Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Traveling with bird dogs

Many hunters and trialers drive thousands of miles a year with their dogs. I am no exception. Some of you might find something in my experiences that you can put to good use. Some of you may have different ideas and practices – if so, please share them.

I travel in either my Ford Expedition or my Toyota Landcruiser. I sold my last pick-up truck some years ago. Traveling with dogs in an SUV has some good and bad points. Good points are that I can keep my dogs warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. I can keep a close eye on them in the event of a problem. Bad points – dog farts, and space constraints. One requires power windows, the other careful organization.

Pete Houser built a drawer system for me to hold guns and small gear (thank you, Pete!) in the rear portion of the SUV. Guns, ammunition, stake outs, dog gear and tools are handy from the tailgate without digging through gear or moving anything.

Every dog deserves a place of his own where he is protected during emergency maneuvers and feels comfortable. Dogs should be crate broke when they are puppies and will learn to love riding in their crates. The crates go on the top of the gun box. This puts dog crates up high enough that they limit the rear view significantly. My answer is to employ wire crates that allow me to see through to the rear window. They also allow the dogs to see out and they fold up for easy storage when not in use. While traveling (and for most of the season) the crates are secured to the gun box by a pair of ratchet straps so they will not shift or tip over.

For water, I carry a 20 litre water jug made of heavy plastic – a bomb proof product from Scepter of Canada. It is similar in design to a fuel jerry can, but made of plastic rated for potable water – no weird chemicals in the water. The can sits neatly on the floor at the rear between the gun box and the side of the truck. After trying many different designs and mopping up leaking water from lesser products, I have settled on this can as the best. I also carry a stainless water dish for each dog. Offer your dogs water at each rest stop.

I have seen a number of watering systems made of PVC pipe. There are possible risks using this material... PVC should be used for cold water only, or venting. CPVC can be used for hot and cold potable water supply. Connections should be made with primers and solvent cements as required by the plumbing code. No sense in putting harmful chemicals into your dogs.

Dogs need regular breaks to stretch and do their business. I stop about every three to four hours. The interval should be regular so that the dogs can anticipate when a stop will occur. When traveling, I recommend that you avoid highway rest stops with 'doggie areas'. These spots are used by many travelers and are a vector for disease pathogens. A lonely stretch of highway with a wide spot to park is a better bet.

A check cord is essential when you stop for a travel break. A 15' or 20' check cord with a quality brass swivel snap should be handy whenever you open the tailgate. I never let a dog out of his crate without a check cord, leash or other restraint. They know this and are trained not to step out of the crate unless they have the check cord secured to their collar. There are too many things that tempt a dog that has been confined for several hours. Hazards include traffic, barbed wire fences, road killed wildlife, and rubbish (you name it... from broken bottles to used disposable diapers!) along the road side. Maintain positive control of your dog during travel stops.


Shawn K. Wayment, DVM said...

Very well said Mike!

I love your new blog photo!


Jay said...

I enjoyed your blog Mike. Good advice on the PVC watering system. That became somewhat of a fad here in MT-I never saw the advantage of it. My rationale with bird dogs is: Would you use it for your children? If not.......my least favorite act is the guys that carry their dogs in pet porters on their receiver hitch. That should be outlawed.


Mike Spies said...

Shawn - Thank you. I must credit Clair kofoed of Shooting Sportsman Magazine, he was hunting with me (he usually just carries a camera, having killed a ton of birds in his life) and got into position for the shot when Jesse pointed the covey. One of the great shots ever, and he agreed to let me us it here. Thanks, Clair!

Jay - I wince when I see those receiver hitch dog boxes. I wouldn't want to be riding back there...

Andrew Campbell said...

Mike: happy holidays! Nice post... we went with the pick-up truck, cap, and an insulated two-dog box from Deer Creek. That box has either a bottom-drawer or top-load storage area. That box is one of our best investments ever and between the cap and the box insulation the boys stay at least 20degs cooler in the back.

Good thought on the water container. I have one of the big PVC pipe water storage pipes... seemed like a good idea because it fit so well in the truck. I had to flush it completely 4 times, venting in between, to get the smell of adhesive out the water. And that's all I could detect. Love the idea of convenience, but that still makes me nervous.

Lots of good tips. And yes, those receiver-hitch things make me squirm, too.


Mike Spies said...

The next truck will be a pick-up with cap, drawers, kennels, fan, etc. And it will be a double cab. That is a very good set-up when you have three or more dogs.

Will Pennington said...


I went the cap route on my full size GMC Sierra. Got the vented 'windoors' on the side so I could get to access behind the dog crates - well worth it IMO. Had trouble finding crates sized appropriately to allow for three individuals units so had to settle for two large Petmate Ultras and doubling up when I've got all 3 of them along.

Look forward to a post detailing the lessons learned on your first season with the Airstream.


Andrew Campbell said...

An update for folks: I just ordered the Scepter water-tanks from the folks at Defender marine Outfitters in CT. Their $16 is the cheapest price I've found yet.

The link is here: http://www.defender.com/product.jsp?path=-1|51|87367|315204&id=181424


Chris said...

Do you have a favorite wire crate that you use? Headed to ND to pick up our new working cocker pup in 10 days and need a crate.