brown and white dog walking through tall grass - hunting with a dog

How To Safely Hunt With A Dog

Many people take their dogs with them to hunt for various reasons. Whether it be to hunt small game such as birds or rabbits, all the way to assisting with deer coyotes and even bears, a hunting dog can help. However, many people who are new to hunting with a dog do not know some vital safety precautions that must be taken. Continue reading to learn about the main kinds of hunting dogs, and how to safely hunt with them.

Types of Hunting Dogs

Gun Dogs: These are mainly used by hunters who use shotguns to hunt for small game. Gun dogs are used in the field for tracking, pointing, and retrieving different types of small game. Some breeds that are commonly gun dogs are:

  • Pointer
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shorthaired Pointer
  • English Setter

Hounds: These dogs are good and tracking by either scent or sight. They are used to track large game like bears or deer. Some scenthound breeds include Foxhounds, Beagles, and Basset hounds. On the other hand, sighthounds include Pharaoh hounds and Greyhounds.

Terriers: These pups are used to help with a small game like squirrels. However, some people use them to help track larger games too. Terrier breeds include:

  • Jack Russel Terriers
  • Wire Fox Terriers
  • Yorkshire Terriers
  • Boston Terriers
  • Bull Terriers
  • Border Terriers
  • Scottish Terriers

Hunting With A Dog

Before The Hunt

Training

Before you take your dog out to hunt with you, there are some things to take care of. The first being to train your dog. Check out this article for tips to train your dog. However, in addition to that training, your dog will need to know other commands like retrieve and should know when to stay back. You can train any dog to hunt if you have the time, skill and patience to do so. However, the breeds listed above are natural hunters so they will be easier to train. If you cannot train your dog to hunt, you can find someone nearby who specializes in it.

Another thing to train your dog on is the sound of a gun shooting. That way they are not startled when it comes time to hunt and they hear a gunshot. You can train them by simply shooting your gun at some clay pigeons with them nearby but in a safe location. If they are not actively hunting, you may want to consider getting them some ear protection. Another thing to look into is a safety vest so your dog can be seen by other hunters.

Exercise

In addition to your dog learning new commands, it is important to make sure they are physically fit. You do not want to take an overweight and lethargic dog out to hunt and chase deer. This can cause you to lose the deer, or your dog could get injured or even killed. To avoid this, American Hunter recommends that hunters keep their dogs on a summer workout routine. Some things that this workout includes are to make sure they are running and not walking. However, they remind hunters to watch the temperature and to run at dawn or dusk. Another thing you can do to cool off your dog whilst still exercising is letting them take a few laps in the pool.

Pack Food

When preparing for your hunt by stocking up on food and water, it is important to bring some for your canine companion too. In fact, it is important to bring extra food and water for your dog in addition to the amount they normally eat, as they will most likely be working more than they would be at home.

First Aid Essentials

In addition to food and water, it is important to have the phone number and location of a vet that is nearby. That way you can check up on your dog. Be sure to also check with your vet before you leave to ensure your dog is up-to-date on their immunizations.

Since we are on the topic of safety for dogs, you should invest in a dog first aid kit. You can purchase one, or make your own with the same supplies but remember to keep it on hand in the car in case of an emergency. Some things a dog first aid kit should have are:

  • Emergency Phone Numbers
  • Antibiotic Ointment
  • Gauze with Tape
  • Gloves for your hands
  • Medications
  • Guide to dog first aid
  • Non-stick bandages
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Soft muzzle

During The Hunt

Transport

When traveling to the area that you are going to be hunting, or just simply going 5 minutes away, never leave the dog loose in the back of a truck. If they are in the back of a truck, make sure they are in a crate that is secured and is large enough to be comfortable. Make sure that it is weatherproof and can keep your dog dry too. If they are in the car, find a secured crate, or put them in a dog seatbelt.

Temperature

When hunting with a dog, make sure you are watching their temperature. If your dog gets wet retrieving a fowl, dry them off as much as possible. That way your dog is not at risk of developing hypothermia. You can also create a resting area that is safe from the wind to let them warm-up and take breaks.

On the other hand, if your dog has been out in the sun all day and is panting heavily, drooling, or is showing signs of weakness, they may have heat exhaustion. It is important to then let them rest in a cool shaded area with plenty of water.

Gun Safety

If you are not actively aiming to shoot some game, you need to make sure your gun is set to safety mode and is pointed away from people and their dogs. That way nobody is at risk of accidentally shooting and killing their dog.

After The Hunt

When your hunt is over, you want to make sure your dog has had a good time. If they performed well, you can reward them with some treats, or better yet, give them a bite of the game when it has been cleaned and cooked. Another thing to do when you get home is to see your vet to get them a checkup. That way you know if your dog may have gotten something that you didn’t notice. Other than that, you can celebrate a successful hunt.

Conclusion

When hunting with a dog, there are many things that go into preparing not only for the hunt but preparing your dog. One thing you can do to make sure that your dog performs their best, but is still enjoying it is to give them treats when they do perform well. Be sure to check out one of our previous articles to learn about Camping With Your Pet: 6 Tips to Do It Right.

Sources:

https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2018/7/13/gundogs-summer-fitness/
https://www.americanhunter.org/articles/2019/4/1/4-safety-tips-for-hunting-dogs/
https://www.pheasantsforever.org/BlogLanding/Blogs/Pheasants-Forever/Bird-Dog-Travel-Tips.aspx?feed=articles
https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/resources/dog-hunting-safety
https://www.ducks.org/hunting/retriever-training/10-tips-to-prepare-your-dog-hunting-season