Dogs don’t come with operating instructions. This explains why they cause so much trouble, destruction and heartache.
Have you ever returned from a cafe lunch to discover an unpleasant “gift” from Rover on the front seat? Or perhaps instead of adding something to your truck’s interior, Rover removed a few things. Like the headliner, seat padding and steering wheel. Been there, seen that.
If you had read and followed the operating instructions, it could have been prevented. So here follows a brief set of basic directions for operating the average hunting dog. It will save you time, money and grief—and may save Rover from pain and even possibly premature death.
Travel with Rover in a travel crate or kennel box. This simple container will prevent countless problems. It gives Rover a “safe house” in which to let down his guard and completely relax. Outside the truck he needn’t worry about an aggressive dog or rabid skunk attacking him. Inside the truck he’s contained. No bouncing off the walls during sudden stops. No lunging at the windows or leaping out an open door into traffic. No accidentally shoving the transmission into park or distracting the driver. The box also protects you and your upholstery. Even if Rover never eats the interior, he’ll despoil it with muddy feet. And what if he rolls in fresh cow dung before leaping back into the truck? The only thing better than a kennel box in the truck is one in the truck bed, completely outside where even a skunk-sprayed Rover can ride home without killing you. Insulated covers and a deep layer of hay provide more than enough comfort for a hairy animal whose ancestors slept atop snow at 30 below.
Get a leash and use it. Even if you’ve trained Rover to obey every nuance of command, a short lead will make him—and you—more welcomed around the country. Many truck stops, highway rest areas and town parks mandate leashes for all pets. Should an unprecedented temptation rear its head (a female poodle in heat, perhaps) your leash could prevent legal proceedings.
Brand that dog with a strong, durable nylon collar to which is securely fastened a heavy brass or stainless steel nameplate listing your contact info. A cell phone number is best. Consider leaving Rover’s name off this I.D. It will only make it easier for thieves to win over the dog and control it. Tattooing and microchip implants are also options.
The terrain and habitat in many parts of our best bird country can hobble even the toughest dogs. I’ve seen sandburs and cholla cacti bring a hard-charging dog to a complete stop. Gravel and sharp lava rock cut and abrade pads to the quick. Would you rather hunt over Rover wearing a goofy set of wussy boots or watch him lick his abraded pads in camp for three days? Some boots stay on fairly well, but duct taping them on is a good precaution. Deluxe Hunting Dog boots from Charles Manufacturing, available at Cabela’s, are excellent.
Yes, they sell doggie first-aid kits, and someday you’ll wish you had one. Rover will surely get a seed in his nose, a thorn in his leg or a porcupine quill in his face. You could save his life with a good first-aid kit and the skill to use it.
Scent-Remover and Towels
My personal Rovers have managed to smear themselves with everything from putrid fish to human waste. Shoving them into a travel crate keeps the material off the seats, but hardly out of the cab’s atmosphere. With all the no-scent deer hunter soaps and absorbent powders on the market these days, you should be able to supply your rig with everything you need to wash your away troubles. A couple of big beach towels will finish the job. (P.S. If possible, induce Rover to jump into a pond several times. Then soap him vigorously. Sprinkle his laundered coat with a scent-absorbing powder or baking soda and repeat as necessary.)
Collapsible Water Bowl
It beats using your hat. Water your dog every chance you get while hunting.
Get in the habit of keeping at least a gallon in your vehicle.
Bur Brush or Comb
Use them for scouring debris from his coat.
It’ll reach farther than your voice or lips. The Acme Thunderer is the classic.
It can be a lifesaver for locating a lost dog. Rover might not hear you in big winds, but he’ll feel your summons, whether it’s a vibration or light jolt. Collars with locator beepers that can be activated remotely are really handy when Rover gets caught in a fence or otherwise detained.