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Traveling With Hunting Dogs

traveling with hunting dogsEven if you live in a place like South Dakota, chances are you will travel long distances with your dogs. Maybe you’re headed to Minnesota for ruffs or Georgia for quail or the Dakotas for pheasants, sharpies, and ducks. Either way, getting your dog to the destination safe and keeping him safe and healthy should be your top priority. Good hunting dogs aren’t cheap and if your dog is like mine, he’s basically part of the family.

When I’m just cruising around town with the dog, he usually rides shotgun. However, on long trips he is always kenneled. There are just too many things that can go wrong with him in the front seat. I don’t want him to be able to get out of the truck on his own. Also, my truck is usually loaded to the gills and I’m often pulling a trailer. Being able to the see my mirrors without moving the dog out of the way is a big plus. It doesn’t matter if you have an SUV or a pickup, the dog should be secured in a kennel in the back of the truck. I recommend a topper for pickups. But I’ve seen some very well built wooden dog boxes that will keep a dog secure and warm. The topper allows for more secure storage for both your dog and the rest of your gear.

If you expect your dog to travel in a vehicle for eight hours without getting out of his kennel, you probably shouldn’t be traveling with a dog. He’s going to need to relieve himself and at the very least, stretch out. I’ve pushed it four or five hours before, but five hours is probably the max. A good rule of thumb is if you need to stretch, so does the dog. I keep a lead right next to the kennel in the truck. When I open the kennel door, my dog knows to wait until I give him the command to get out. This is something that should be worked on at home. A dog that blasts out of the kennel is going to get someone hurt. A choke style lead is the way to go. I’ve had dogs that were masters at backing out of their collars when they were itching for a fight. Most rest areas en route to popular hunting destinations are loaded with other hunters and their dogs. You don’t want a dog fight, a pregnancy, or worse yet, a fatal car collision. A dead dog is a bad way to start or end a hunt.

When packing for a big trip with your dog, space is always going to be limited. Bring everything you will need, but don’t over do it. Having a bunch of extra stuff is going to make finding the things you really need more difficult. One thing you must bring is plenty of food for the dog. I’ve hunted in some pretty remote areas where the dog food choices are pretty slim. Changing a dog’s diet when he is hunting hard is a recipe for disaster. I usually pack dog food in a plastic tote. This will keep it dry and if you’re staying in rustic accommodations, prevent rodent infestation. Remember, you should feed about 25% more when your dog is hunting. I’ll also bring along some snacks to boost his energy during the hunt. Don’t forget to pack a few bowls as well.

Before booking any accommodations, always ask if dogs are allowed in living quarters. Well trained dogs are almost always welcome at hunting lodges but I’ve seen some that won’t. If you’re staying at a hotel chances are your dog will be sleeping in the truck. However, in major hunting areas many places that don’t allow dogs in the living quarters have a kennel area or barn for dogs to sleep in. Even in a barn, you want to keep your dog secure in a kennel. A kennel will protect him from coon fights or other brands of trouble. If temperatures are cool be sure to bring along some straw or blankets for bedding. Toweling him off before he gets in to the kennel will keep him dry and remove dirt, dust, & burrs. If the dog needs to sleep in the truck, the same advice applies. Personally, if the nighttime low is 20 degrees or colder, I won’t travel to a place where the dog can’t be inside. Even at that temperature an insulated kennel jacket is highly recommended.

Your hunting trip will most likely be problem free. But you need to be prepared for the one time it won’t. Look up veterinary clinics in the area you will be traveling to. Get phone numbers, names, and emergency numbers. Most clinics won’t be open during the weekend, but will have emergency service. This will be costly, but the investment you have in your dog is also huge. Luckily, most dog issues won’t need a vet if you have a first aid kit for your dog. You will want saline solution to flush out the eyes, ear ointment, and hydrogen peroxide to clean small cuts and scrapes. Antibiotic ointment and gauze bandages are also necessary for field work on cuts. Coated aspirin such as Bayer come in handy to help out older dogs during multi-day hunts. Remember, acetaminophen(Tylenol) is toxic to dogs. I also bring along Benadryl. My dog has some plant allergies and at first sign of a reaction I give him some Benadryl. Always consult your vet before giving your dog any medication. It’s a good idea to visit the vet before traveling anyway.

If you’re traveling into Canada, you will need your passport. Your dog will also need his papers. Proof of rabies vaccination and other shots may be needed to cross the border successfully.

If your next hunting trip calls for a long road trip with the dog have fun, be safe, and allow extra time to take care of your four legged hunting partner. Traveling with a dog is like traveling with kids… except they won’t ask you “are we there yet?” dozens of times!