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Safety tips for hunting with dogs

Hunting and dogs are another pairing that goes back for centuries. There are many breeds of hunting dogs; the type of game animal you hunt will determine what type of dog to use. When hunting with a dog, make sure that everyone in the hunting party treats the dog as a fellow hunter. Always be aware of where the dog is. Adhere to both vertical and horizontal zones of fire as well as identification of the target and what lies both in front of and beyond that target. Any leashes or tethers that you might use to transport the dog MUST always be removed from the dog while hunting.

A hunting dog should always wear a collar with identity information such as the dog's name and the owner's phone number. Cloth and neoprene blaze orange vests are also useful for a hunting dog to wear; they will help other hunters see the dog as well as keep the dog warm and protected from injury.

Hunting dog types

For large and small game animals, beagles and hounds run game animals in the direction of a hunter. When released, the dog travels through the cover and moves the game towards the hunter or hunters staged at certain locations. This technique is useful in thick cover or a swamp that a hunter cannot walk through.

Upland bird hunting (quail, pheasants, etc.) relies on pointers. As the name implies, when a pointer smells and locates a bird, the dog will point in the general direction of the bird. When the pointer is set up, a hunter can get in range and set up for a shot. Pointing breeds can cover a large range and point the game when located, thus allowing the hunter to approach and flush the game. Flushing breeds such as spaniels and setters have an incredible ability to locate, point and flush game birds. 

For waterfowl (duck or geese) hunting, retrievers are true to their name. These hunting dogs retrieve game birds that the hunter has successfully harvested. The retriever sits and waits patiently for the hunter to give the command to retrieve the bird after the shot is fired. It swims to and retrieves the game bird, bringing it back to the hunter.

Safety first! Since most waterfowl hunting is done in cold weather, it is important that the retriever stays warm and dry.

It is the hunter's responsibility to look after and care for the hunting dog. Dogs should be trained long before hunting season begins and be kept in good physical condition throughout the year. While on a hunt, make sure you can provide your dogs with clean water to drink. Inspect the pads on their feet for any signs of cuts or thorns that might hurt them. Also, check their coats for scratches or cuts from briers. Hunting dogs can experience hypothermia and overheating, just like humans. In hot conditions, give dogs a break under shade and provide clean water. In cold and wet locations, keep the dogs warm and dry. If a dog starts to shiver, that means it is cold and needs to be warmed up. If a dog suffers a serious injury, seek emergency care by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Important! Always check local regulations before using dogs for a hunt.

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