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Sometimes, a Dog’s Life Can Be Kind of Rough

Boise, Idaho — There are a lot of sharp and dangerous hazards that can easily injure your outdoor companions.

Quail and pheasant country has a lot of stickers, cockleburs and thorns that latch on to a gun dog like steel shot to a magnet.

A day of hunting usually means an hour of picking, combing and cutting away thorny seed spikes entangled in your dog’s hair.

That isn’t the only problem facing hunting dogs. Combing through our retriever Phoebe’s coat after an afternoon of bird hunting, I came across a gash on her chest from a barbed-wire fence.

Wow, did I feel badly.

Gun dogs don’t see barbed-wire fences, or don’t care about them, when they’re gung-ho on the scent of birds.

And hunters are so busy keeping track of the dog and any possible birds flushing, that dog injuries are easily missed.

The dog doesn’t care. It’s in hog heaven working birds. But despite all the fun the dog is having, it can get beat up in the thickets before you know it, no matter how careful you try to be watching over the dog.

We never seem to have problems with barbed wire when we’re hunting the river bottomlands because the dog is always wearing a neoprene vest for protection from cold water. The vest is also bullet-proof for barbed wire.

Phoebe’s neoprene vest is shredded in some spots from when she’s blasted under, over and through fences.

But the other day, because we were going to be hunting on dry land in sagebrush terrain, I let her run freely without the vest. The neoprene vest would have been too hot for a mild fall day. The primary use of a neoprene vest for dogs is to protect them from cold water.

Well, lesson learned. Lightweight dog chest and belly protector vests are available that don’t cover the back of the dog like the neoprene vests.

The protectors are designed to allow more air circulation, so they won’t overheat a dog in dry-land conditions. They run from $40 to $60 and are available from sporting goods stores that handle hunting supplies.

Phoebe always has her neoprene vest for waterfowl hunting, but from now on, she’ll be wearing the chest protection all the time, even on hikes or hunts in dry foothills terrain.

Another lesson learned? I’m going to give her a thorough check on the tailgate right after the hunt. That way I can check for any scratches or injuries immediately, and there will be no surprises at home.

We also have a dog kit that contains grooming and first-aid supplies and dog deodorizer (for skunk, cow-pie and other smells) in the main camping rig. I will take it with me on hunts from now on no matter what rig I’m using.

Here’s another tip. You might want to check out the book Field Guide To Dog First Aid, by Randy Acker, a Sun Valley veterinarian. It’s thorough, and Acker is an expert when it comes to first-aid and outdoor dogs. It’s available at some stores or by calling his office at (208) 726-7777. Cost is $15.

He also has a DVD out, Advanced Canine First Aid For Sporting/Outdoor Dogs, for $20.

Seeing that gash from a barbed-wire fence made me feel guilty as a dog owner, but I’ll be better prepared for dealing with dog injuries whether hunting or just walking Foothills trails.