column By: Alec Sparks, Jessie Richards | August, 17
by Alec Sparks
Depending on how you go about it, traveling with dogs can be fairly simple, safe and enjoyable or, quite easily, difficult, dangerous and a nightmare.
I personally don’t have an issue with dogs riding loose inside my truck, but I realize it’s dangerous for the dog, myself and perhaps others. Even a well-mannered dog can unexpectedly block a rearview mirror or draw your attention from the road at the wrong time. And you’re just asking for trouble with a dog that’s out of control and leaping around. There is also the danger of a loose dog during a collision. I won’t even get into dogs loose in the bed of a truck; that’s not how one treats an animal they’re in charge of. Clearly the safest place for a dog is in a well-designed crate or “box.” Unfortunately, even then there is no guarantee of a dog not being injured, but the chances are usually greatly reduced.
Dog transportation enclosures come in three basic types: wire, plastic or metal cages. Of course, each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Wire gives the best ventilation but is the worst for keeping water/mud or “accidents” inside. A wet dog shaking one more time after it enters a wire cage will make a mess in a vehicle. The mesh won’t contain the outflow (from either end) caused by an upset stomach. With most you get what you pay for. Big dogs in larger crates can flex the wire door enough so it’ll pop out.
Plastic can be hot but keeps most of the mess inside while metal seems to conduct more of the ambient temperature to the dog. Keeping dogs cool in the heat is always a greater concern and more difficult than warming them up when it’s cold.
We can argue the merits of different crate/carrier material and design forever, but what’s most important is the dogs’ comfort and safety. For me that means a carrier that’s appropriately sized, ventilated, bedded and insulated.
Regarding crate size, smaller is better: Wild canines dig dens, not condos. Most people seem to want their dog in some huge crate so it’ll “have enough room.” Yeah, room to get slammed around if the crate is jostled. Smaller is safer if you ask me. Don’t get me going on the ridiculous size requirements to fly a dog. I’m sure the airlines, charging by weight, just love the massive crates they demand.
I don’t believe a crate needs to be tall enough for a dog to stand in with its head up; the height of its back is more than enough. For the width, measure your dog when it’s curled up to sleep. For the length, much longer than nose to base of tail is overkill.
Poorly ventilated and uninsulated crates are sweatboxes but are cheap and very available. Adjustable louvers cost more than removable panels or fixed vent holes/cuts but provide much greater flexibility. An insulated top is a must, but insulated floor and walls are best. Poorly ventilated crates and boxes should have an auxiliary fan to move air. I’ll take a 12-volt fan running off a deep-cycle battery over a D-cell fan any day of the week.
The insulated covers for plastic crates with opening/closing panels are nice in cold weather and a good lower-priced option to try to keep it cool enough in the heat.
I bed on rubber stall mats, indestructible (ha!) Cordura dog beds, second-cut hay or bare metal, depending on the situation. I find straw breaks up too quickly and is very slippery, and most commercial “cedar shavings” are way too dusty. Foam- or batting-filled beds get soggy from accidents or water/mud, and towels can end up in a wad or a dog’s stomach; neither location is helpful.
I am always amazed to see the filthy urine-soaked cesspools some dogs are forced to ride in. You don’t have to tell me that some dogs are very messy in a crate or box. Clean it out; they deserve better even if they’re the ones making the messes.
Air your dogs whenever you like while on the road, but most are comfortable being confined for much longer than many people would think. As long as the carrier is closed down or opened up to match the weather conditions, the dogs are OK. In a high-quality, insulated box with adjustable louvers, I’ve transported dogs comfortably in temperatures from minus 18 to above 95 degrees.
If you have more dogs than will fit in cages, then a trailer, bed box or topper is the way to go. Most of this information applies to them as well.
by Jessie Richards
Now that your puppy has been socialized and has a start on basic manners, it’s time to start retrieving. There are a few key steps to successfully begin the stages of retrieving. Jumping right into using a live bird and gun with your young dog is not one of them.
In the initial stages of retrieving, I use a paint roller instead of a bumper. This works well because there are no strings on it, it is soft on puppies’ teeth, and it is light for them to carry. The lightweight roller will also sit atop the grass so they can easily spot it.
It is good to do this once or twice a day, but keep the sessions short and sweet. Always keep the puppy wanting more. Hanging up the roller while the puppy still wants to play will aid in building drive and desire. Sometimes this means only doing three or four retrieves with the roller. The time spent on each session will vary depending on the dog. Once you see the dog getting tired or bored, you know it is time to call it quits.
While you introduce these retrieving tactics, it is important to do lots of walking and obedience training on a check cord. Acclimate the puppy to the check cord by taking it for several walks and letting it drag the cord before introducing the paint roller. This way, if the puppy refuses to come back with the roller, you can attach the check cord and use that to encourage it to come back directly.
The next step is adding a pigeon, starting with a dead one. Pigeons work well since they are both smaller birds for the puppy to grab and more affordable. This progresses into using a live wing-clipped pigeon. It is also a good idea to use the check cord when introducing pigeons, as often young dogs do not come back as well as they do with the paint roller. The birds can be more distracting for the puppy, so having those basic obedience commands already learned will help them to listen better while working with the bird.
Once they are fully intrigued by the pigeon, it is time to add a cap gun. Starting with a real gun or even being too close with the cap gun may scare the puppy. You do not want it to be too loud right off the bat. Begin by using the cap gun at a distance. Throw the pigeon and shoot the cap gun to get the puppy going. If the puppy seems unsure at the shot, do not keep shooting. Back up to more fun retrieves before adding the gun again.
Formal obedience is a great place to introduce the young dog to pressure. I prefer a prong collar, but a choke chain also works. This is when your dog will learn how to accept a correction and how to shut off pressure. For example, if you are walking the young dog and they are pulling on the leash, the prong will give them pressure. They should quickly learn that when they refrain from pulling, the pressure stops. This is a crucial beginning step to introducing pressure, and it will carry over into field training. When they transition to working on force fetch or collar conditioning, they will know that they need to change their behavior in order to shutoff the pressure.
Keep in mind using praise throughout this entire process is important. However, you need to be using praise at the appropriate times. It is important only to use praise to reinforce good behavior and not to con them into doing something right. For example, if you want your puppy to come, do not use praise to get it to come. Instead, use a stern here and then give praise to reinforce the good behavior.
Now you not only have found your puppy, but you also have put it on the right track to being respectful and love retrieving. Enjoy your new hunting buddy and happy retrieving!