For many people, hunting season is just around the corner. Whether your dog is bred to hunt or just a couch potato, hunting season can be a dangerous time. Without appropriate safety measures, pets can get injured running through fields or may even be mistaken for game. The dogs most at risk are those that accompany hunters but your family pet can also be injured if allowed to roam the woods without precautions.
The Family Pet
Dogs that do not hunt should be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in yard whenever he is outside. If you live in a rural area and have a large amount of fenced land, use a leash or tie-out during hunting season to prevent your dog from roaming far away from home. Hunters have been known to climb over fences and hunt on private property, although the vast majority abide by the rules of hunting. In most areas, hunting is only allowed during the daytime so that is the most dangerous time but you should also avoid letting your pets roam at night.
Consider putting a bright-colored vest, sweater or bandana on your dog. This will identify him and will help make sure he is not mistaken for a hunted animal. A bell added to his collar can also help identify him. And, as with any pet, make sure he is vaccinated and has his collar and current tags on. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about getting your dog microchipped in case he is ever lost.
The Hunting Dog
Most hunting dogs are also family pets. When not out hunting, they can be found lounging on the sofa, sleeping in bed or resting in their kennel. Keeping your dog safe and healthy during hunting season can help keep your dog in tiptop shape and ready to work the entire season.
During the summer and fall prior to hunting season, keep your dog in top shape through regular exercise. Your dog will be running around a lot during the season. And, just like weekend warriors, he can get very stiff and sore after he first day if he is not in shape. This could mean that your hunting companion only works during the first few days and then is sidelined for the rest of the season due to injury.
Just before the hunting season begins, have your hunting dog examined by your veterinarian to make sure he is healthy. Make sure his vaccinations are up to date. In certain areas of the country, Lyme vaccine may be beneficial. Pick up some flea and tick preventative, which should be used monthly during the hunting season to prevent infestation with fleas and ticks. Feed your dog a high quality performance or active dog food. Don’t let him become overweight and make sure he is not underweight at the beginning of the season.
During the hunting season, put a reflective collar and bright vest on your dog. This will keep him safe and alert other hunters of the presence of your dog. The collars and vests should be made of nylon or another material that will prevent burrs, foxtails, etc. from sticking. Consider adding a bell to your dog so you will know where he is at all times. There are bells that make different sounds so you can identify each of your dogs. If you have a dog that tends to roam, bring a brightly colored long lead to keep him nearby and safe. It also a good idea to use a lead whenever you and your dog are walking near a busy road.
While in the field, it is important to keep your dog’s health and safety in mind. Bring plenty of water or make sure you will have access to sources of fresh water during the hunt. Stop periodically to allow your dog to rest and drink. This also allows your pet to cool off. Chasing after animals can build up body heat, even if it is cool outside. Don’t let your dog overheat by working him too long. Try to hunt during the cooler part of the day and for short durations. Overheating is a common problem with hunting dogs. In addition to providing water, offer your dog snacks during the day. Don’t feed him a big meal right before hunting but offer small amounts of food through the day.
Before hunting, make sure you know the area. This can help prevent injuries. Know if barbed wire is present, porcupines, skunks or rattlesnakes. Try to avoid these if possible. If you and your dog do come in contact with one or all of these, be prepared. Bring along a first aid kit that can be used to help your pet.