Close encounters with wildlife can spark a dog’s primal nature to hunt and kill or defend its territory. With gun dogs, that strong will to hunt is desirable. The problem is, our woods, wetlands and meadows are full of wild animals that can easily injure or kill a dog when they’re frightened or provoked. Here’s how to keep your dog safe in critter country.
The simplest way to keep your dog safe is to circumvent trouble in the first place, if you can. Early detection is key. If you smell a skunk, find a predator-killed animal or hear coyotes up ahead, for example, head the other way and keep your dog close by. You want to put some distance between you and any potential trouble before Fido has a chance to go looking for it.
Don’t trust your dog to obey your voice commands during a wildlife encounter, as instinct typically trumps training in a doggie brain. Even the best-trained dog won’t obey commands in a high-stress situation. With that in mind, try to keep your four-legged friend in check with a leash or e-collar.
If your dog does tussle with trouble, immediately check from nose to tail for bite wounds, scratches or cuts—even small puncture wounds can go septic if left untreated. Clean and bandage any wounds in the field, keep a lookout for any signs of infection and visit the vet if needed. If your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, meanwhile, mix together four cups of hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of dish soap and rub it into the fur. Rinse thoroughly afterwards and Fido will be smelling clean and fresh in no time.
Finally, if your pooch provokes a porcupine, he may end up with some sharp souvenirs. Firstly, never cut a quill.* This makes them significantly more difficult to remove. If your dog allows it, use firm gentle tugs to get quills out, pulling straight, and not at an angle. If your pooch protests, it’s time for a trip to the vet. Vets don’t have any special tricks for pulling quills, but they can anesthetize a distressed dog and, if needed, make cuts through the skin to get buried ones.
*This story has been corrected from the version that appeared in Outdoor Canada’s 2018 Hunting Special.