels? Rabbit hunting is an activity that requires physical stamina. It is difficult to do without being at least somewhat in shape. Though this very much applies to the human hunter, the canine counterpart very much needs their own physical conditioning in order to hunt successfully.
Rabbit dogs are athletes in the hunt field. As such, they need a proper warm up, cool down, and opportunities to hydrate throughout the day. Additionally, they need regular work to maintain a healthy condition rather than only sporadic workouts. Keeping your rabbit dogs in tip top physical condition is important, and here's how to do it:
Get your dogs acclimated to the environment in which they will be hunting. Although we'd all enjoy it if rabbit hunting could be done from the comforts of a plush couch in the 70 degree air conditioning, that is simply not the case. A dog that is used to the creature comforts of home will struggle when their environment suddenly changes, be it going from cold to hot or vice versa. That is why it is important to get dogs outside year round, so they can develop a tolerance for the type of weather they will meet on any given day. This does not mean leaving dogs outside at all times; they can certainly be brought in during extreme weather conditions, but they need to spend time in the great outdoors for proper acclimation. Provide sturdy shelter and fresh water, but let your rabbit dogs hang out outside from time to time.
Before it is time to perform, allow rabbit dogs a chance to work their kinks out. Let them stretch their legs after a long trip or time spent in close confines before you ask them to go to work. Just five minutes of walking around will help get their bodies ready to get down to business. By the same token, allow for a cool down period after dogs are worked hard. This will help their muscles relax at a natural rate and prevent soreness or cramping.
Photo: Beagles in My Kitchen
Keep your workouts consistent, but not constantly the same. You don't want to only exercise dogs on the days you hunt, but you also don't want to repeat the same workout every day. If they are not physically challenged, they will not build endurance, so keep exercise varied. If possible, take dogs for the occasional swim. You can even try some agility training. Spend some days hiking hilly terrain and go play ball in a field another day. The goal here is to work all muscles in various ways so as to not achieve a plateau in physical conditioning.
The good thing about keeping dogs physically fit is that it goes a long way towards getting us fit as well. By putting the effort into fitting your dogs and therefore yourself, you are setting up for a rabbit hunting season that will be enjoyable by all. It is much better to enjoy the season as you spot rabbits moving about rather than missing a shot because you're still trying to catch your breath after a trek into the field.
How do you keep your rabbit dogs fit? What type of exercise do you and they prefer? Tell us about it in the comments!