Bird watching has increased in popularity in the past few years, mainly because the technology has become more accessible and accurate, allowing people to see their favorite species of birds and wildlife from afar, in their natural habitats. Bringing your dog along in this adventure could prove a great way to spend quality time together, as long as you don’t forget about a healthy choice of food and fresh water supplies for your trip.
If you’re passionate about bird watching, there are thousands of great spots all over the United States, where you will encounter more than 50,000 different species of animals. And, if you don’t want to go alone, you can always bring your dog along and strengthen the bond between you two. But, even though it sounds fun and harmless in theory, you will still need to train and prepare your pup for the event. Here are the easiest ways to do so.
Prepare your pup from an early age
By comparison to cats that spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping, dogs are a lot more active, meaning they need physical activity to burn off their energy. And what better way to do so if not by taking long walks in the park and going hiking or even biking with you?
If you want your pooch to be familiar with birds and accompany you in your future bird watching trips, you need to train it from the earliest stages of its life. In other words, keep it active, and take it with you anywhere you go.
Taking long walks will help your pooch learn your pace and how to behave when other people are around too. Moreover, 30 minutes of mild exercises per day will keep your pet’s bones and muscles strong, while maintaining the optimum body weight.
Daily walks were also linked to your dog’s emotional and mental health as they will build a stronger bond between you and them. Besides, they will have plenty of time to develop their sniffing and smelling senses, becoming better at identifying different smells.
However, going birding with your dog is an entirely different experience and could prove challenging. Your pet will require your attention at all times, especially if you let it off its leash. Thus, focusing on hunting or simply watching your favorite birds will become harder since you’ll also have to train your fluffy pet to stay quiet at all times.
Keep in mind that dogs are easily distracted by noises and smells, so make sure it has plenty of outdoor training before taking it watching the birds with you.
Preparing for the trip will be as challenging as the trip itself, so make sure you have enough time to make all arrangements in advance. Apart from obtaining all legal permits to get in a national park or reserve, you also need to make sure your pet is allowed to accompany you.
On the bright side, your pet will require fewer things to go on a birding trip as opposed to you. Warmer clothes, snacks, coffee or insect repellent are no use for your four-legged companion, which means its bag won’t be as heavy as yours.
However, you’ll still require plenty of water supplies and healthy food to prevent stomach problems, diarrhea or constipation. Snacks are not mandatory but if you want to bring something along, make sure it is healthy, low in calories, and organic. Fresh carrots or peppers are great for you and your pet as well so there is no need for protein bars or nuts to boost its energy levels.
You will also have to bring a durable leash and a halter as most national parks don’t allow letting your pet wandering on its own. The identification tag and all other useful vaccine information are mandatory in case your dog gets lost or any local authorities want to verify your ID.
Treats are excellent for training your pet new tricks and rewarding it for staying still and quiet. However, make sure they are not high in sugar, fats or fibers either.
Other accessories should include poop bags (even if we are talking about natural waste, it is better to keep it away from tourist paths), and a small first aid kit that contains medication for both you and your pawed friend.
The best thing is that you can fit all of these items into a small backpack that is specifically designed to be carried by your dog. This way, you teach it to become more responsible, while you have your hands free for taking pictures and holding your binoculars.
What should you bring along?
After telling you what items your pet will need to accompany you in your bird watching or hunting trip, it’s high time you made your backpack as well. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a warmer jacket that is also waterproof, trekking boots, a hat, camouflage clothing, enough snacks and water supplies, as well as all your permits.
As for capturing the best moments from your trip, you will need a high-quality camera, a battery, and a good pair of binoculars to see birds from a distance.
Make sure the magnification rate is big enough to help you identify the birds from afar without causing eye fatigue or headaches after a while. The binoculars should also be lightweight and portable and come with a detachable strap for easy carrying and storing whenever you’re not using them.
It also pays off to have a device that is waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-absorbent as you don’t want to break the lens and compromise your trip too soon.
Training tips for your dog
As we previously mentioned, it’s not always easy for your pet to keep its best behavior in the wild, especially with so many new and interesting things stimulating its brain at every step. Therefore, training is essential.
Keep in mind that training your dog to hunt for birds with you requires an entirely different set of skills than bringing your pet along when you just want to watch the birds, so make sure you know what to expect from your pawed friend. No matter the case, don’t forget that each dog has its own personality and some individuals may not be fit for these field trips.
Besides, some dog breeds like Beagles are natural hunters, meaning their smelling sense is more developed and they can be reliable in the wild. By comparison, smaller breeds like Frenchies or Yorkshires don’t have the necessary strength and physical ability to withstand challenging field trips.
Trailing can start at a young age for your pup, especially if it is the right breed for this type of activity. The good thing is that teaching your pet to track a bird is done easily.
All you have to do is take a real bird wing or your dog’s favorite dummy and start with basic sight retrieves. This will help your pet get used to identifying different smells easier. Don’t forget to also add some liquid bird scent, especially if your puppy is young and its senses are hyper.
Training sessions should be done regularly, at least three of four times a week until your pet can fully pick up the scent of a bird on its own. You should also offer it treats as rewards to associate this activity with something positive that it is looking forward to.
Last but not least, training sessions should also be conducted in almost all weather conditions to help your pup get used to the smell of musty leaves in the fall or fresh flowers in the spring.
According to specialists, a good bird dog will help you find them, while a pooch that is specifically trained to track down the wounded ones will be of more use in your trip. However, caring for the ecosystem should be on your priority list, which means you should do everything in your power to recover wounded birds and never kill outside the hunting season.
If your pet brings back to you a wounded bird, you should be careful as its sharp teeth might harm the bird even more.