Traveling With Your Gun Dog

Traveling With Your Gun Dog
February 21, 2023

By: Tyler Mieden | Okayest Hunter | Waterdog Specialties Kennels

The day you’ve waited for is here. You’ve spent months planning this trip. Now it’s time to put the final preparations on packing before loading up the truck. At this point, your gun dog is following you around the house. They’ve become your shadow. They can sense your excitement and anticipation.  Your dog is panting heavily and anxiously whining. They saw you grab the gun case and that is enough to send them into a frenzy. They know the time is near, and are ready to run through the door because there’s no way you are leaving without them. 

While we spend a lot of time planning every detail of our hunting trip, it's just as important to spend adequate time ensuring you have everything you need and have a plan in place to ensure your dog’s safety and comfort. Being ill prepared on either of these can ruin your entire trip. 

What should I pack?

There are the essentials including food, water, bowls, collar, and the hunting essentials - vest, goggles (if your dog wears them), e-collar, dog stand, and anything else you use in the field. Additionally, a first aid kit, towel, and a kennel should also be added. Your dog can be injured at any time in the field so having a first aid kit should be mandatory. The towel will dry your dog off before going back into the kennel, which will help reduce stress on your dog regardless of temperature. If your dog will be sleeping inside with you, I'd recommend packing their bed. Providing a little comfort and a familiar place for them inside of unfamiliar surroundings will help with anxiety as well as around other dogs. 

What should I be paying attention to?

First and foremost, when you hit the road, plan for adequate breaks along the way. Allowing your dog enough potty breaks and to burn off a little energy will help reduce their anxiety. I get anxious when I have to use the bathroom and have been sitting in a car for a few hours. 

Long trips in a vehicle without as much access to water, and anxiety from the trip can cause your dog to not drink enough water. When traveling, it is easy for your dog to become dehydrated. Paying close attention to how much they are drinking is important for your dogs health and safety. 

While it is tempting to crack open a cold one and put your feet up after a successful hunt, the first step is taking care of your dog. Plan to spend time before and after each hunt checking your dog for injuries, particularly to the ears, eyes, and paws. If they are wet, dry them off. If you are hunting in warm weather, ensure they are cooled down properly. Conversely, if you are hunting in cold weather, bring them inside to warm them up. 

How do I reduce my dog’s anxiety while traveling?

The best way to reduce your dog’s anxiety is proper socialization and exposure at a young age. Spending time in new places, around new people, proper socialization around other dogs, and traveling regularly in vehicles when your dog is young will make all your future hunting trips easier on your and your dog. If properly exposed at a young age, your dog is less likely to show signs of overstimulation, they will take less time to settle in once you arrive, and they will be more resilient overall.

While on your trip, having a kennel while traveling is a must. Confining your dog to a small space doesn’t allow them to pace, and provides a familiar, safe spot for them to be calm. Bringing their bed will provide familiarity and a place for them to be while inside of your lodging. As mentioned before, proper hydration, ensuring they are dry, comfortable, and well taken care of is going to reduce the stress on their systems, which in turn will reduce your dog’s anxiety. 

Going the extra mile

My dogs go the extra mile for me everytime we hit the field. Why would I not do the same for them? That requires proper planning and thinking through every scenario you could encounter. It also requires effort. Is it always easy? No. After spending all day chasing pheasants in Iowa this past fall, I was exhausted, hungry, and my entire body hurt. Yet, the first thing I did when we got back to our AirBnb was feed, water, and get down on the ground to look him over. 

I spend countless hours training my dogs to have the skills necessary in the field, and I spend hours planning to ensure they are properly cared for before, during, and after every hunt. They are members of my family, and my job is to make sure every member of my family is taken care of.

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