If you waterfowl hunt, there’s a good chance you take your dog (or dogs) out on your boat with you. This is, IMHO, a huge part of the experience of hunting. We love our dogs, we love to work them, and the dogs certainly love it as well. Last season I had my pooch Copper aboard. We set up along a bank and hunted from the boat, concealed by my pop-up blind which is mounted to the boat’s gunwales. At one point a pair of geese came in, I unloaded, and somehow—I am an incredibly lousy shot—I managed to bring one down. Copper, watching through a flap in the blind, was psyched to do his thing. I released him, and he flew through the flap like a bolt of lightning. But he didn’t get far. In fact, he didn’t make it more than a foot from the boat. His leg somehow caught on one of the strands of bungee cord that holds down the edges of the blind, and not only was he entangled, since it was wrapped on his hind leg it elevated his rear and pushed his head down into the water. Luckily, I was able to grab the cord, pull the loop open, and get him free in no more than a second or two. But, talk about scary…
That experience reminded me that you always have to trim off or secure anything that can potentially entangle a dog on a hunting boat. And it was also a reminder than on a boat, a dog is exposed to a different set of dangers than we humans. Of course, it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re safe. Here are a few other things I’ve encountered through the years with dogs on boats, which we all need to look out for.
- Keep them sitting, in rough seas. Dogs are curious, and they naturally want to get up and walk around. But they don’t know when the next pitch or roll is coming, and if you don’t keep them sitting or laying down, they can take a fall.
- Don’t let them drink saltwater. They often will, not understanding that in the long run the saltwater will actually dehydrate them.
- Cover bolt-ends on things like blinds, outboard mounts, and gunracks. Otherwise, the dog may fall or rub against them and get a serious injury. One easy way to protect bolt ends is to cut a short length of rubber hose, and spin it over the end.
- On aluminum boats in cold weather, carry a piece of carpet for the dog to lie on. The bottom of an aluminum boat becomes incredibly cold in frigid water, and the dog needs something with insulating properties to stand and lay on.