You’ve been planning this hunt for months, maybe even years. You’re heading out on a hunting road trip, and your favorite gundog is along for the ride. What could be better?
Traveling with a dog can be a memorable experience, but it can also be a nightmare if not properly thought out. Here are seven tips and tricks for taking care of your faithful companion on that dream hunt, courtesy of Purina Pro Plan.
PREP THEIR MEALS
Depending on how remote your destination is, you won’t be able to find any dog food for sale nearby, much less if your dog is on a special diet. Plan to pack all the food your canine will need for the trip, plus extra in case there’s an unexpected need or a delay in making it back to the real world. And remember, a gundog hunting for several days on end is expected to eat more than it would at home. A good rule of thumb is to plan for one pound of food per dog per day.
BRING YOUR OWN WATER
This goes beyond the obvious of providing water when there isn’t any naturally occurring. A dog’s gastrointestinal tract is a delicate thing, and a sudden switch in the hardness of the water can result in a sickly pup. Plan to bring several gallons of water with you on the hunt, all from the same source. In a pinch you can use bottled water, but again, if the location you’re hunting is remote, you’ll need to bring every drop you’re likely to need. The average dog needs one half to one ounce of water per pound of body weight, so plan accordingly.
MAKE PLENTY OF REST STOPS
This should go without saying, but be sure to stop and let your dog stretch numerous times during the trip to the hunting grounds and back. Your companion doesn’t know what lies ahead, and expecting them to hit the ground running at 100 percent efficiency after a multi-hour car ride is absurd. With some hunting outfitters such as Cabela’s offering dog-friendly areas, it may be wise to buy your shells, snacks, etc. there in order to force you to make a pitstop for your gundog.
PLAN FOR THE PARTICULARS
Unique destinations present unique challenges. For instance, if you’ll be traveling to Canada, you’ll need to bring a copy of your dog’s veterinarian-signed rabies vaccination card. This will enable you to pass through Customs much easier. If you’re traveling to an area with rattlesnakes, you’ll need to pack anti-venom (see below). Hunting out West? Pack some bear spray. These area-specific inclusions could make or break your trip.
STOCK UP ON FIRST-AID
You can never have too much of the essentials. Bring plenty of gauze, bandages, and duct tape—can be used for makeshift dog boots in thorny terrain—as well as all-around-useful tools like tweezers and scissors. Also, be sure to include general-purpose products like antihistamines, antiseptics, and antibiotics. Beyond that, you’ll need to include any veterinarian-prescribed medicines. If you so choose, bring anti-venom if you’re likely to encounter venomous snakes where you’re hunting (see Tom Davis’s Gundogs column in the September/October 2017 issue of Sporting Classics).
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
If the worst does happen and you can’t treat your dog’s problems single-handedly, be ready with a list of the closest veterinarians and 24/7 emergency clinics. Have the names, addresses, and phone numbers of these professionals written down and placed inside your first-aid kit—don’t count on your smartphone for pulling up this vital information in the heat of the moment.
BRING ENOUGH STAKE OUTS
Even though your dog may stay in top form during the trip, your vehicle may not. Be sure to pack enough stakes and tie-out cables for your dog so you can put them safely in the shade while you work on that flat tire, etc.
Got any other pearls of wisdom about traveling with a gundog? Leave your advice in the comment section below.