Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Winter Training            

It’s winter in the North and both you and your dog are bored and getting fat. Why? Winter gives you numerous opportunities for both you and your dog to learn more about each other and further develop the owner/hunter bond.

One idea is to clear some space in the basement for basic obedience training. You don’t need a large space…just 10’ x 10’ will work just fine. You can easily teach or refresh heel or recall. You can also build a small training table for whoa work and fetch training. A caution on forced fetch (or trained retrieve as many call it today): If you have not successfully completed a forced fetch program in the past, I suggest you see a professional trainer first. Or, buy Tom Dokken’s Retriever Training book. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If done improperly, forced fetch training can cause a timid dog to become even more timid and scared. The point is, your basement can provide great opportunity, during the winter, for developing an obedient partner.

Don’t have that 10’ x 10’ space in the basement? No problem. Obedience training classes, from small town to large city, are abundant today. The internet or even the old fashioned yellow pages will give you multiple listings for dog training. Organized training classes will give your dog an opportunity to make new canine friends and for you to meet new dog owners. And, you’ll have a more obedient companion.

Organized classes aren’t’ just about “here” and “sit”. Think about becoming involved in an AKC sanctioned event. There are events that focus on recall, heel, scent location, retrieving, etc. You’ll get to travel to event venues and again, meet new people and dogs. I should also mention Rally and Competitive Obedience. My wife, Susan, is very active, with our shorthairs, in Rally and Competitive Obedience events. Rally takes your dog through multiple stations with a different skill required at each station. AKC Competitive Obedience is a set of specific exercises performed as an exacting standard. The dog learns to focus on you as a handler. The handler must work the dog either through voice or hand commands. Your local professional obedience trainer will know where AKC sanctioned events are being held in your area. You can also find event listings on

Of course, not all winter activity for you and your dog needs to be indoors. One sport that has become very popular for bird dogs is dog sledding. This is not long-distance Alaska Iditarod style racing. No husky or malamutes required. Dog sledding enthusiasts usually groom about a 10-minute trail for their dogs. Some of the most avid bird dog sledders are members of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA). If you want to get started in sledding, Google NAVHDA and locate a chapter in your area. Contact members and ask for member names that are involved in sledding with their bird dogs.

My wife and I practice the most simplest of outdoor winter activities. After a major snow storm, we’ll blaze a trail with our snow shoes. We’ll then run our dogs over that trail. Our dogs (shorthairs) love to run and play in the snow. We’ll usually have two or three trails created by mid-winter. We try to make each trail about 30-40 minutes in length.

One important point to make. Many dog owners will feed less or feed a brand with less fat/protein during the winter. They feel that once hunting season is over, they’ll only feed a maintenance level food. If you’re going to become active in dog sledding or simply running over trails created in the snow, be cautious about lowering the fat/protein content for the winter. Dogs actually need more fat/protein during cold weather activities.

No matter what winter activity you pursue, have fun with your dog!

Copyright 2019 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at