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How to keep your gun dog fit in the off-season

The shooting season is over but in addition to your own skills being kept sharp with clay shooting (read our blog on that here) your gun dog also needs to be kept in shape. As there is no work in the off-season, your dog is likely to get out of shape and could forget some of its well-learned skills before shooting starts again.

wear a shooting jacket when training your gun dog

Experts recommend taking your dog out a few times during the week for training during the off-season, doing whatever it takes to keep them sharp. Have a look below for some ideas on training your dog:


As well as making the time to do the training, you should also have any toys and accessories with you, from your own shooting jacket to items for the dog. At Fur Feather & Fin we have several items in our shop that will help you with your dog’s training, and also some things as a treat for the dog after a hard day’s work! 


There is nothing better to keep your dog in shape than running. Keep throwing things for your dog, over and over, to give them a good workout, but remember to not overwork them. Start slowly and gradually increase the activity.


Swimming is important for keeping your gun dog in good physical condition and helps to build up their stamina. Although finding a place for the dog to go swimming during the colder months is difficult, as soon as the weather is warmer, get your dog in the water.


As you are training your dog for the purpose of being a gun dog, make sure to work on commands that they will be hearing out in the field on a shoot. Work on the basics like sit, stay and heel. Use whistle commands, and repetition is key in this area, so the more you do it, the better your dog will be when shooting season arrives. This training also reminds your dog who is in charge out in the field.

Keep it real

Try to expose your dogs to real-life situations during its training in the off-season. Set up obstacles, decoys, and even shoot your gun to give your dog the feeling they are in a real shooting situation. This will vastly improve their transition from training to shooting. If you shoot birds, try to expose your dog to real birds during the off-season too.

Do nothing

One aspect of training, which is often overlooked, is getting your dog to sit quietly with you. Interweave quiet time into your training regime, so your dog will know to sit quietly by your side until it has to work. Teaching your dog to be patient is very important.

Stay cool

During the warm summer months, your dog can overheat during training. Take precautions when the weather is hot, by training in the morning when the weather is cool, and keep the dog out of direct sun. Most importantly, make sure your dog has access to plenty of water.

Stick to it

Sticking to a regular training routine in the off-season can be a lot of work, but both you and your dog will see the benefits of the training when shooting season begins again later in the year, when the real action returns.

Image by: Jeff Buck