They say a person doesn’t know true love until they have a child. Although this may hold true, who is to say a puppy can’t give an individual the same joys? In August of 2012, I snuck up to Lancaster, PA to pick up my first dog, a beautiful ticked German-Shorthaired Pointer (GSP). Unbeknownst to the majority of my family, the call was just too much to bare. Six years later, Loren and I have now welcomed our second GSP into our home, 1-year old solid liver boy by the name of Cooper, another chapter in the life of our crazy family.
This week’s blog, however, is not about the joys of dog ownership, but instead the good and the bad of fishing with man’s best friend. Every dog is different, so your experience will most certainly be a little different, but nonetheless every dog owner will find similarities. Sit back, hug your pup, and consider taking your tail-wagger out on the water!
Before you take your dog out for the perfect day on the lake, here are a couple items to consider:
Is your dog a swimmer?
Before you hit the water, does your dog know how to swim? From the time Madison was home, we began to take her to the water. Madison from Day 1 absolutely loved the water, submerging her head under the water to chew on aquatic vegetation. For some dogs, it comes naturally; for others, they may be timid and take some time to understand the water is their friend. If your dog loves to play fetch, then slowly working shallow to deep should grow their confidence. For those who are on the more timid side, a life jacket may provide the confidence needed to enjoy some water fun.
Is your dog a roamer?
All dogs are different. Some dogs roaming habits is based on the breed of dog, and for others it is based on the time the owner takes in training their dog. Understanding of basic commands can go a long way in determining how your dog will act on the water, but there are, of course, exceptions. For example, Madison is OBSESSED with birds. She has been running deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and whatever else moves since she was young. No matter how much time we spend with her, the temptation at times can be too much. GSP overboard!
Taking your dog out on the water for the first time can be a high stress moment. You will never truly know how things will go until you try it, but rest assured you will know super quick whether or not it is a proposition for future outings.
Patience is a Virtue
Like introducing a friend, family member or child to fishing for the first time, it is important to make the first few trips short and slowly build from there. Not only will your pup begin to gain some much-needed curiosity with being on the boat, but you will prevent any negative experiences from becoming part of their mindset going forward. Make short runs as well, as high speeds in a boat will take some getting used to.
The area you take your dog plays a critical role in the success of your fishing buddy. Not only are short runs important in acclimating your canine, but boat traffic plays a critical role in the safety of your pooch. Choose an area with limited boat traffic. If you have a high energy bird dog like Madison, any sight of wildlife both ashore and in the water may cause your dog in pursuit of the chase. I can recall numerous moments on the water that raised the hair on my back. Madison would jump out on the chase of a goose or duck, and in the presence of other bass boats operating wide open… well you get the picture. Backwaters where bass boats have to idle allows for piece of mind, as well as gives other boaters the opportunity to see your river rat.
If your dog is not microchipped, I highly recommend it. If your dog is to hit the closest bank and take off, the chip becomes invaluable in finding a lost pet. Likewise, training with a waterproof e-collar will ensure you have control of your dog. A good e-collar will not only have shock capabilities to get the attention of your dog, but foremost call your dog with a simple beep purveyed from the collar. A well-trained dog will understand that when the beep is heard, it is time to return to the location of the owner. As mentioned before, dogs not seasoned in swimming should absolutely be equipped with a life vest.
Lessons to Avoid
If your dog must be strapped to the boat, ensure the lead is short enough to prevent jumping overboard. Too long of a lead, and your prized possession could end up strangling itself if jumping overboard. If the leash is attached, your pup should never jump into the water. An attached leash could spell disaster, as the leash could get caught on submerged structure, drawing your dog into panic or even worse, pulling your dog under. Likewise, ensure that the collar is fastened tightly; the rule of thumb being no more than two finger wiggle room between the collar and skin.
Be aware of weather conditions! Negative weather such as thunder storms can build anxiety in your dog and affect future experience on the water. Hot conditions can spell disaster for your panting pup. Make sure to bring plenty cool water and accept that jumping in is their way of cooling off. If possible, provide a shady location in the form of an umbrella, or canopy that can easily be made by placing a beach towel over the driver’s console. I can’t tell you how many times it has saved my dog from heat exhaustion by simply crawling underneath the shade of the console.
When running on plane, dogs’ ears may become sensitive to the inflow of air. You may notice your dog attempting to muzzle into your body, head shaking or burying underneath the driver and/or passenger console when available. A breathable pair of ear muffs and a pair of goggles will help your pup feel more at ease and give you the piece of mind.
Maybe most important, be aware of the items on your deck. Not only do you want to avoid anything that can easily be kicked overboard by an anxious pup, but also any sharp objects like hooks, ESPECIALLY trebles. An emergency trip to the vet is something no one wants!
It is important to ensure your dog has ample entertainment when tackling the water. Bringing his/her favorite toys can allow your pawed friend enrichment during slow periods. For seasoned swimmers, having floating bumpers, balls and bird dummies can help to eliminate distractions, all the while bringing out the working nature of your dog. Most dogs love a good task, and a toy will help BIG time. For chewers, a durable toy can mean the difference in a full day of whimpering and a happy pup.
I welcome you to the incredible journey of fishing with your best friend. Not only is it rewarding, but as the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.” Make sure to drop a comment with your personal experience and tips in relation to fishing with your four-legged friend. The more knowledge shared, the better experiences we will all have.
Till next time, consider taking your dog when planning a fun-filled day on the water. The fishing distractions are far outweighed by the connections you will build.
Make sure to follow all things @AllenLuckFishing on social! You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As always, thank you to my family for allowing me to fish, and to my sponsors who keep me on the water: Culprit Lures, Beast Coast Fishing, Reelsnot Line Lubricant, AFTCO Freshwater Apparel, CowanGates Law, and 13Fishing Rods and Reels. Without you, this would all be nothing but a dream. Fish On!