Are you thinking about or preparing to bring home a new hunting puppy or dog? Did you recently bring home a new puppy or dog and now you are wondering “What’s next?” for NAVHDA training and testing? Are you new to NAVHDA? Maybe you aren’t new to dogs or NAVHDA, but you saw something used at a training day that you were interested in?
If you answered yes to one or more questions above, you are in the right place!
When you bring a new puppy home, there are so many videos and books about dog training. Each one has a different method and a unique set of “ideal” training equipment. It’s enough to make your head spin. We have created a list of what we feel are the base essential items for starting to work with your versatile hunting dog. The following products can be found at Dogs Unlimited, a Colorado based hunting dog supply company and a supporter of the Rocky Mountain NAVHDA Chapter.
1. BIRD BAG OR CRATE
Hands down, a bird bag is one of the most valuable supplies you will purchase to transport birds. The 12” opening is the perfect size to not only accommodate chukar but are large enough to put pheasants or ducks in these bags also. A bird crate is very helpful for transporting birds long distances.
***Pro Tip: Use Black Sharpie to write your last name on the fabric portion of the bag so you can spot your bag in a group of others.
2. DURA-LON DOG COLLAR
Not only are these collars vibrant in collar, but they hold up to wear very well. Between field work and spending time in the water which require our dogs to need frequent baths, these collars are super easy to wipe down and keep clean and sanitized. Additionally, there is no worry about losing tags in the field because you can purchase an engraved nameplate for the collar.
***Pro-Tip: There are benefits to each collar style: the center 0-ring provide convenience when attaching the leash to your dog while the standard style reduces the risk of catching and harming a finger in the collar if the dog moves suddenly.
3. MENDOTA SLIP LEAD
Young dogs can be very challenging to work with on lead. These slip leads offer many configurations which allow you to structure your heel progression successfully so the dog learns to respect the lead.
***Pro-Tip: If you prefer a longer lead, there are websites that offer this same lead in 4- and 6-foot lengths along with other color
4. PUPPY CHECK CORD
This is an essential tool for teaching young dogs to track crippled and downed game. This shorter length is not only more than enough for this work but is easy to wrap in your hand when heeling out of the field. Check cords made in the biothane material are easy to wipe down while the rope is easier to grip and feel the dog’s movement.
***Pro-Tip: Check out Dogs Unlimited Custom Shop for snap, attachment, loop, length and color options if you have something specific
already in mind.
5. WHISTLE AND LANYARD
Economical and easily heard by the dog. Choose a whistle that is easy to blow when needed regardless of the distance. This is one of the few tools you can have with you in a test to help command your dog so it is very important to purchase one, especially in Colorado with our strong winds that make it harder for the dog to hear us at times.
***Pro-Tip: Add an inexpensive lanyard so you can wear your whistle around your neck to conveniently find it without looking.
6. WHITE BUMPERS
Not only are bumpers a great introduction to retrieving games for a young dog, but the plastic bumpers are easy to clean if they get dirty, float well in water and hold up well to years of throwing. Additionally, getting more than one is recommended for teaching games like two-toy, as well as working on advanced marking drills as your dog advances.
***Pro-Tip: White bumpers are the best! Highly visible for young dogs. Orange bumpers are highly challenging and are utilized better for blind marking drills on advanced dogs only.
7. SQUIRT STYLE WATER BOTTLE
It is crucial to keep your dog hydrated in the field. Squirt style water bottles allow you to water the dog even when they are not interested in drinking. While this style of water bottle isn’t available at Dog’s Unlimited, they sell various hunting packs and supply belts that have pouches sized perfectly to hold squirt style water bottles.
***Pro-Tip: Marking the dogs water bottles makes it easy to differentiate from their water and your water!
8. HARD SIDED CRATE
Hands down, a crate is one of the most critical investments that you will make to provide safety for your dog. There are so many options and sizes available to find one that fits your vehicle and dog the best. When choosing your crate size, it is ideal for the dog to be able to walk in the crate, turn around and lay down. Any larger than that provides a lot of “dead space” and in the event of an accident, the likelihood of the dog getting hurt increases.
***Pro-Tip: There are many great crates available on the market. Gunner and RuffLand are favorites among hunting dog owners as well as Dakota 283, who is a NAVHDA International sponsor.
9. TIE OUT STAKE
Safe, easy way to secure your dog at a training day, between hunting fields or at home. Great tool for teaching patience. Long enough chain for the dog to move around yet short enough that the dog doesn’t get tangled or interferes with any other dogs that may be walking by.
***Pro-Tip: When coupled with a flat sided bundt-cake pan, (where the tie out stake is placed in the hole of the bundt pan) this is an easy way to provide your dog water that they can’t tip or spill when they walk around.
This tool becomes an extension of your lead when in the field and a useful reinforcement tool on learned behaviors. The GPS capabilities of some models provide peace of mind while hunting so you can see where your dog is in different terrain and conditions. There are many brands and models to ensure that you find a unit that fits your needs. As a side note, Garmin is another NAVHDA International Sponsor.
***Pro-Tip: There are many holster styles to house the transmitter and provide security that you won’t leave your handheld in a field.