Wolfe Publishing Group

    Bird Dogs - Health Matters


    Lucy’s screams shattered the October stillness, causing Mike’s terrified puppy to run out of the woods and hide behind our legs. The yelping continued as I called out to Lucy, reassuring her I was coming. I wondered how she had injured herself this time: Had she tangled with a porcupine, a wolf or a bear or had she fallen between rocks on the ridge we were hunting and broken a leg?

    Mike caught a glimpse of her through the trees and yelled, “There’s something wrong with her head.”

    I got there and saw a conibear trap had snapped down around her muzzle just in front of her eyes. She pulled against the device, which was chained to the ground and gained nothing except more pain.

    Neither Mike nor I had had any experience with traps. We stupidly tried pulling the trap jaws apart, accomplishing nothing. After a little examination and discussion, we discovered the springs that were holding the jaws tight. Using a two-handed grip on each side, together we were able to loosen the jaws enough for Lucy to pull her face out.

    Lucy scampered around, no worse for the wear, but Mike and I had to sit down for a minute to recover from the shock.

    Trapping takes place for fur-bearing animals in the northern latitudes and nuisance animals in all 50 states. This makes it a real possibility that your hunting dog could get caught. With the increasing numbers of people trapping coyotes and raccoons in urban and suburban areas, many pet dogs and cats are also at risk.

    As I’ve stressed many times in this column, being prepared is crucial to achieving a successful outcome in an emergency situation. Every hunter who takes a dog into the woods should know how to safely open a trap and be prepared to do it quickly and under pressure. The slip leash that I’ve encouraged all of you to carry in your hunting vests can be used to open a trap that is choking your dog to death.

    What follows are a few techniques my son and I came up with while practicing releasing traps. His are the hands and feet in the photos.

    There are three basic trap types: snares, foothold and body traps (conibear).

    Large conibear traps can go over your dog’s head and around his neck, compress his trachea (windpipe), prevent him from making noise and quickly suffocate him. After one or two minutes of not breathing, most dogs will lose consciousness, while the heart will continue to beat for another five to six minutes.

    If there is a trap around your dog’s neck, use whichever technique you have practiced to loosen the trap enough to twist it so you release the pressure on the trachea. If the dog is unconscious, you might need to perform CPR before completely removing the trap because the length of time it goes without a pulse is critical.

    However, it is not effective to perform CPR if the airway is blocked.

    Performing CPR

    Either sit on the ground and pull the dog onto your lap and raise one knee up against the ground-facing side of his chest or kneel on the ground with one hand under and one hand on top of his chest. A dog’s chest does not touch the ground when he is lying on his side, so it is important to note that it does you no good to press on one side unless you have something (your hand or leg) on the other side to compress against.

    Place your hand slightly behind the tip of the dog’s elbow and check for a heartbeat. If there is a heartbeat, there is no need to do chest compressions yet.

    If there is no heartbeat, place the heel of your hand on the chest behind the tip of the elbow and press down against your knee (or other hand) 10 times, completely compressing the heart and then releasing long enough for the heart to re-fill with blood. In other words, massage the heart, don’t jab at it.

    To give the dog artificial respiration, take his face in your hands and grip around the lower part of the muzzle holding the jaw closed and sealing the lips down. Use your other hand to grip the upper muzzle and nose and blow into your fist and dog’s nose. Watch for the chest to expand. Do three long deep breaths and then 10 heart (chest) compressions. Repeat the alternating breathing and chest compressions. If the dog begins to move or breathe on his own, you can stop. If after several minutes of doing this you get no heartbeat or response, it’s probably too late.

    Trapping is going to be around as long as hunting is. Be prepared: Go to a store with trapping equipment and look at the traps. Become familiar with them, ask how they work, talk to people who know how to use them, watch videos on the internet and carefully practice compressing the springs to release the jaws. Carry a couple of slip leashes and/or zip ties in your hunting vest pocket. Learn to perform CPR; it could save your best friend’s life.

    Wolfe Publishing Group