End of the Season Hunting Dog Care

Postseason Hunting Dog Checklist | Dog Care Once the Season Ends


With seasons wrapping up, it is the perfect time to consider your hunting dog’s care, health, training, and goals for next season. Waterfowl and upland retrievers play an integral role in your hunts, your enjoyment, and your satisfaction every time you are in the field. Just as you care for a shotgun, or a pair of waders, it’s important to keep in mind that your hunting dog deserves your attention after a season of loyal service by your side.


There are many factors to consider when it comes to retrievers and hunting dogs in general. When it comes to your dog’s care, to animal husbandry, and to doing your part to keep your favorite hunting partner in the best shape possible, there are many factors to consider. These factors may seem relatively simple, and maybe even obvious, but when put them into relationship with other contributing circumstances like the dogs age and activity level, taking the best care of your hunting retriever can require some planning on your part. Following a post season hunting dog checklist can help to cover all the bases when it comes to finishing up your hunting season and caring for your hunting dog.


Photo: @Dabblersupply


Hunting Dog Postseason Checklist


Utilizing a checklist to properly evaluate your field dog, their health and their performance throughout the season is especially critical at the end of season. This checklist, and the action items it creates will help both you and your favorite hunting partner be at your best when the birds fly again next fall.


Evaluate Your Hunting Dog’s Body Condition Score


Hard work, long retrieves, and cold conditions all take their toll on your dog’s overall body condition. The end of season is a key time to evaluate the body condition of your hunting dog, their weight, muscle condition, and coat.


A quick internet search will help you find many body condition score cards or online tools designed to help you identify your pup’s condition based on factors such as their rib cage, their profile, and their body outline when looking down from an overhead view. Identifying your dog’s X out of 5 body condition will give you that critical starting point that you can refer to throughout the last days of winter, this spring, and throughout next summer as you are getting ready for your next successful season together.


Take Note of Any Injuries & Schedule a Vet Visit if Needed


Hunting season can take its toll on a working dog, and a hunting dog’s drive can be unstoppable, sometimes hiding minor injuries. Long days in the blind, icy cold water, and miles in pursuit of upland birds are all signs of a successful season, but can also lead to minor injuries, bumps and bruises for your dog in the field.


We always strive to provide our cherished field dogs with the best care possible, but in the excitement of the hunt, small injuries may go unnoticed. With hunting season over, take the time to give your pup the two or three times over, looking for minor injuries, including:

  • Cracked or split paw pads
  • Minor bumps or lumps in the skin that could be hiding a splinter or thorn
  • Stiff or sore joints due to minor inflammation
  • Small abrasions to tender spots like ears, eyes, nose or mouth areas

Most minor bumps and bruises can be cared for at home with a little TLC, however, don’t hesitate to schedule a routine checkup with your favorite veterinarian if anything seems serious or out of sorts.


Photo: Sporting Life Kennels


Write Down Highs and Lows from this Season and Set Goals Now, for Next Season


It’s easy to wrap up this season’s hunts with a few chores, cleaning and putting away shotguns and decoys, and maybe adding some extra calories to the dog bowl for recovery. But, take the time to take note of the highs and lows of your season, not just the birds and the weather, consider your field dog’s performance and set goals for next year.


By sitting down now while the season and the hunts are still fresh on your mind, you have the perfect opportunity to identify the tasks and techniques you and your dog have mastered, and also the areas where you still need some polishing.


Review Obedience


Obedience is the first thing to consider: come, sit, stay, and load up are all pretty simple commands, but sometimes as hunting season begins to wear on, simple commands begin to become lax and pups might get away with a few things not allowed on day one of season.


Consider the Retrieve


This is the perfect time to dissect your field dog’s overall training and the retrieves from this past season. Did the dog break early, did the dog use its nose and the wind, did the dog bring the birds all the way to your hand; these are all details that can offer a clearer picture to items that may need some touching up during the off season.


Set Goals to Achieve Before Next Season


Hunting with a good dog is a true joy, providing a partnership that is impossible to explain to those who have not experienced it. Hunting with a stubborn dog that doesn’t understand the expectations and has not been taught basic obedience can be equally as frustrating.


When you make your season end evaluation list, add attainable goals beside each item that needs improvement. Using this list throughout the season as a working document during frequent, but short working sessions is a great way to measure progress and not get discouraged. Your field dog is ready to learn, and work, and wants to please you, so put together a plan based on last season’s evaluations.


Photo: @dillonanddrake


Enjoy the Success of Last Season, and Look Forward to Next Season


The end of any season is the perfect time to evaluate successes and failures, to learn from what last season had to offer, and look forward to what next season promises. Be sure and make your field dog, their performance, their health, and their safety a part of that same process.


Another season in the field may have come to an end, but the first day after the last day of season is officially preseason!