If you enjoy hunting, of course, you’ll want a hunting dog to help make your trips more successful. If you’re not a hunter, you may still be considering a hunting dog for a companion – either a purebred or possibly a mixed breed. Here are a few things to know about hunting dogs’ personalities and how to properly care for them:
Hunting dogs have been bred over the centuries to help humans find and follow potential prey. From hunting for food and sport, to being used by police, military and search-and-rescue groups, they are intelligent, courageous, determined and high energy. So carefully consider your lifestyle and consider whether this is the sort of dog that you would like to own or is a couch potato or a less independent type of dog more your cup of tea. A dog is generally a 15-year commitment give or take a few years for size, breed, etc. so this is a serious decision.
Hunting Dog Breeds
Some hunting dogs track by scent (such as beagles and bloodhounds). These hounds typically have long ears, large noses and moist loose lips to help them focus on the scent, and they can continue tracking the prey long after it is out of sight. Those with high drive (high hunting drive) may hunt for hours and hours, and even days. Not usually a suitable dog for a city dweller.
Some hunt by sight (for example, greyhounds and Irish wolfhounds). They are usually tall, have large, sharp eyes, and long legs to run after their prey to keep it in sight and run it to ground. They tend to see something and go in that direction, quickly, and not necessarily paying attention to where they are or where they are going or, where you are.
Terriers were bred to find, track and trail quarry, especially underground. Some dogs are bred to point to the quarry to help flush it out (setters and pointers); others retrieve the hunted quarry, like Labrador or Golden retrievers. Terriers may dig for possible quarry, even when they are at ‘rest’ or play. Pointers are known to point at any potential quarry, even stopping to do so when they were ‘in the middle’ of something else. Retrievers are known for being a bit obsessive in-regards to retrieving and often can play ball for hours.
These dogs may make great pets without actually being used for hunting – they are active, alert, like-able and intelligent. They generally need lots of exercise and enjoy spending time outdoors. Some love the water and have water-repellent coats. Others cannot pass by a fire hydrant or tree without sniffing extremely thoroughly, as they put their tremendous noses to work.
If you’re considering a hunting dog as a pet, keep in mind that the very characteristics that make each breed successful could also require some special handling and training on your part. Hunting dogs are generally high-energy animals and need to be kept busy or they might get into trouble. Hence, if you work a 9 to 5 job, this may not be a good match. Terriers can tunnel under backyard fences and be gone; greyhounds can bolt if they see something moving like a bike, car or leaf falling; hounds can go after a deer or fox and may not come back for hours (or get lost). Obedience training is highly recommended, as are plenty of exercise and play. Each individual breed also has its typical characteristics. As one example, terriers were bred to work alone and can often be feisty with other dogs while being loyal and affectionate with you.
If you actually hunt with your hunting dog, here are some tips for keeping him safe and healthy:
Top 10 Hunting Dog Tips
- Before the hunt, start your dog’s day with a high calorie meal to help him weather the weather and other difficult conditions.
- When you’re out in the forest or field, dogs can easily be mistaken for game. Put a blaze orange vest on your dog to make him easier to see and identify as a dog.
- This jacket also is highly recommended to help protect from frost and cold winds/water.
- If your dog is hunting water fowl, watch out for hypothermia during cold weather. Standing in ice-cold water for an extended period of time puts your dog in danger. The dogs natural hunting instincts/drive will not necessarily override the dangers of cold. If you see him acting sluggish or disoriented, get him out of the water immediately and take steps to dry and warm him up (wrap him in warm towels, put a hot water bottle on his stomach, etc.).
- Make sure he is dried thoroughly at the end of the day. Because many retrievers have double coats, they need to be checked, dried and groomed thoroughly to ensure they don’t pick up parasites and fungal infections in wet, matted fur. Also, check for burrs, splinters, foxtails and other foreign debris that can get tangled in the fur and/or in the skin.
- Dogs can get overheated on hot days. They don’t perspire the way we do, so they have to pant to get rid of the excess heat. If it’s hot outside, don’t overwork your dog but hunt in brief spurts. Always carry lots of water and give it to your dog generously. Panting is how a dog cools his system, but they need hydration and ventilation for their internal cooling system to work properly. Resting in the shade with a breeze/air flow is optimal.
- Assume there will be ticks where you’re hunting. Comb through her fur to find those pesky parasites as soon as possible after the hunt to ensure they don’t attach to the skin. Mosquitoes are also an issue for dogs as in the southern regions they harbor the larvae which matures into a parasite that cause heart worm.
- Thorns and briars also pose a threat of injury to your dog. Watch your dog to see if he’s favoring a paw or leg, and check his paw pads often.
- Once the hunt is over, make sure you get your dog warm and dry, or cool, depending upon the season, as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you get home to take care of him – every minute counts when it comes to your dog’s health and safety.
- Use Banixx Pet Care products whenever you need help with ear care, parasites, fungal or bacterial infections, wounds, scratches and other problems associated with strenuous outdoor activities. Find Banixx near you.