BASC wildfowling officer Shane Robinson and head of wildfowling James Green talk about preparing your dog for the first outing of the season.
Your dog is one of the most important pieces of your wildfowling kit and, more than that, it is your friend – family, even. So when you venture out onto the foreshore your dog’s health, safety and wellbeing is as much of a priority as your own.
You can’t expect the dog to pick up where it left off last February if you’ve done nothing over the summer. There is still time before we venture out wildfowling to make sure the dog is up to speed; is it still steady in a hide, can he be handled back over distance, will he cross the creek to make a retrieve? You don’t want to lose that first bird of the season due to a training issue that could easily have been addressed with a bit of time prior to your first excursion on the foreshore.
When you’re preparing for your first flight of the season, along with cleaning, restocking and packing your kit, don’t forget to think about the dog. Make sure they are in good condition, fit and well-fed. Read BASC’s 10 tips to get your dog fit for the season here.
It’s time for your first flight and the kit is packed and ready by the door. You’ve made your sandwiches and warmed some soup for your flask. Did you pack an extra sausage for your companion? It’s all very well saving them a crust or two and letting them lick the soup cup clean but it pays to be a little more prepared.
You may take the shot, but it’s Rover who has to venture out into the cold dark water to retrieve the bird and he’ll probably cover three or four times the distance that you do. You can’t drink salt water and neither can the dog, so take a bottle of fresh drinking water you can share between you. If it’s very cold, and it often is, consider a second flask of warm water which won’t freeze over a long outing. After a swim, mud bath and long run, your four-legged friend will thank you for it.
Speaking of freezing weather, make sure your fowling coat has had its waterproofing restored and any holes or tears from last season sewn up. There is an abundance of kit available for wildfowlers, but any seasoned fowler will tell you, the mud gets EVERYWHERE. It’s none too pleasant under the nose and once you’ve worn clothing on the marsh it won’t be any good as street wear. And take the same care with your dog; when the temperature drops, they’ll need help to keep warm too. Neoprene coats are a great asset as they really keep in the heat on a cold day. They also add buoyancy to help with swimming and come in camouflage patterns.
The final point, and perhaps the most important – at the end of a trip always look after your dog before yourself. Make sure they are clean, dry and fed. There are some fantastic fleeces on the market these days that will see your dog bone dry by the time you get home.
Make the most of your companion and treasure those moments you spend together doing what you both enjoy the most.