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There are No Self-Conditioning Dogs as there are No Self-Rinse Shampoos

Just as George Carlin might say, ‘No dog uses a self-rinse shampoo, someone puts it on, rubs it in and rinses it out. Just like there are no self-rinse shampoos, there are NO self-conditioning dogs.

Bird season will be upon most of us within the next few weeks. Are you ready? More importantly is your hunting companion ready? If you are like some of us, we have become fat and miserably happy couch potatoes with our hunting companions at our side looking familiar in the
air-conditioned house. If you and your companion do not do some preparation and conditioning then neither one of you are going to get the maximum enjoyment out of the hunting experience.

English Setters are athletes in their own world. They need some off-season conditioning to keep in tip-top shape. In order to make “Opening Day” pheasantly memorable and to ensure that our English Setters have all the stamina and energy needed to carry it through the season, then attention needs to paid to physical conditioning of our “Gentlemen”.

We often take for granted their performance in the field. We fail to realize the level of stress and physical exertion that their cardiopulmonary system experiences during a day in field looking for and finding birds. You might ask yourself, “What stress does a dog have running in and out of a field?” They know, that the pressure is on to find a bird, because they know how excited you get when they find it and you shot it. Stress…, have you ever been excited to the point that you couldn’t move a muscle, because you knew if you did then the excitement would go away? That’s stress! Remember the adrenaline? Remember how hard your heart was beating? Remember?

Now multiply that many times over. Our guys go through this routinely when they find and point a bird and they do this many times during the course of the day. This part of their performance drains more of their energy than probably all the running around all day, in and out of the birdfield into the woods and back again. In order to make this the kind of memorable experience that stories are made from then you need to wake-up from your daydreams of walking behind your English Setters and walk behind your English Setters.

Preparation & Conditioning

You and your companion should begin a regular exercise program for 10 or 15 minutes daily. You really should begin about five to six weeks before opening day. After two weeks, you can gradually increase the period by several minutes over the next week, building steadily by a few
minutes every week until your dog and you can safely handle a half-hour to an hour each day.


Roadwork is a good method for steady cardiovascular work. Tether your dog to a bicycle or electric scooter with a padded harness. There is an attachment that you can get for your bicycle or scooter called the “Springer” that works great. You might want to pad the harness so it won’t chafe. I would not recommend riding and holding on to the lead. Too many things can happen. It should be done where traffic is not a problem and you need to literally get up before the birds do. (Remember they are bird dogs). Use a relatively long lead when roading your dog. Be patient, start out slowly and cautiously until you have both learned to heel to each other. Proceed slowly until you both feel comfortable with the arrangement and only then increase until you have reached a natural gate. WARNING: Do not roadwork on asphalt, concrete or “where the asphalt ends” on country dirt roads during sun intense days. It may burn your dog’s pads.

Dog trotters or “Jog-A-Dog” treadmills are also good alternatives. It is a simulation and not the real thing. It does limit conditioning somewhat but it is a better alternative than just running around in the backyard. Using a cloth Frisbee, ball and retrieving dummies for controlled out and back retrievals are another good conditioning exercise. But remember we have pointers and not retrievers. My English Setters pacify me for about four or five retrievals and then look at me like I’m the retrieval dummy, ‘if you throw it one more time then you can go fetch it yourself.

I speak from experience; we incorporate all of the above for conditioning and for correcting conditions. No question, roadwork is the best conditioning but the others are good alternatives if they are routinely used. Hydrate before and after workouts. Limit the amount of hydration
consumed at one time, limited drinks more frequently. Carry water with you on your bicycle or scooter. You never know what might happen or who might join you, deer (I thought it was a Great Dane at 4 o’clock in the morning, right), raccoons, coyotes and skunks. see “Getting Skunked” below

Field Work

Go through a refresher course. Start out with the basic commands to keep your dog mentally and obediently sharp. This is particularly important because these are not commands that you use routinely. They are special words to them. Hopefully, positive. Work on hand signals and whistle calls, as well as verbal commands.

If you are going to work with other dogs then it is smart to expose your dog on and off lead before you just open the tailgate and let them out together on the first day. English Setters are considered the “Gentlemen” among sporting dogs and they will settle a dispute like a gentleman, as dueling dogs. I can’t tell you how many dogfights that I have witnessed on opening day. It just seems to rain on our parade when that happens. It spoils opening day for more than one of us.

Find a birdfield or plant a couple of birds so it is easy for them to find. Get them excited and looking forward to hunting season. Do this once or twice a week until bird season opens. Our English Setters will be keener with their nose and in better command of their hunting skills once the season begins. Give them a lot of one-on-one attention. Tell them stories about what it was like when you were a kid hunting behind great birddogs like… They will appreciate. It will give you a warm feeling and they will sense the warmth too!


A balance diet for energy balance is important to maintain a dog in good health. Remember that you are now increasing energy output, so input needs to be adjusted to compensate and maintain that balance. Just do not do it all at once. Give your English Setter an extra meal or add a little more to compensate for increased activity to his daily feeding portions. Just keep in mind that English Setters can bloat. You do not hear it as much as in other setters but it can happen to an English Setter. We are not exempt.

Take some treats with you on your conditioning time together. Reward your companion. Reward yourself. Maybe you two could share a little special food when you get through. Some dog treats are not half bad and they think human food is not all that bad either. Kind of like when Abe Lincoln and Shirley Temple shared an apple in the Little Rebel.

Always carry a first aid kit with you. Enjoy your time together. Conditioning allows you to enjoy it and not endure it. Bird season only comes around once a year and it is choked full of experiences, memories and stories. Good hunting!

Getting Skunked (we are not talking about basketball or tennis)

The news has traveled far: Scientists nationwide are claiming a homemade recipe can give you peace of mind if your pet has an unpleasant encounter with a skunk… of course there’s still folks who prefer tomato juice or vinegar.

Division of Wildlife, Wildlife Control Technology magazine.
A chemical concoction of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and liquid soap. The combination apparently neutralizes organic compounds that cause the foul-smelling odor.

The formula is a safe, fast and cheap skunk deodorant that was developed by chemist Paul Krebaum of Lisle, Ill., when a colleague’s cat was in dire need of a cure. The recipe includes:

Skunk essence is made of sulfur molecules, Krebaum explained in the article. The materials in the recipe, when mixed together, form an alkaline peroxide, which chemically changes the skunk essence into sulfonic acid; a completely odorless chemical. The soap breaks down the oily skunk essence, making it more susceptible to the other chemicals.

Dog owners fitness program…

You’ve seen those ads on TV promising amazing results from all sorts of contraptions. Well, there’s no need to invest in fancy equipment. If you have (or can borrow) a dog, you have everything you need to get in shape now!!!

Exercise 1: The following exercises can (and will) be done anywhere, anytime.

Balance & Coordination

Exercise 1: Remove your puppy from unsuitable tight places. If they’re too small for him, they’re certainly too small for you. Do it anyway!

Exercise 2: Practice not falling when your dog bounds across the full length of the room, sails through the air, and slams both front paws into the back of your knees.

Exercise 3: (for use with multiple dogs) Remove all dogs from lap and answer the phone before it stops ringing.

Exercise 4: (alternate) For older dogs, attempt to cross a room without tripping over the dog. Get off your couch without crushing any part of a sleeping elderly dog. · Upper Arms: Throw the ball. Throw the squeaky toy. Throw the Frisbee. Repeat until nauseous.

Permission has been granted to post this anonymous “humor” article

Public Education Chairperson,
Eddie Johnson