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Hunting Dogs
Dog Training and Field Trials

It doesn't matter if you have a field trial dog, gun dog, hunting dog, upland dog, waterfowl dog or a bird dog all dog owners will tell you they want a well-conditioned dog. Those same owners know the first steps toward a well-conditioned dog happen in the offseason.

The goal of any hunter's offseason conditioning program is to maximize a dog’s hunting potential and enhance the well-being of their dog. It's important to take your dog to a veterinarian for a full physical exam before beginning any conditioning program. Be sure to tell the vet how you intend to hunt the dog and seek his advice on a proper and safe exercise plan. Ask specific questions to help determine whether your dog is physically fit and has the ability to begin an exercise program.

Dog owners should plan on six to eight weeks of preseason conditioning to regain hunt-ready status for any dog that has spent much of the winter relaxing. Dogs that enter the hunting season in unfit condition are prone to injury and may not reach the desired fitness level until late in the season, which can sour time spent afield.

The conditioning sessions can be short and fun, not lasting more than 10 or 15 minutes and should take place three to four times a week. Hunters may conduct these sessions on Commission managed properties from May 1 through July 31, except on land areas designated and specifically posted with authorized dog training area signs, which can be used year round for dog training.

Five state wildlife management areas (WMAs) are designated and posted as authorized dog training areas. These areas are Yankee Hill WMA and Wagon Train Lake SRA dog training areas in Lancaster County, Rakes Creek WMA in Cass County, Red Willow Reservoir WMA in Frontier County and Sherman Reservoir in Sherman County. All other WMAs are closed to dog training during May, June and July.

Directions/locations training areas:

Another important aspect to having a well-conditioned dog is nutrition

"Many breeds of hunting dogs are very oral and when they have nothing to carry around in their mouths they eat instead and have a tendency to gain weight," said Dr. Kent Forney, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commissioner and area veterinarian.

According to Dr. Forney, a hard working sporting dog will require more calorically-dense food to make up for the calories they burn when afield, but those extra calories are not needed during the offseason.

"You hear a lot of talk about high protein when feeding dogs, but what it really comes down to is the quality of protein being more important than the quantity," Forney said.

So if you work hard during this offseason to develop a well-conditioned dog, you will be rewarded on your next outing with a happy and healthy dog, and you just might find out the conditioning helped you too.

Some common methods used to condition sporting dogs include running, roading and swimming. Running exercise can be accomplished by various means, such as running free while hunting, running and pulling weights such as cables or chains, running beside a bicycle, running on a merry-go-round-type dog walker, and running on a treadmill.

Field Trials

• For each dog involved in a session, no more than two hen pheasants and five quail may be harvested.

• It is permitted on private land, provided landowner permission is obtained and dog training rules are followed.

• It is unlawful for anyone to exercise, run, train, or hunt with dogs on state wildlife management areas during the period from May 1 through July 31 of each year, except on areas designated and specifically posted with “Authorized Dog Training Area” signs.

• Training or exercising dogs on areas designated and posted as a “Dog Trial Area” is prohibited; such areas are restricted for field trial use only.

• All game birds released for training purposes must be obtained from a captive wildlife permit holder or licensed nonresident breeder, and must be banded by the trainer or seller with official bands authorized by Game and Parks. Any person who purchases game birds from a captive wildlife permit holder or licensed nonresident breeder shall have in his or her possession a sales tag/receipt from the permit holder listing the date, species and number of birds purchased.

• Game birds obtained for dog training may be kept in captivity without a captive wildlife permit for a period not to exceed 14 days following date of purchase or receipt.


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