News & Advice

On target: Is your gundog ready for duck shooting season

Mar 21, 2024 | Dogs, Health and Wellness, Pet Health

Duck shooting is not everyone’s cup of tea but love it or hate it – it’s not long until the opening of duck shooting season.

Duck shooters will spend some time over the next few weekends checking limits, readying the maimai, rigging decoys, and checking shotguns, boots, and waders are all in good nick.

But have you organised a once-over for your most important piece of kit? —your gundog. Whether you think you have a great gundog, or you have a gundog who just thinks they are great…  Here are a few tips to ensure the best start to the season:




Training your gundog

  • Put in the work now to get your dog fit and ready to go. This will help avoid injury.
  • Ensure your dog is quick with commands so your dog doesn’t break the shot.
  • Socialise all the dogs in the group. If they haven’t met or spent much time together, organise a few meet-and-greets before the big day.



If it’s been a while, a few practice shooting sessions to get your dog used to gunfire again wouldn’t go a miss and reduce stress on the day.

hunters and their dogs


Vet Check up

April is the perfect time for your dog to get a once-over. Your vet will be able to pick up most health problems early enough to start successful treatment, and they are the best person to help you keep your dog healthy.

  • Vaccinations – in particular, lepto and parvo
    • Leptospirosis – this yearly vaccination is important to help prevent the deadly disease (Lepto is spread by waterways, livestock, rodents, and wild animals.)
    • Parvo – you are likely to come across other dogs. This nasty disease is passed on by other dogs and can live in the environment for up to a year. Known to make dogs very sick and even kill, it’s a no brainer to protect your dog against it.
  • Flea & worm treatments – treat your dog for fleas, ticks and worms. Ensure you choose a worming treatment that covers tapeworm to help prevent sheep measles.
  • Mobility check – paws, legs, hips and back.
  • Mouth and ears – you don’t want any distractions on opening day, deal with any dental issues now and have your dog’s ears checked for mild infections.

Notice signs of arthritis early

Slowing down a bit? Limping occasionally? Slow to get up on cold mornings? These are all signs of early arthritis. If you treat arthritis early in life (sometimes simply with easy injections or supplements), you can slow down the progression of arthritis – which will let your gun dog work for longer. Discuss arthritis with your vet before it becomes a real problem.


Protect your asset

Science has come a long way; you can now get preventative care screening, a blood test that can identify diseases early. This sensitive testing provides an in-depth assessment of your pet’s health by examining the function of its internal organs. For more information, talk with your vet.


During the duck shooting season


Consider feeding high-quality working dog food to dogs that run many miles and become a bit lean when hunting. Some hunting dogs need the extra nutritional boost to maintain weight and performance.


First aid for gundogs

Accidents happen, and you may need to apply first aid to cuts, abrasions, bleeding, puncture wounds, sprains/strains, eye injuries, or remove thorns from paws.

If you run into some bad luck and your dog gets injured, be prepared with a dog first aid kit. Keeping wounds clean is key to minimising infection and promoting healing. Your kit should include products to help clean and close off wounds until you can get to veterinary care. (Pain relief, betadine, self-adhesive bandage, gauze, wound dressing, saline solution, PVC tape, scissors, tweezers).



Heat stroke and cold exposure

The weather can also be pretty unpredictable, so it is important to be aware of signs of hypothermia (cold weather exposure) and hyperthermia (heat exhaustion) in dogs and have a few strategies up your sleeve to help make your dog more comfortable.

Hypothermia (cold weather exposure)

Wind chill is real and cold snaps can be sudden. Duck dogs spend a lot of time wet and muddy, so make sure you can recognise the signs of mild to moderate hypothermia in dogs. They include:

  • Disorientation
  • Shivering
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty walking, repeatedly lifting up their feet
  • Pale gums
  • Cool body surfaces
  • Confusion


Hypothermia prevention
  • Condition your dog to expected temperatures
  • Ensure your dog has enough fat and protein in their diet – they will use more energy in the cold
  • Shelter your dog from the wind and dry off your dog as needed
  • Rest your dog off the ground


Ways to warm your gundog:
  • Offer warm water to drink
  • Warm your dog with a thermal/foil blanket
  • Seek veterinary advice

ideas to keep duck dogs warm, one shows inside small dog size tent, the other dog in a coat


Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion)

Early signs of heat exhaustion in gundogs
  • Panting, (it can progress to distressed or noisy breathing as the heatstroke worsens)
  • Restlessness or agitation, pacing, seeking shade or water
  • Drooling
  • Red gums or tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea

Prevention: Keep your dog well hydrated and allow access to shade

Cooling your gundog down:
  • If possible, move your dog to a cooler area
  • Spray or sponge your dog’s body with cool (but not cold) water, making sure the water contacts their skin and doesn’t just run off their coat. Thoroughly wet their belly and inside their legs. Alternatively, place water soaked towels over their bodies.
  • Seek veterinary advice immediately.


Whether it’s your dog’s first shoot or they are a seasoned bird dog, be sure to have them checked over before opening day. A healthy and fit gundog is not only an asset but also a companion you rely on. So, invest the time and effort now to ensure a successful and enjoyable season ahead.


Other resources you may find helpful:

The whys and whens of worming working dogs!

Body Condition Scoring in Working Dogs

Why do we recommend a working dog formulated diet?


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