Early season tips for hunting with dogs

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Hot, dry weather is hard on dogs, which is why hunters must give special attention to their faithful companions during early bird-hunting seasons.

Based on years of experience, Dan Hoke, bird-dog trainer from Dunfur Kennel near Cheney, Wash., offered these early-season tips:

• Trim toenails. Don't let them get long and break off.

• Hunt early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

• Keep hunts short. Most dogs need weeks of hunting to get into shape, but even fit dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, which could set them back for weeks or months or possibly kill them.

•Bring plenty of water for the dog, and yourself.

C•heck dogs for seeds in eyes and be wary of cheatgrass and other seeds getting into ears. Cotton stuffed in ears can help prevent trouble. Q-Tips and saline solution used by contact lens wearers can be squirted to irrigate and extract stubborn seeds that get under a dog's inner eyelids.

• Keep expectations in check. If the dog didn't get any training during summer, don't expect it to have improved since last hunting season.

• Scenting conditions usually are not prime in early season. Even good dogs will miss birds.