There is little doubt that since September 1997, hunter orange apparel has prevented countless hunting accidents and saved many lives. It’s such a valuable in hunter safety, why not step up and afford your dog the same protection?
There is little doubt that since September 1997, hunter orange apparel has prevented countless hunting accidents and saved many lives. It’s so valuable in hunter safety, why not step up and afford your dog the same protection?
Contrast is key
It just makes sense for anyone with a black dog who’s planning to hunt the uplands during the fall bear season to identify their field dog by outfitting it in some hunter orange.
Safety considerations aside, it has always amazed me how quickly a gun dog, even a white or mostly white dog, like a Setter or Brittany, can disappear into cover. On bright days when the sun is bumping up the contrast, a dog standing 15 yards away in brightly coloured autumn cover can be hard to pick out of the landscape. Throw in the pallet of fall colours, and some visual assistance would be welcomed by most hunters working a German Shorthaired Pointer or Labrador in the shadows of pines or cedars.
Even upland traditionalists, who like the sound of bells to locate their dogs’ movements in the field, can find hunter orange welcome, because quite frankly, the bells become useless once the dog has established a staunch point.
Thanks to developments in vinyl and synthetics, there are a host of hunter-orange collars available in most sporting goods stores and pet suppliers. These collars are a wise choice for hunters whose dogs experience the rigors of a day’s hunting. They’re durable and won’t fade over time. The fact that they’re waterproof is important for owners whose dogs deal with hot spots or other fungal irritants that thrive in the damp folds of a dog’s skin, especially with nylon or leather collars.
Before we leave the topic of collars, it’s important to mention that I’m generally talking here about hunting in the uplands and open woods.
As I’ve stated before, I’m uncomfortable with a swimming dog wearing any kind of collar. Loose fitting collars concern me a great deal, and there are no occasions when a dog should ever swim with a choke chain on. Too many protrusions exist in backwater ponds and streams that could get tangled in the dog’s collar and be potentially deadly.
Canine neoprene or polyester fabric vests certainly turn the safety and visibility factor up a notch. A snug but comfortable fit is vital. Most vests, particularly the neoprene varieties, have zipper fasteners conveniently placed at the dog’s back for easy fastening. Another advantage of these vests is that they provide some heat retention in cold weather. Also, because of their snug fit, they’re generally safe for the dog to swim in.
On the down side, I have found most manufacturers have designed their vests for the relatively barrel-shaped retriever. For those breeds they’re great, but those of us looking to fit a deep-chested pointer variety can have some difficulty finding a brand and size to suit.
It’s a good idea to take the vest off the dog periodically during a long hunt. When debris gets under a tight-fitting vest it can cause abrasions that become uncomfortable or even painful for the dog.
A browse through the gun-dog-equipment section of your favourite sporting goods store or website will reveal a blaze cape that’s worth consideration. Capes generally fit over the dog’s head, are strapped under the dog’s ribs and belly, and fasten at the sides.
You invest a lot of time and effort in your dog. The rewards of a day afield cannot be measured, nor can the value of a good hunting companion. Protecting your canine companion from avoidable accidents is your responsibility.
Mandatory hunter-orange coverage for humans makes good sense during a big-game gun season. Providing the same protection for your dog, even if your quarry is small game, is a good idea, too.
Originally published in Ontario OUT of DOORS’ 2019 Hunting Annual.