Essential Gear For Traveling With Your Bird Dog

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Essential Gear For Traveling With Your Bird Dog

by Jerry Thoms

A Check-List of Necessary Equipment For Better Road Trips With A Hunting Canine During a Day Or a Week Or More Away From Home

“A trio of dog crates; a couple big bags of dog food, and two five-gallon cans of water along with a half dozen bottles, flasks, jugs, and dishes; leads, leashes, and check cords; tie-out stakes and stake-out chains; dog training collars and bark collars; dog vests and dog boots; a canine first aid kit; dog bells and beeper collars; identification collars in several colors; plastic dog training bumpers; chewing devices; and a bag marked ‘Miscellaneous Dog Gear.’ -- All this stuff looks like you’re starting your own gun dog supply catalog instead of going on a five-day pheasant and waterfowl hunt, “My hunting partner decided after a quick inventory of the dog gear we were loading into the back of his pickup.”

Actually, the list of various items wasn’t all that long and the pile of equipment was a simple collection several other dog owning hunting buddies and I have come to see as always necessary and sometimes essential when on short or long road trips with our gun dogs. Though may not use all this “stuff” every time we go hunting with our dogs, we do manage to use most of the many items at least once during a given season. And, those who go with us but don’t carry all these supplies themselves do end up being glad that the rest of us have this gear when they need something for their dogs …

So here is a description of what we carry to be used as sort of a guide to the well-equipped traveling gun dog owner. Subtract whatever doesn’t apply for your purpose and add whatever else you think is needed. And, if you think of some essential piece of gear that isn’t here, let me know about it.

When traveling with a gun dog, a portable compact dog crate is essential.
Dog crates, as most hunters now days know, are essential when traveling with any kind of canine. A dog running loose in a vehicle can be a hazard to equipment, people, and to itself. Let a dog loose in your suburban or the back of your pickup and you can count on anything from nose prints on the windows and paw tracks on the upholstery to teeth marks on your gun stock, lunch box, or hunting jacket.

Likewise, a dog unconfined inside a vehicle can make a surprise jump into the front seat while you’re in the middle of a traffic crisis. And many dogs outside the security of crate confinement can have anxiety attacks that will increase the stress of traveling. Generally, dogs “in” a sturdy, familiar and comfortable crate will be happier, more secure, and less likely to get into trouble.

What crate to choose? Plastic, fiberglass, all metal, wood and metal, wood and wire, or all wire are all proven materials for dog crates which can be found in sizes to fit most any canine from 20 to 100 pounds. When deciding on a crate for inside a vehicle, whether in a suburban, van, or station wagon or under a pickup topper, go as small as possible. If a dog can enter a crate, easily and comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down, that crate is ideal in size. Most often anything larger is just a waste of space and resources.

Include some type of dog bedding for your hard-hunting, joint-aching, muscle-sore pooch to rest and sleep on after a long day in the field or on the water. A carpet sample, some soft cedar ribbons, or a specially made water-resistant, cushioned pad can keep a traveling gun dog in good working condition.

Food and water are two obvious but worth-mentioning essentials for all gun dogs when they are traveling. Provide the standard dog kibbles your dog is accustomed to at home, but consider some other food items to stimulate a canine appetite when your bird-getter is too tired to eat much or sometimes anything. A meat-based canned dog food or some savory chicken noodle soup full of fat and carbohydrates poured over kibbles will usually make the dog crackers irresistible.
Many traveling hunters with dogs will bring water from home if there is a suspicion that local water sources might cause canine digestive disturbances. Though dogs running in the field or swimming in a slough can sometimes drink all sorts of nasty-looking bad-smelling water without any significant ill effects, “treated” municipal water supplies can sometimes throw them for a real loop. So, give them water from home when possible.

Hauling food for a gun dog can be a problem if you carry dry kibbles in a paper sack or canned food in a cardboard box. Keeping all this food together in a neat, compact, and convenient dog food travel bag is a better idea when at the end of the day you’re in a hurry to feed your hardworking gun dog. And the weather is cold and windy and darkness is closing in, and you’re looking forward to your own supper. Consequently, consider putting all your dog’s nutrition requirements in a store-bought duffel bag or a specially made dog gear bag so that all the food items, feeding and dog watering dishes, can openers, special supplements, and other essentials are in one easy-to-find, easy-to-transport, easy-to-work-out-of container. Include a flashlight to make feeding your dog in the dark much easier.
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