There are a lot of factors to having a successful hunt, one of which is safety. When we talk about safety it's often in terms of the hunters but we can't forget the real heros, our dogs. I'm a firm believer that dog obedience makes a hunt more enjoyable, successful and safe for both the hunter and the dog. Here are three scenarios I frequently see where having an obedient dog results in a safe hunt for the dog.
It's not uncommon to encounter predators out in the field and often these predators can pose a real threat to dogs. In Ipswich, South Dakota we generally encounter raccoons and skunks while hunting and being able to pull our dogs off these animals is critical. A raccoon will often relish a fight with a dog and they are more than capable of winning that fight. The raccoon will try and lead or even push the dog into water where it has the upper hand and can quickly deliver serious wounds or even death through clawing, biting and eventually drowning the dog. While a skunk may not pose as serious threat as the raccoon it can make for an unpleasant situation for both the dog and hunter. While some sprays are unavoidable there have been more than a few times when I was able to call my dog off from chasing a skunk and prevent it from being sprayed.
Often times at the beginning or end of a field hunters and their dogs will have to navigate a barb wire fence which can quickly slice any dog open and end a great day of pheasant hunting. Being able to call your dog, place them in the heel position and walk them through, over, or under a fence ensures the dog will have safe passage through the barb wire. This is especially important at the end of a field where a dog will often be on the scent of the final rooster. The dog will be paying attention to that scent and not the fence which often leads to the dog charging through the fence and becoming injured.
Roads and Traffic
Many hunters will find themselves walking the ditch, blocking at the fence line along the road or sometimes even walking down a road back to their vehicle. While we generally hunt in low traffic areas, these roads seem to fill up during hunting season and that presents an opportunity for a misbehaved dog to have an unfortunate run in with a vehicle. When on or near the road a hunter must be able to place his dog at heel on command no matter what is happening with the hunt. By being able to call your dog back and place them at heel you can ensure that no matter what is happening on the road your dog will be safe.
At OO safety is critical, not just for the hunters but for our dogs as well. Ensuring that safety requires us to have obedient dogs, which takes time, patience and a lot of work. That work however pays off when we can avoid hazardous scenarios for our dogs and ensure they get to hunt the next field.