How to Keep Your Four Legged Friend Healthy If you’ve ever gone duck hunting alongside a well-trained and good-mannered canine, you know that the experience is unmatched by anything else out there. It’s an absolute privilege to watch one of these types of disciplined and skilled dogs retrieve downed waterfowl from the chilly pond or frosty fields you’re hunting over. If you raise hunting dogs from scruffy puppies and spend the hours, days, weeks, and months training them, you’ll especially appreciate the work that is necessary to get them to that point. But more than that, they become like one of the family – a true hunting buddy. A good hunting dog is much more than just a household pet. Maybe it’s their eternal optimism or constant grin, even when things aren’t going your way and you occasionally miss a duck or two (hey, it happens). You just can’t help but feel the same contagious excitement for being out there. Once you’ve hunted with your four legged friend and things click, you know it could never be the same without them perched beside you in the swamp or flooded timber. So if hunting with your dog is so important and meaningful to you, shouldn’t you do everything within your power to make them happy too? I would hope so. No I’m not talking about buying them designer clothes and organic treats made from premium Kobe beef or anything. We’re talking about functional hunting options. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways you can show your dog some love and appreciation, while helping them stay healthy and become a better duck hunting companion in the process. Let’s start with training from a young age. Let’s say for example you just got a new Labrador retriever puppy. Your energetic new pup shows a fondness and skill for retrieving balls and swimming, huh? It would be ridiculous to not train them, as you could miss out on one of the best hunting dogs you’ve ever had. But how do you start? Fortunately for you, it’s not as difficult as it seems. Especially with the help of Hard Core Canvas Dog Dummies that mimic the weight of a game bird and come with an easy throw rope. Get them used to retrieving a dummy surrounded by decoys, and make sure they know the decoys are off-limits. The biggest and most important part of dog training is to introduce things to them slowly and get them used to them well before they’re in an actual hunting situation. Blow your duck and goose calls around them often to get them accustomed to the sounds. Get them in the field when you shoot trap so they won’t get gun-shy. It will take some time, but it is well worth the effort. Now let’s assume your pup has grown up a bit and has some experience under his or her furry metaphorical belt. They have an aptitude for hunting, and you want to keep them happy and healthy while out on full day sits in the blind or boat. Sometimes we go duck hunting in the worst weather imaginable, including brisk winds, frigid temperatures, and pounding rain or snow. It’s all just part of the game for us because we’ve been doing it for years. But remember your first couple times hunting in that weather? It wasn’t so fun, was it? Just like you need to stay bundled up nice and warm in your waders and insulated jacket, your dog will stay healthier if you do a couple things for them. First, make sure they don’t have to sit in the mud or water all day. While dogs can eventually become acclimated to some very extreme conditions, it’s bad at the beginning of the season for their paws to be completely in the water and cached in mud for freezing day-long sits. Buy them a little more time to get used to the typical hunting weather. Get yourself a Hard Core Dog Timber Stand that will attach to a nearby tree in the flooded woods, or a free standing Hard Core Dog Field Stand. This will get them up out of the muck to stay comfortable all day, and each stand has a permeable, draining platform to help your dog dry off between retrieves. Each stand can hold up to 150 pounds, which will easily accommodate the beefiest, most barrel-chested lab you’ve got. If it’s a cold snap and your dog isn’t used to the plummeting temperatures, it would be a good idea to dress them in a Hard Core Water Dog NEO Vest. It’s made of neoprene material (much like your waders) that will hold their core body heat in, provide additional buoyancy on long retrieves, and even has a handle if they need a little boost onto the timber or field stand. They come in a camouflage pattern and snow white color to match your hunt for early or late season. Practice with this vest before the field to get your dog used to swimming with it on. If it’s extremely cold or rainy and you’re dead set on duck hunting, you may even want to bring along a Hard Core Dog Cave to keep them toasty dry. It snaps up in seconds, and is easy to transport. They also come in camouflage and snow white to stay concealed from keen waterfowl eyes above. If you care about your duck hunting buddy, it’s easy to see why these items are so nice to have. It’s not about spoiling your animal, it’s about keeping them healthy and in prime hunting condition. Taking care of a dog is a special relationship that you need to cultivate and nurture over the years. Don’t turn your hunting dog away from duck hunting by forcing them to retrieve through freezing water all day and sitting in the mud between flocks. Keep it as fun for them as you can, and you’ll have a dedicated hunting partner who’s always ready to leave at 4 AM. If you give them every possible way to stay comfortable, they’ll hunt all day every day with you, which could mean more ducks in your freezer. And that’s always a good thing in our book.