With hunting season right around the bend, it’s time to make sure that your dog is safe on their walks.
If you’re like me, and you know Hunting season starts in September, you might now be wondering how to keep your dog safe on these walks, well luckily, since moving to the US, this is something I’ve researched! It wasn’t something I faced in the UK, so it was very new to me and I did my usual research and problem solve.
To me, I was especially concerned given that Indie could, at a distance, be mistaken for a wolf or coyote, and whilst wolves aren’t technically in my area of Maryland, we’re close enough to wolf zones that a farmer who seen him might panic.
Not to mention how deer-like shelby can look if you don’t get a look at her properly!
So, I discussed it with a few local hunters as to what would make them recognise a dog over their quarry, and I got a few good tips, that I will share with you, and then I’ll share the gear I’ve found that ticks the boxes.
When Is Hunting Season?
Hunting season varies depending on the quarry and the weapon used. Some hunting is permitted year round in certain places, and then there are seasons. Right now, in Maryland, USA, we’re entering Deer season. The bow season will come first and then it’ll open up to firearms.
This will go for around the next 6 months.
Then, with winter drawing in, and light conditions changing, it’s going to be pretty imperative that I ensure they’re visible.
This is essentially an exercise in keeping your dog safe, and setting local hunters up for success.
First, Keep Them In Sight.
This should be a fact of every walk. But just in case…
Your dog should only be off leash if you have a reliable recall.
When your dog is off leash it’s important that you keep them within eyesight and continue to monitor them.
Practice your recall. Make sure it’s on pointe if you’re letting them off right now.
What Do I Need To Consider?
The best tips I got from hunters is that essentially you need to ensure that your dog looks unnatural.
The less like something naturally created your dog looks the lower chance it will be that they are mistaken for whatever it is the hunter might be aiming for. There are a few ways of achieving this. So let’s look at them.
When you’re looking at your gear, whether it’s a Harness, collar, leash and/or a safety jacket pick colours like Hunter orange (also called blaze orange) that will stand out in amongst any foliage, or terrain. This being such an unnatural vibrancy, means that a hunter is given the opportunity to see it and interpret it accordingly.
Add in noise.
Noise like a tone, or a ringing bell can give the hunter an opportunity to hear your dog coming. Which means that there’s no way it can be a wild animal that they might be interested in. It also means that they cannot sneak up on the hunter and surprise them and push them into a snap decision.
Now, those of you with noise sensitive dogs may wonder how to do this, because even the tone on some trackers (which is usually very soft!) makes my dogs get a little wierded out. But Check the product recommendations below, you’ll see!
From reflective patches to light up collars, or attachments, adding light to your dog will add in an opportunity for hunters to see your dog at a distance because when dusk begins to fall, colours definitely get muted, and even a high vis jacket might become harder to see.
Add in something that lights up, or blinks will add in movement and a light source that should cut the chances of your dog being mistaken for quarry.
Tip, if you have a Fi collar, turn on the light on your tracker!
Recommended Products For Safety During Hunting Season
I love a good long line, and picking one in hunter orange is a great call - but it's also absolutely a great thing to keep your dog close by, and ensure that they're not straying too far where danger may be lurking.
I love the ruffwear webmaster, it's a slightly less intense design than the flagline, but it is also a very robust harness that gives good coverage - that coverage means that a hunter would have a very good chance of seeing your dog.
This is minimalist, but I've never known a harness to be as reflective as this one. Literally every part that's padded has reflective trim o the top and the bottom. It's bright colour, and highly reflective nature means that it should give your dog great visibility which will help keep her safe.
This is a wonderful choice for warmer weather, and a chap alternative to having a "hunting season wardrobe" for your dog. This will quite easily slide over your dogs gear, and if you attach a bell or a flashy light, you're quickly safe for an affordable rate
This jacket is super light weight, and a lot more form fitting than some of the alternatives, this helps if they're prone to going through bushes and brush. It's also really good for road safety too!
These bells, especially the double-bell, allow for a good ring. It's true and easy to hear, distinctly not natural either! This allows your dog to alert others of your dogs presence before they find the potential issue (whether that's a deer or someone hunting a deer).
This little light can attach to a collar or harness and it means that as your dog moves, the small blinking red light can draw attention to your dog and show that they are not a hunter's quarry. It's also great for visibility and it's red light travels well in the dark.
This bell is a great choice for adding volume to their movement. I like this one for it's particular tone and more classic look. It is leather based, and may take a little care over time, but it's super durable.
Safety Is Paramount
To me, it’s something we shouldn’t be messing around with. If a jacket, or a bell or a different harness for a season means your dog’s life? Take it. Especially if you know you’re in a high risk area for hunters and hunting.
To be honest? Even for the sake of a deer, or a pig, if you make your dog super obvious to them too? They have a chance to vacate before it becomes an issue.
Sometimes, Safety is everything to need. And if you need help with Recall? That’s something we can totally work on together.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!