Sporting dogs are truly canine athletes. These canine athletes require physical and mental stimulation throughout the year. If you live in the South, this is easy to accomplish simply through hunting; with many bird seasons going through February. However, if you live in the North and deal with snow all winter long, you need to look for activity other than hunting since most bird seasons are closed. Here are a few suggestions.
Let’s start by looking at two popular outdoor activities. The first is dog sledding. This sport is growing in popularity every year. Most of us are familiar with using the husky type breed with long distance dog sledding. Every year we see news reports on the famous Alaskan Iditarod race. However, many sporting dog owners have made dog sledding a regular winter activity for both human and dog. The well-known Carter family in Maine is very active in winter dog sledding with their German shorthaired pointers. Entering this growing sport is not that expensive. A nice beginners sled, called a kick sled, can be purchased for around $300. For sled information, go to www.mainemadedogsleds.com. That’s the website for Alex Murphy’s hand- made sleds. His telephone number is 207-445-5550.
Another popular outdoor winter activity is skijoring. This sport is a cross between cross country skiing and dog sledding. The pull power is typically a horse or a team of dogs. I searched the web for a harness provider but couldn’t find a source. If skijoring interests you, contact Alex Murphy (above) and ask about buying just a harness. I’m sure he could help you.
Indoor activities during the winter are plentiful. Let’s start with basic obedience training. Like all dog training, obedience training is a continuous process…you’re never done. There are a plethora of obedience trainers throughout the country. Google Canine Obedience Training (add your state) and you’ll have plenty to choose from. Continuous work on recall, heeling, whoa, down, etc. will pay big dividends during hunting season.
Winter obedience training can become much more detailed and interesting if you train for and become part of an AKC sanctioned event. These AKC sanctioned events are held all winter throughout the country. They include obedience work with heel, recall, retrieving, scent location, etc.
Another AKC sanctioned activity is Rally. Rally is an activity that my wife, Susan, and her shorthair, Dena, have been very active participants over the past two years. Here is the first paragraph from the AKC website on Rally:
“Rally is a sport in which the dog and handler complete a course that has been designed by the rally judge. The judge tells the handler to begin, and the dog and handler proceed at their own pace through a course of designated stations (10-20), depending on the level). Each of these stations has a sign providing instructions regarding the net skill that is to be performed. Scoring is not as rigorous as traditional obedience.”
I’ve watched Susan and her dog work through a rally course and it’s very interesting (and exciting) to see if the course can be completed without error. The dog is not on a lead in the more advanced levels. The dog and handler must move through the course as a disciplined team. Normal verbal commands are permitted in Rally. Loud or harsh commands may result in a penalty. The dog may not be touched or physically directed during the exercise. Rally is fun; try it! Go to www.akc.org/events/rally for additional information.
One more tip for winter activity. Your professional pointing dog trainer may conduct winter obedience training. Have fun with your dog this winter.
Paul Fuller is host of the Bird Dogs Afield TV program. Paul’s website is www.birddogsafield.com.