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5 Safety Tips for Hunting With a Dog

Humans and dogs have hunted side by side for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean you can just bring your pup to the hunting field with no preparation. Hunting can be dangerous if you and your dog, even a dog bred to hunt, are unprepared.

Here’s how to keep your dog safe when hunting.

1. Stay Current on Preventative Medicine

The purpose of hunting is to be out in nature and encounter wildlife. But this can come with unwanted exposure to bacteria or viruses that your dog may not typically encounter. Make sure your pup is protected with the proper vaccinations before taking them hunting. They should be up to date on:

  • Rabies vaccine: This is required by law in most places.

  • DHPP vaccine: This protects against distemper and parvovirus, which can both be spread by many wild animals, including raccoons, foxes, and coyotes.

  • Leptospirosis vaccine: Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be contagious to humans as well.

  • Bordetella vaccine: Dogs that are out hunting may encounter other hunting dogs, and this vaccine helps protect against kennel cough.

Keep in mind that your dog will most likely be exposed to fleas and ticks during your hunting trip. Both of these parasites can cause illnesses, so it’s important to make sure your dog is on monthly flea and tick preventatives and that you don’t skip a month of these important medications.

2. Be Mindful of the Weather

Being outside also means exposure to the elements. Depending on the weather conditions, your dog might experience hot or cold temperatures they’re not used to. This can be made worse if it’s windy or raining. If you feel uncomfortable in the weather, your dog is probably feeling a lot more uncomfortable.

If your pet has a short coat or if the weather forecast looks particularly bad, it might be a good idea to leave them at home. If you do bring them along, be alert for signs of problems and take your dog to a neutral zone, such as a dog blind, at the earliest sign of threatening weather.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia is when a dog’s body temperature becomes too low. Signs of hypothermia in your dog may include:

  • Sluggish and delayed reflexes

  • Initial fast breathing and heart rate, followed by a slower rate

  • Paleness

  • Shivering

  • Dilated pupils

  • Pulling their limbs inward to stay warm, or “balling up”

Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is when a dog’s body temperature is too high. Stay alert for signs your dog is overheating, which may include:

  • Panting

  • Bright red gums

  • Restlessness

  • Unsteadiness

  • Seizures

  • Collapse

Knowing the signs of whether your dog is getting too hot or too cold is critical in preventing a potentially tragic outcome. If you think your dog is showing signs of either condition, get to your nearest emergency vet clinic.

3. Have the Right Safety Gear

Just as hunters wear and use safety gear, dogs need proper hunting gear before they go out in the woods.

Visibility Apparel

Our pups, just like humans, need to be seen when in the woods. It’s easy for other hunters to mistake a dog in the woods for moving prey.

Be sure to outfit all dogs who go into the woods, not just hunting dogs, with high-visibility vests and collars that make them obvious to others. Be sure these are high-quality, heavy-duty apparel that will not become torn or lost on branches and underbrush. If your dog will be in water, such as for duck hunting, a high-visibility life jacket is a good idea.

ID Tags and a Microchip

Have identification tags with current information securely on the collar so someone can reunite you if your dog becomes lost. It’s also a good idea to have your dog microchipped in addition to wearing tags. Tags and collars can be lost in the woods, and a microchip ensures your contact information is always with your dog. Most facilities (shelters, animal control, and veterinarians) will scan every lost animal for a microchip.

Dog Blind

If you and your pup are avid hunters, you might want to invest in a dog blind. This is an area that can help keep your dog warm in cold climates and allow for quiet play with a toy during the frequent long waits while hunting.

Booties

Dog booties can help protect your dog’s paws in winter and prevent frostbite. If you’re hunting in the snow, booties also keep ice balls from forming between your dog’s toes.

First Aid Kit

Don’t forget a first aid kit for your dog. There are all-inclusive kits you can buy, and your veterinarian can also help you fine-tune your supplies to make sure you have everything you’ll need while on the hunt.

4. Practice Safe Transportation

Most people aren’t lucky enough to simply hunt in their backyard and will need to travel—often long distances—to get to that perfect hunting area. And because you’re hunting with your dog, you’ll need to bring them with you safely.

Safe travel practices are important, whether you’re taking your dog on a hunting trip or just driving down the road to the vet or dog park. Have a designated area for your pet inside your vehicle, such as a dog bed or blanketed area where you can secure your dog with a pet-safe seat belt.

Never allow your dog to run loose in a vehicle—this could be distracting and dangerous. It’s also never safe for your dog to ride in an open truck bed. In fact, this might be the single most dangerous place for a dog to be in the event of an accident.

5. Make Sure Your Dog Is Trained to Hunt

Dogs need to be trained to hunt. Some catch on faster than others, but all dogs will need to be taught what to expect and what is expected of them. It can be dangerous for the dog and the hunter to bring an inexperienced dog along on a hunt.

The sudden and unexpected sound of a gunshot can be startling to a dog and may cause them to run off or hurt themselves. If your dog does not know what is expected of them, they may even ruin the hunt inadvertently by making too much noise or chasing the prey before it’s time.

Be certain your dog is under full voice control, only pursues game on your command, and stops when you tell them to.

Training your dog to hunt is an extensive process, but it generally starts early in life with basic training to the most common cues, such as sit, stay, come, and leave it. If your dog does not have a strong grasp of these basic training skills, it may be difficult to expand your expectations to include proper behavior and actions while hunting.

The type of hunting training your dog will need depends on the type of game you plan to hunt. There are excellent trainers that make a livelihood training dogs for hunting, and many of these trainers are hunters themselves. Find a trainer both you and your dog like, someone you can work with who has extensive experience in your area.




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