Hunters and hikers charge into the field and forest each fall in search of wildlife and brilliant foliage. For both groups, dogs are often an important ingredient in the experience.
My wife Meredith and I, along with our two German shorthaired pointers, will spend the next few months on the trail. Meredith carries a camera while I carry an over-under 20-gauge shotgun in search of free-range fowl.
At our side, our pointing dogs are outfitted with a variety of products to ensure their safety and our family’s success afield. The following are a few suggestions to keep your pups safe, healthy, and happy this autumn.
Before the dawn of electronic beeper collars, grouse hunters would always put bells on their bird dogs to help locate them in the woods. When the bell went silent, the dog was on point and the hunter went to the last location of the bell’s ring.
Nowadays, folks running adventure dogs through wolf country would be wise to add a bell to their dog’s collar. While the bell breaks the silence of a peaceful hike through the woods, the rhythmic ring will deter most wolf encounters on the trail.
Protective Dog Vest
A few years back, my two-year-old shorthair, Izzy, struck the end of an oak log at full speed. The impact ruptured her carotid artery and she tragically passed away in my arms moments later. As a result of that heartbreak, my pups are always outfitted with a dog vest for their safety and my peace of mind. Mendota Products makes an effective skid plate for the hiking dog.
For the upland bird dog, my best suggestion is to pick up a full body vest from a small Colorado company called Sylmar. Pheasants Forever carries the Sylmar Dog Body Guard Vest online and has profits going toward our mission of upland habitat conservation.
Multi-Tool With Needle Nose Pliers
Contrary to mythology, porcupines can’t “shoot” their quills at you or your pup. Nevertheless, porcupine encounters are a very real possibility for your adventure dog in the field and on the trail. My shorthairs have each tangled with a porcupine and thankfully came out with only a couple of quills on the outside of their muzzle.
A handy multi-tool with needle nosed pliers in my game vest was all I needed to take care of the problem. My childhood Brittany, Tinker, was not as lucky. She literally tried to eat a porcupine. There were quills inside her mouth, through her front legs, everywhere. A vet visit and surgery were necessary in Tinker’s case. For most encounters though, a good pair of needle nose pliers will do the trick in removing quills.
Dog De-Skunking Kit
Like porcupines, each of my bird dogs has met the business end of a skunk. While not life-threatening like porcupines, skunking incidents are a likely possibility in the autumn fields and forests. Contrary to popular belief, a bath of tomato juice will only make your bird dog smell like a skunk-infused Bloody Mary. The ingredients you’ll actually need are probably in your bathroom at home, just make sure they find their way into your vehicle this autumn.
De-Skunk A Dog
- 1 quart (2 pints) of 3% hydrogen peroxide
- ¼ cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap (with grease cutter)
- Sponge, rubber gloves, small bucket for mixing
- Directions: Mix solution and wet the dog down. Work in solution; leave on 3-4 minutes. Rinse and repeat steps 1 through 5 as necessary. (NOTE: solution is unsafe to mix and store ahead of time.)
Electronic Training Collar with GPS
I grew up as a ruffed grouse hunter in the big woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. During my teenage years, eCollars weren’t part of the bird hunting lexicon and I often worried about losing my family’s dog when she disappeared beyond my vision, which happened pretty quickly in the grouse woods.
Nowadays, my mind is eased by GPS and eCollar combos. Not only does this game-changer prevent my pups from losing contact with me, the GPS also helps me navigate the terrain and find my way back to the truck.
I’d first consider SportDOG’s TEK 2.0. SportDOG, like Kleenex and Jell-O, essentially defines the entire product category. It launched the world’s first eCollar and GPS combo with the introduction of The TEK in 2012.
It improved the user-experience with the 2014 update in the TEK 2.0. And, SportDOG is a national sponsor of Pheasants Forever’s habitat mission, so you can feel equally gratified knowing your purchase is helping create habitat for wildlife.
Garmin’s Alpha is also worthy of consideration.
While you’ll never be prepared for every hazard your pup will encounter in the field, EMT Gel is a good way of buying time for cuts, scrapes, hot spots, and other wounds. Applied to a wound, the fast-acting gel seals the area to promote healing and prevent infection.
Backpack + Hydration (for the human)
While the summer’s heat has subsided, dogs still need to be well-hydrated to stay healthy during the cooler autumn days. A vest or backpack capable of carrying lots of water is critical in the field and on the trail.
A couple of hunting vests with handy water bottle holders are the Browning Bird’N Lite Strap Vest and the Wing Works Strap Vest. If you’d prefer a Camelbak-ready hunting vest, then the Tenzing Bird Vest BV15 is the ticket for carrying a lot of water for a dog willing to share your nozzle.
As for backpacks, there are a lot on the market with excellent water-carrying features. Personally, I prefer Granite Gear’s Kahiltna which comes in hunter orange and is clean on the shoulders to mount a shotgun.
Now take to the fields and forests with confidence knowing your pup is as happy as you are to enjoy the beauty of an autumn day on the trail.
–Bob St.Pierre is the VP of marketing for Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. He is an experienced upland bird hunter, dog owner, angler, and hiker. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Bob makes his home in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, with his wife and two German shorthaired pointers. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.