The hunter and hunting dog partnership and friendship goes back thousands of years and it continues to exist today regardless of technological advances or shifts in the social norms. At this point it is almost a symbiotic relationship and for good reasons: prehistoric dogs would tag along humans to eat leftovers and hard to crack bones and in return they would guard our ancestors and warn them of any incoming danger way before humans could detect them. In time, this has shifted to a much more active role for the dogs in helping the humans obtain food by assisting the hunters with tracking, chasing down prey, even attacking the game themselves, many times sacrificing themselves in the process. Nowadays we sill rely on the extraordinary senses and honed instincts of hunting dogs for tracking, retrieving, or flushing out. It is however increasingly rare that dogs are used for actually hunting live prey, especially considering that with superior firearms or bows, humans do not need to put the dogs in more danger than they should.
That being said, it is clear that hunting dogs are our partners, our companions, our friends. And as such we should make sure that our four-legged buddies are well taken care of, well fed, have the proper equipment and gear for the activities they will perform. They completely depend on us to do so and we are responsible for their safety and well being. To this end we have compiled and reviewed a list of the pieces of gear and items that will ensure that your hunting dogs will get the absolute best.
Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs
We’ll start off with the most basic item that any dog needs: yummy dog food! As is with humans, it is absolutely clear that a healthy, balanced, diet will ensure that our dogs are happy, active and top performing. To this end home-cooked food or picking up any bag of dog food from the pet store will simply be subpar at best and harmful at worst. Hunting dogs are some of the most active dogs and the tasks they perform require considerably more energy and stamina than the average dog activities; in this sense they are practically like top athletes. All that energy comes, of course, from the food they eat so for the same reason why race cars are not fueled with cooking oil, we cannot feed hunting dogs with leftovers or dog food containing nasty chemicals such as preservatives, artificial colors or artificial flavors. As such, Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance is hands down the top choice for highly active dogs! It uses the 30/20 formula: 30% protein / 20 % fat contents which is considered optimal by dog nutritionists for very active dogs. It comes in three flavor options: chicken & egg, salmon & rice and “performance”, which is the standard chicken flavor. In all three, the main ingredient is either real chicken meat or real salmon and they do not contain any kind of byproduct such as skin, heads, entrails, etc. which are usually grind and added in lower quality food. The formula that Purina used is specifically focused on optimizing oxygen metabolism, muscle development and repair after exercising as well as fast and consistent energy production; in other words exactly what our dogs need when out hunting.
One of the things we loved most with “Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance” is the fact that it can be used for all life stages and ages, starting with 3-4 weeks old pups to 8 years+ seniors. This is a great advantage as the dogs get used to it and don’t have to go through many dietary changes that usually upset their digestion and can take a toll on their health. With this dog food you can start at early ages and continue throughout their lives, providing stability and no nasty surprises. And speaking of nasty surprises, a large number of people reported that they noticed their dogs are much less gassy since they started feeding them this food. And I’m sure that anyone that has driven for a few hours with a dog in the car will appreciate this benefit :). The packaging ranges from 4 lbs (1.8 kg) to 37.5 lbs (17 kg) with different intermediary weight options for each flavor and they are all produced in the United States. One final interesting aspect we found while researching and interviewing dog breeders and their nutritionists is that over 90% of AKC (American Kennel Club) All Breed champion dogs are eating this particular dog food and it is quite rare to find such a strong consensus on this topic.
Best Dog Hunting Vest
As I always say, winter is for many of us the best and most expected hunting season! Setting aside personal preferences, it does truly come with a series of strong advantages that are unique to it: prey will be much easier to track, there’s less competition as there’s a smaller number of hunters which venture out, water and mud are frozen so such areas are much easier to traverse than the usual struggle, the prey is generally slower and will have more predictable behavior patterns and many others perks. But it does also bring along one of the hunters’ worst enemies: the cold! Not only it can affect your own hunting abilities to such an extent that you might even go home empty handed unless you prepare adequately but our canine friends will also have a hard time as well. This is especially true for short-hair breeds such as pointers, beagles, bloodhounds, Weimaraners as their coat is not well suited for low temperatures or frozen winds. Even the breeds with longer hair can sometimes feel uncomfortable when the weather will suddenly get worse. However this doesn’t mean that we should relegate them to hibernation during winter; with proper equipment our hunting dogs will be able to join us for the hunt even in cold weather.
The most important piece of equipment that you can get for your dog to protect them during winter is the obvious dog vest and The Browning Camo neoprene dog vest is the perfect choice! Made out of 3mm neoprene, it provides well needed warmth but at the same time doesn’t impede movement and lends excellent flexibility. It comes with a padded chest-plate which will grant enhanced durability and protection from scrapes or cuts when the dogs are bucking brush, braving bramble or simply crawling. It closes with adjustable shoulder and back double-sided Velcro straps, making it easy to fit a wide range of dog body shapes or to accommodate for weight variations of the same dog. In regards to sizes, it comes in S, M, L, XL, XXL so you should easily find a size that suits your doggy. On top of that, one of the best features of this vest is that it has several trimmable areas which can be cut out to better accommodate the body of your dog and prevent skin irritation or chafing. These are designed in such a manner that cutting them will not affect the stitching or the integrity of the vest in any way. Also, on the back side it has a very convenient and easy to grab handle to help you keep too eager dogs from bolting away when they aren’t supposed to. Lastly, the vest is imprinted with an awesome camouflage pattern that will help your dog to better blend in with the environment
Best Hunting Dog Boots
Dressing our dogs in a fancy jacket is however not enough when we’re talking about protecting them from harsh weather or other environmental hazards. Some of the dogs’ most sensitive and vulnerable body parts are their paws and nowhere is this more evident than during a hunting trip. Be it rocks, pine needles, sand, brush, ice or rugged snow, all these can cause lesions, cuts or other nasty wounds to their paw pads. Combine these with mud, dust, feces, murky waters, mires and so on and you have a recipe for infections or other long term health problems. On top of that, hunting dogs are known to be extremely dedicated to their task and more often than not they will show no signs of being hurt or slow down until way after the damage had been done. By that point they will probably be in a great deal of pain and we never want to put our four-legged buddies through that.
Unfortunately, it is a known thing that many dogs don’t really get along with dog boots but, from our experience, in most cases that’s actually caused by low quality shoes, improper fitting/sizing, not using supplementary protection such as vet band, or any combination of these. Luckily, we’ve done the homework for you and found that My Busy Dog Water Resistant Dog Shoes are an excellent choice of boots that are greatly appreciated by dogs and their owners alike. Right from their name you can immediately notice that these boots are water resistant which will go a long way in keeping the paws dry and warm, preventing the problems caused by dirty or very cold water. To further complement this, the shoes have a rugged, anti-slip sole that is excellent for wet or slippery surfaces. At the same time it protects the paw pads from sharp stones, brush or thorns while also providing improved traction. The boots are easy to put on / take off as the shoe opening has a wide split seam that is built to expand as needed. Once the boots are on, you secure them using two adjustable Velcro strips which are also reflective, making them easy to find in the off-chance that one might fall.
The boots come in sizes from 1 to 8 and in order to determine which is the perfect size for your dog, please see the following instructions:
Lastly, for optimal results and ensuring that the shoes fit perfectly and there’s no chance of them chaffing or rubbing the dogs’ legs too hard, we strongly recommend to wrap a few strips of vet tape around the leg, where the upper part of the boots (behind the Velcro strips) is in contact with the leg. Make sure however that you do not apply the vet wrap around the actual toes as this will reduce mobility, balance and comfort. An excellent choice of waterproof vet band that doesn’t require any kind of clips or pins and is non-sticky to hair or skin is WildCow Vet Wrap:
Hunting Dog First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is one of those items that people generally remember about when it is, unfortunately, too late. An emergency situation is already stressful and chaotic as it is even with everything available and at hand, but even more so when not having the appropriate tools to deal with that, which can spell disaster. Well, you reading this means you’re already taking the necessary steps to avoid such a situation and we are here to help you do just that. One common mistake that we see hunters make time and time again is to believe that a single first aid kid is sufficient for both humans and the hunting dogs and this is a bad idea for various reasons. First of, many of the medical supplies that are needed for treating humans or dogs are simply not interchangeable and using inappropriate substances on either can cause great harm doing even more damage instead of healing. Secondly, it can happen that both humans and dogs are harmed in the same unfortunate event; having a single med kit in such a situation means you need to split or “compete” for medical supplies which, needless to say, is never desirable. Having specialized tools for each situation and task is a basic mantra of hunting and it does apply to injuries as well.
We have already written an extensive review for a humans first aid kit, should you be missing one of those as well or need to upgrade from a makeshift to a professional one. As for the hunting dogs, Fab Fur Gear Pet First Aid Kit will serve you well, should you ever need it. It includes essential items such as medical tape roll, protective gloves, a range of sterile gauze sponges, PBT bandages, buckle tourniquet, compress bandages. You will also find a pair of metal tweezers which are perfect for removing ticks, a flea comb, warming emergency blanket as well as an emergency dog collar. The kit doesn’t however include items which expire, so actual medication will have to be purchased and added separately.
However, if you’re looking for the complete pack, with absolutely everything that you might need for a hunting dog first aid situation, then the safer and more reliable Sporting Dog First Aid Kit will do the trick. It is a veterinarian approved kit and it comes with a very useful pets first aid guide, that will come in handy even if you posses some of that knowledge already; it is always good to have a source where you can quickly double-check when in doubt. Apart from the usual bandages and pads, inside you will also find hydrogen peroxide and syringe (used to induce vomiting in case of poisoning), eye wash solution, saline solution, a decent sized cold pack, styptic pencil that you can use to stop bleeding, hydrocortisone cream and an antibiotic ointment.
In terms of tools, it comes packed with a thermometer, a pair of scissors, a forceps, vinyl gloves and a skin stapler gun which, hopefully you will never need to use, but it is indispensable in certain situations. Everything is stored in a water-resistant bag which is surprisingly small in size for all the stuff that’s inside, meaning a great deal of efficiency went into designing it. All in all, an excellent first aid kit for our hunting dogs that we always hope will never see much, if any use.
Dog Training Whistle
It is a well known thing that a properly trained dog is invaluable for any serious hunter while at the same time, an unruly one can spoil on otherwise great hunting trip. It is thus of utmost importance to properly train your dogs before bringing them along. While we won’t go into details here about the entire process of training a hunting dog or a gundog, we do want to highlight one of the most efficient and crucial tools that you should use: a dog whistle. Now, while many people are under the impression that the whistle itself has some inherent properties that will somehow magically train the dog, we need to clarify that it is merely a simple tool that is used as stimuli to catch the dog’s attention. It is thus crucial that once you have that attention, you follow up with a reward, if you want to enforce good behavior, or tell them no! (or whichever method you use) if you want to make them quit a bad one. To this end, the whistle is an excellent way of getting a dog to acknowledge that you want to communicate something to them. In doing so, the dog will start associating the whistle with expecting your input into what they need to do next or to stop doing something.
Well then, why not just use our voices? There’s nothing wrong with using voice to call out our dogs but it is not optimal either. A dog whistle has a few major advantages that make it the superior choice almost in any situation. First, a dog whistle is much easier for the dog to hear: the sound is carried at a much longer distance than human voice and it is not drowned or muffled by bad weather such as strong winds or rumbling thunders. Then, a good whistle will have a consistent sound with which the dog will become very familiar in time. Human voice however can change and vary a lot due to sicknesses or something we drank that was very cold or very hot, it can become strained from effort or fatigue, it can shift its pitch based on our mood, for example when angry or maybe scared. The unambiguous nature of a whistle’s sound will go a long way in making yourself instantly heard by your hunting dog. Lastly, human voice is generally very disturbing to game and will scare it off really easy, whereas a dog whistle is much less intrusive and to some animals don’t even seem to notice it at all.
So now that we’ve established why you definitely want to use a dog whistle, you are faced with the invariable question: which one should I buy? Since our aim is to help you exactly with this kind of dilemmas, we tested a wide range of whistles and concluded on the one that ticks all the boxes: Crush Evil Dog Whistle. You will immediately notice that, unlike average whistles, this one is made of stainless steel and not out of that flimsy plastic which will break in less than a week. With no fear of rusting, this should last you a lifetime as long as you don’t tend to lose them as often I seem to do. To help with that, it comes with a quality lanyard strap which should make it less likely to accidentally drop it when running around. Also, apart from durability, steel was the choice material because the whistle has a pitch-adjust mechanism which is an incredibly important feature. While dogs can hear a very wide range of sound frequencies, this also means that they’re not equally responsive to all of them. So, from the very beginning this whistle allows you to test different pitches until you find one that piques your dog’s interest immediately. Not only that, but unlike the usual ones that all sound the same, by adjusting this whistle to your unique frequency there will be much less confusion for your dog, should multiple hunters use them at the same time.