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Fall has officially landed with cool crisp mornings, shorter and shorter days, the craving for an apple, and the sound of gunshots in the distance.  With fall comes hunting season and although some have already started, pheasant season is still to come.  Is your 4-legged hunting buddy ready?

A healthy hunting dog (healthily includes being up-to-date on all vaccines and on a flea, tick, and heartworm prevention program) can be the difference between frustration and pleasure for the bird hunter.  There needs to be some pre-planning for hunting season to get the dog in working condition.  You wouldn't be able to run a marathon straight from the couch to the road, would ya?  Neither can your dog.  They need to have enough training to condition their pads and be in good physical shape.  Since hunting season is now upon us, the dog needs to be worked in respect to its physical condition. 

In regard to feeding, don't feed your dogs immediately before hunting; allow some time for digestion and be sure to take water and easily digestible snacks along.  Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is not very common in adult dogs but it can happen.  Sudden onset of weakness and collapse means the dog needs to increase it blood sugar either with honey or IV fluids from a veterinarian.  Allow the dog frequent breaks especially when it's hot outside (above 60 degrees) because overheating can occur.

Long haired dogs should be trimmed (including their feet) to decrease the chance of cockelburrs.  Cockelburrs and cheat seeds can burrow into the skin and cause major discomfort even infection especially in the "armpit" area and between the toes.  The ears could be looked at especially if there is any head shaking or redness because that could mean there is infection or a foreign body (like a grass awn)

Know where your dog is at all times.  A lot of dogs have been hit by stray pellets and the injuries sustained are usually mild, but the pellets can go into the eyes or other areas and cause some serious problems.  Dogs while on a scent can get lost so make sure yours has some identification with your name and number on it.  Every season we get at least 2 - 3 lost hunting dogs brought in so if you do lose your dog make sure you check with the local vet clinic.  Please don't abandon it if you don't like the way it hunts, we all have bad days and could just use more training possibly with an electric collar.

 Electric collars can be a very useful training tool in many situations.  Internet searches on shock collars can bring up some nasty debates and very divergent opinions on them.  In the hands of skilled dog trainers and handlers the shock can be a very effective punishment tool for many behavior problems.  The remote control allows the handler to remain far away from the dog when giving the punishment therefore the dog does not directly associate it with the handler.  This avoids the common problem of cowering with the hands-on punishment.  

Most of todays shock collars have a great tone feature which allows the dog to change its behavior just with a beep noise prior to needing any shock.  I feel most dogs just need 1 or 2 shocks (with tone attempts prior) and they will start responding to the tone never having the need to be shocked again. Most collars have a shock intensity range and I never recommend using the shock at its highest intensity, a level of 1 or 2 should be sufficient depending on the dog and the behavior issue. 

Collars should only be used on dogs that do not already display any aggression towards their owners or other dogs because the collar can exacerbate the aggression when the dog experiences the pain.  The collars should only be used on behaviors that can be changed or suppressed and if all other forms of training have failed.  Timing is everything with shock collars and if the punishment is not matched to the exact behavior you want changed then it can confuse the dog and can lead it to associate the shock with something else.  Please consult your veterinarian or animal behaviorist before resorting to the electric collar.