Learn how to protect your hunting dog from the bitter cold with these suggestions.
Hunting with a dog can be a great way to put a spin on the traditional “lone warrior” motif of a hunting trip. Whether you’re going after pheasants, turkeys or ducks, a hunting dog can function both as a wonderful companion and as a helpful team member. A long day out in the woods, doing little more than scanning the horizon for animal movement and trying to stay warm, can get lonely and monotonous, and a dog can be good for injecting some camaraderie back into the experience.
Furthermore, dogs are expert trackers, with razor-sharp senses of smell and an ability to follow and find animals that we as humans simply can’t match. In short, there’s a reason the concept of a hunting dog exists.
However, taking your dog hunting can also be a potentially dangerous move. There are multiple reasons for this, from other hunters who might mistake your pooch for a fair game animal to your lesser-trained dog wandering off and getting lost. With dog safety in mind, many companies have begun marketing “dog safety” items to hunters, including blaze orange dog vests, which identify a hunting dog to other hunters, or GPS collars, which help you to track your missing dog at all times and find the dog if he or she goes missing.
Read the unfortunate story about a pet accidentally shot in Montana.
Another problem that dogs face when heading out into the wild for a long day of hunting is that, typically, those long days are occurring during some of the coldest days of the year. Hunting season straddles the line between cold fall weather and downright winterish conditions, and if you are taking your dog out into the field with you, you simply must ensure that he or she is protected against the elements. Sure, dogs have natural coats, but you wouldn’t head out into below-freezing temperatures wearing just a single layer, and you shouldn’t make your dog do so either.
Of course, different dogs have different kinds of coats. Some will be able to handle cold temperatures – Labradors for instance, which come from a heritage of living and swimming in very cold locales – while others have thinner coats more meant for warm summer conditions. If you aren’t sure whether or not your dog needs some extra help to stay warm on your hunting trips together, do a Google search and try to learn a little bit more about your breed and the types of coats they have.
Check out our list of the 10 best hunting dog breeds.
In many cases, you will want to give your dog some extra protection in the form of a neoprene coat or vest. While “dog clothing” is a phrase that may conjure of images of overly-wealthy women who dress their small dogs up in obscenely ugly “outfits,” neoprene vests stress function over style, providing warmth and waterproof protection to ensure that your dog can make it through a long day of hunting.
In addition to a coat or vest, you will want to purchase a set of insulated and waterproof dog boots to provide your animal with extra protection. While dogs generally don’t like wearing booties, they can also suffer a lot of pain or even paw damage if you ask them to walk around in snowy conditions all day. Snow forms into small, hard balls of ice that become lodged between the pads of a dog’s paws, and those small balls of ice can have catastrophic consequences, including frostbite. So be responsible and protect your dog’s paws if you are planning on taking man’s best friend on a wintertime hunting trip. Trust us: your dog will thank you later.
For last minute holiday shopping, check out our gift guide for hunting dogs.