How to Keep Your Hunting Dog in Shape Over the Off-Season

Even though hunting season is over, your hunting dog needs consistent work to stay in shape for next season.

Without work during the off-season, your dog will become out of shape and likely forget many of the things it learned during last season.

Dog experts recommend taking your dog out at least a couple times a week, preferably more, for training during the off-season. Throw dummies for your dog. Put your dog on birds. Do whatever it takes to keep your dog sharp in the field.

Here are some ideas for training your dog this off-season.


Nothing is better for keeping a dog in top shape than running. Throw things for your dog over and over to provide a good workout, but do not overwork your dog. Start slowly and gradually increase the dog’s activity.


Just as running is important for keeping your dog in good physical condition, swimming is also important for retrievers. Although finding a place for a dog to swim in the colder climates can be tough during the winter, when the weather warms up, get your dog in the water and build its stamina.


As you are training your dog, make sure to work on commands. Work on the basics such as sit, stay and heel. Also use whistle commands.  Repetition is key in this area and the more you do it, the sharper your dog will be when hunting season arrives. It also helps remind your dog who is in charge when you are out in the field.

Keep it real

Whenever possible, it is best to expose your dog to real-life situations when training. Set up obstacles or decoys, shoot your gun, use calls or work from a blind or boat to give your dog the feel of a real hunting situation. This will significantly improve the transition from training to hunting season.

If you are an upland bird hunter, try to expose your dog to real birds during the off-season. This will definitely pay off next season.

Do nothing

Sometimes overlooked in dog training is working with your dog on sitting quietly with you. Interject quiet time into your training regimen, so your dog learns to wait quietly by your side until it is ready to go to work. Having your dog learn patience can be extremely important.

Stay cool

During warm weather it becomes more likely that your dog can overheat during training. Take precautions to reduce overheating by training in the morning when temperatures are cooler. Keep the dog out of direct sun. Most importantly, make sure your dog has access to water.

Sticking with a regular off-season training routine can be a lot of work, but both hunter and dog will benefit during the hunting season. The hard work will pay off in the fall, when the real action begins.

© Martin Šandera | – Magyar Vizsla hunting dog