Most hunters who own hunting dogs do so because we enjoy their companionship and enjoy spending time with them in the field during hunting season. Most of us are weekend warriors who hunt a little bit with our dogs and dream about hunting with our dogs much more than we do. Because the time we spend in the field with dogs is so precious, it is important to keep your dog in shape the entire year so when fall arrives, the dog can reach its full potential. John Engelken (also known as…Tracker John) is a full-time blood tracker who spends the fall tracking big bucks for hunters. John owns multiple bloodhounds and tracks almost every day of the deer season with his dogs. According to John, having an in shape dog is a must for him. “Deer hunters across the Midwest depend on me to help them find their deer. I need a dog I can depend on in the heat of the moment,” said Engelken.
Work Your Dogs Regularly
When people think about hard working dogs, bloodhounds aren’t typically a dog most people consider. However, Engelken is able to push his dogs hard in the fall because he keeps his dogs in shape all year. “Bloodhounds are big, heavy dogs that can easily become overweight if they aren’t worked. I work my dogs almost daily so when deer season arrives, they can work hard for me in the thick brush and deep ravines we encounter in the midwest. I think anyone who is serious about hunting their dog should exercise them several days a week or at least a few times a month during the off season so when they have a little bit of free time to hunt, they can maximize the opportunity. My dogs and I run blood trails and work hard all year so when my phone starts ringing and my dogs need to work, it is like another day at the office. A dog that lives on the couch isn’t going to be able to hunt very hard.”
Consider Feeding Them A Raw Diet
Another thing Tracker John does to keep his dogs in better shape is feeds them a raw diet. “Raw diets are becoming more popular among dogs owners for good reason,” Tracker John noted. “When I feed a raw diet of mostly venison and chicken, I know exactly what my dogs are eating. There aren’t any fillers or byproducts that aren’t good for my dogs. I believe that feeding a raw diet to my dogs causes them to be healthier and in better shape.”
Keep Them Hydrated
Tracker John makes sure his dogs are always hydrated and get plenty of rest. “When we are working hard, it is easy for me to forget to take a drink and easy to forget to give the dogs a drink. I keep water with me at all times, which reduces the chances that we forget to stay hydrated,” Engelken said.
During the hot early season, it is easy for an out-of-shape hunting dog to get dehydrated. If they go too long without water, a dog can have heat stroke and die. Keeping a dog hydrated in the field will help the dog stay healthy and energetic when hunting. This fall, Tracker John will be giving his dog Hydrate & Recover from K9 Athlete™ to reduce his dogs’ chances of getting dehydrated in the field and help them reach their full potential.
A Healthy Dog Lives Longer
Bloodhounds are not known for being dogs that live a long time, but because Tracker John exercises his dogs regularly and feeds them a healthy diet, his hounds outlive most. “Bloodhounds are big dogs and don’t typically live past ten or eleven years, but most of mine live well beyond that. I think it is because I work them a lot. Since they are always in good shape, they live a happier and longer life,” Tracker John added.
Dogs are a lot like people: to reach their full potential, it is important to keep them in good shape. If you plan on taking your dog in the woods this fall, start training them now to ensure you and your dog can hunt hard. Hunting hard often results in happier hunters, happier dogs, and a full freezer of birds.