Caring for the Prairie Gun Dog Afield
Source: Wingshooters Guide to Kansas Upland Birds & Waterfowling
There seems to be an endless array of gear that a dog owner cannot live without. Some things are more necessary than others. One of the items typically billed as critical gear is dog boots. They come in different styles and different materials.The most well-made boots I have used were from the Lewis dog boots company in Enid, Oklahoma. They are made of a rubber welt similar to tire tread construction, and the tops will tear before the bottoms wear out. I have several sets of four set aside and bagged. I know that the first dog boots I ever bought from Lewis, twenty- odd years ago, are still in one of the bags and still serviceable.
The boots are held on with white medical tape or duct tape. They will come off when the dogs are running if they are not, as I was once told, "put on right." When I used to run boots a lot, years ago, I put them on as "right" as I could and would still lose a boot now and then. One problem area is the side of a dogís front foot (where the dew claws are, if the dew claws still remain on the dog). After a few days of running, this area can be rubbed raw and thus becomes very painful for a dog. The trick is to use the tape to wrap the dogís lower legs in stockings, like you would wrap a horseís feet. Slide the boots on over that foundation layer of wrapping and then tape over it again. When removing the upper layer of tape to take the boots off, leave the stocking layer intact for the following day.
Dog boots made of leather with lace-up fronts and nylon boots held on with Velcro donít hold up well nor do they stay on well. My experience with them was in rocky country where the bottoms wore through after a couple of weeks hunting. In the grass country of Kansas, however, they may last much longer. I donít have personal experience with them in grass. In my opinion, boots are really a pain to use, and most of the time dogs do fine without them. However, if a dog has bad pads or a foot injury, they can be used to buy some time. Boots are typically recommended to fend off cactus and cholla spines. Over time, however, dogs eventually learn to avoid these stickers and can hunt cactus/cholla areas more effectively without boots on. This is not to deny that the learning curve can get a little grim, but the problem area is not with the dogís feet but rather their mouths. A stickered dog will invariably bite the offending cactus/cholla segment to pull it off and end up with a mouthful. They generally learn not to do this after the first 2 or 3 times.
Sand burrs are the other plague of dogdom that reputably mandates the use of dog boots. If sand burrs lay as a blanket cover, then that would be the case (and they may in some places - I donít know). My experience in Kansas was that the burrs were only present in broken ground areas like road shoulders and parking areas. I brought dog boots with me, but did not use them. Once out onto a hunting area with an intact grass cover, burrs were not an issue.
Bear in mind, my prairie experience is limited, although I did find out how painful sand burrs can be when they were in my fingers. One of the spots where I parked to chain-out dogs had a sand burr carpet, and I got most of the dogs out on the ground before I realized no one was doing any moving. The dogs stood there like they had been whoaed. Every one of them had half a dozen burrs in each foot. I laid the dogs on top of the trailer, one by one, and cleaned their feet. In the process, I managed to load up my own fingers until I wised up and got out a pair of needle nose pliers. Those little burrs hurt like hell. If they covered the ground in a hunting area, the dogs would have to be booted.
Another thing I read about prior to my visit was saw grass and how hard it can be on dogs. After several weeks of running, much of it in heavy CRP grass, the dogsí cheek bones and eye ridges looked like they had been rough sanded, but were otherwise fine.