By: Orvis Staff
You take every precaution to keep your gun dog safe in the field through extensive training and protective equipment. But sometimes less attention is paid to a dog’s safety on the road to an upland or waterfowl hunting excursion. Many people, hunters and non-hunters alike, have a false sense of security about riding in cars with dogs. They allow them to sit in the backseat without wearing dog harnesses, or walk loose in the truck bed instead of traveling in dog crates.
This is dangerous for both canines and humans. In the event of an accident, an unrestrained dog inside a vehicle, or in the bed of a truck, is at increased risk of injury and death. Unrestrained dogs become projectiles in an accident, further endangering their seatbelted people. And unharnessed dogs inside a car lead to distracted driving. Among their tips to minimize distracted driving, the American Automobile Association advises drivers to “properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.”
In addition to the danger, laws about traveling with dogs in a vehicle vary from state to state. Be sure you learn the dog restraint laws specific to your state, or any states you are traveling through with your dog.
When heading out on a hunting trip, prioritize securing your gun dog safely every time. Travel dog crates are one of the best options for transporting hunting dogs. Here’s why:
A Den on the Road
Your dog likely perks up the moment he catches wind you’re heading out on a hunting trip. A dog crate helps to contain this excitement so he doesn’t expend all his energy during the trip upland. Your dog’s travel crate is a place of comfort where he feels at ease. Then when you arrive at your destination, he’ll be raring to go.
Safety During Load In and Load Out
Loading and unloading hunting gear takes time, and your dog must be safely contained during the process. When you are at home, you can keep your dog inside the house until it’s finally time to take off. But at the hunting site, your dog should remain safely in his crate until you are ready to leave the truck for the hunt. Even highly trained dogs may take it in their head to run off after a bird or an enticing scent. This is always a risk but is especially dangerous if you have traveled somewhere unfamiliar. In addition to keeping your dog crated during packing, make sure his dog collar includes proper identification in the off chance he runs away.
When you crate train your dog, include staying in his crate for loading and unloading in the training. Primarily this comes down to commitment and patience. Load your dog into his crate with a favorite toy and get to work. At first, do this when you aren’t going hunting so you can pretend to pack for shorter periods of time. Reward your dog with attention and positive words, and then gradually extend the loading sessions until he’s relaxed through the process from start to finish.
What Makes a Good Hunting Dog Crate?
They’re Sturdy – These dog crates will likely face harsh treatment as they are lifted in and out of the truck bed. Look for a crate that is tested for durability, and doesn’t have too many joins or parts as these can become weak spots that eventually fail.
They’re Comfortable – The crate should be designed to keep your gun dog comfortable in any weather, and for the time it takes to reach your hunting destination. Things to look for:
- Insulating: The crate must keep your dog warm in winter and cool in summer when traveling in your truck bed—whether or not the truck has a cap. Features to look for include double walls that protect against cold, and raised feet that elevate the crate above the hot truck bed.
- Air circulation: The crate should allow for air circulation, without letting in rain or snow when riding in an open truck bed.
- Easy to clean: After a day in the field, dogs bring a lot of muck back to the truck. Make prepping for your next hunting trip easier with a dog crate that is ready to go again after a quick hose down and dry.
They’re Secure – Much of the safety a dog crate provides is lost when it is left unsecured in the truck bed. Look for a dog crate with a strapping system that is easy to use and holds the crate firmly and safely in place. When properly connected, the crate should not shift at all, even during drives over rough backcountry roads.
Your hunting dog is an alert and responsive partner in the field—give his well-being the vigilance and attention he deserves getting there and back again.