Older dogs may lose a step, but they can still be excellent hunting pals
While the thrill of the chase doesn’t diminish with a hunting dog’s age, strength and endurance inevitably do. Hearing and sight loss, along with other health issues, also begin as a dog ages. The senior canine years can start as early as age five, with larger breeds aging faster than smaller breeds. But can a senior dog still be a good hunter? Of course, assuming you keep a few things in mind.
To catch any potential health problems early, take your dog to the vet for annual physical exams and follow a routine of periodic blood tests. Scheduled vaccinations and deworming treatments also safeguard against nasty diseases.
As a dog grows older, the metabolism slows down and energy levels decline. Without a corresponding change in diet, this can lead to unhealthy weight gain. To remain lean, healthy hunting machines, older working dogs need a high-protein, lower-fat diet. Dog food or supplements with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and omega fatty acids are all good for aging joints.
An active lifestyle helps dogs of all ages remain fit and healthy, but older dogs will need more time to get in good hunting shape before the season begins. Keep a close eye on your dog and go at his pace as you ramp up the intensity of the training. Reduced stamina is one of the first things you’ll notice in older dogs, so keep the hunting and training sessions short and fun to avoid harm. Also, avoid exercising the dog in extremely hot or cold weather, and be sure to provide frequent water breaks.
Saskatchewan’s Lowell Strauss often writes about hunting dogs for Outdoor Canada.