Top Dog Gear

Hunting dogs make waterfowling, upland hunting, shed hunting, and daily life better. Treat man’s best friend like you would yourself regarding a healthy diet and give them the best gear possible to do their job.

by Scott Haugen

When it comes to my gun dogs, their gear is every bit as important as mine. My goal is to keep them healthy and happy and make my daily training and hunting operations with my dogs simple and quick. Here’s a look at some of my favorite pieces of dog gear, why I like them, and why my dogs, Echo and Kona, both Pudelpointers, like them.

YETI Trailhead Dog Bed

YETI’s Trailhead Dog Bed is the best dog bed I’ve used. My dogs love this bed, and I got the first one for Echo in 2019. Both dogs raced for the bed whenever it was nap time, and sometimes I’d find them both squeezed into it. No matter where in the house I put the bed, both dogs sought it out. So, I got a second Trailhead bed for Kona. Four years later, both beds are in great shape, have withstood multiple washings, and my dogs sleep in them daily.

The Trailhead Dog Bed features a removable travel pad. When I’m on the road, each dog can enjoy it. The pillow bolster is sturdy and hasn’t broken down, making it a great, comfortable headrest; my dogs love burrowing into it for deep sleep, too. The tough bed handles my 65-pound dog easily, and the waterproof outer bottom cover is excellent for road trips. With a 3-year warranty, you can’t beat this bed.

YETI Rambler 1/2 Gallon Jug & Boomer Dog Bowl

Spending $100 on a water jug for a dog may sound crazy to some, but let me put it into perspective. I’m on the road a lot, and my dogs go on over 100 hunts a year for upland birds, waterfowl, squirrels, shed antlers, and more. I got so tired of my cheap water jugs bouncing around in the truck, spilling everywhere, and the time my five-gallon plastic jug ruptured was the last straw.

Based on a buddy’s suggestion, I got the YETI 1/2 Gallon Rambler, and I haven’t looked back. It holds more than enough water for my dogs for a full day of hunting, and it’s rugged and stands up to my less-than-stellar off-road driving. In no time, the Rambler paid for itself, and after 14 months, it’s still performing flawlessly.

I got the YETI Boomer Dog Bowl as soon as it came out. As for the bowl, I loved it so much that I got a second for my other dog. My dogs have eaten from them twice a day, every day, and the inside is as slick and clean as when new. Made of the same durable, food-safe, BPA-free materials as Rambler drinkware, these bowls are easy to clean. I take them on road trips and toss them in the back of the truck for drinking water on day hunts. I went through lots of dog bowls over the years, and nothing I’ve found comes close to the quality and longevity of the Boomers. Our Boomer bowls have been through extreme punishment and held up great. The rubber bottom is in perfect condition and still holds the bowl in place, despite being covered in dust, mud, and dirt.

Gunner Kennels

Regarding travel safety for your dog, Gunner Kennels offers unmatched protection. These are the only dog kennels that have passed and dominated the many intensive and comprehensive crash tests they’ve survived, earning these travel crates the first 5 Star Crash Test Rating from the Center For Pet Safety.

Gunner Kennels are double-wall, rotomolded dog kennels engineered to withstand over 4,000 pounds of force, a blast from a 12 gauge shotgun at close range, an impact of over 600 pounds dropped on them, and they’ve been tossed off 200-foot cliffs and stayed intact.

But some of the most impressive testimonials of Gunner Kennels come from hunters who’ve survived crashes, as have their dogs. Hearing some of these stories gives you chills, but pictures capturing the severity of the wrecks and how the dog survived, thanks to the kennel, leaves any serious hunter who travels a lot with their dog to realize what their next kennel purchase should be. Gunner Kennels come with a plug, and they specially designed a floor for drainage, aftermarket accessories, and a lifetime warranty.

Gunner Food Crate

I rotate my dogs’ food regularly and have struggled to find storage bins to keep their food fresh. I’ve never found one, so I have always dealt with bags, usually multiple bags at a time, and accepted the mess and space they took up. Then Gunner introduced their Food Crate in a 30-pound model. I opened it up the day it came, aired it out for a couple of days, then mixed the dog food in it. A week after getting the Food Crate 30, I was on the road and left the dogs at home. My wife texted me the first night, saying how awesome the new Food Crate was.

The Food Crate is durable and portable, should you wish to take it on the road. It carries an IP66 rating, which means it is waterproof, dustproof, and odor-proof to fend off moisture, UV light, rancidity, and potential mold. Constructed with a nylon lid, a draw-style lockable latch, and elevated rubber feet, the Food Crate 30 protects dog food from adverse temperatures, which could potentially increase the risk of bacterial contamination in your dog food. A centrally balanced handle makes transportation between home, truck, and the outdoors a breeze. It’s made in America and comes with a lifetime warranty.

NutriSource Dog Food

Not until four years ago, when I started feeding my dogs NutriSource dog food, did I realize there could be such immediate, positive, performance results. Nor did I dream of there being such a difference in dog foods. I used to buy our dogs quality food, or so I thought, from a big box store. Then I went to the local feed store and talked with the owner. After 10 minutes, I learned my first lesson: Make sure to go to a specialist who lives and breathes dogs, not a vet, chain store, or even a big-name pet company, when seeking details on dog food. Go to an expert who deals with multiple quality brands you won’t find at a grocery store.

Over the next several months, I routinely visited the store owner, and he taught me a lot about high-quality dog foods. A rotational diet is essential for adult dogs, as is understanding their life stages and doing what’s needed to keep their weight down. If your dog can’t cut weight and keep it off, the first step is to try a senior food that’s lower in calories and specifically designed to manage weight.

Dog food nutrition is a difficult concept for some people to grasp. If your dog is not losing weight and keeping it off, cut down on the amount of food you’re giving it, and make sure it’s not getting any table scraps and that it’s regularly exercising. Be sure to check the labels of dog foods so you know what you’re getting. Specifically, read the Daily Feeding Guidelines.

I recently looked at a brand X bag of dog food, and I would need to feed my dog six cups a day of that versus two cups of NutriSource. Brand X was $20 for a 30-pound bag, while NutriSource was $58 for 30 pounds. It seems spendy, but by using NutriSource, I’m feeding less at 3:1, so I’m paying less per meal for much healthier food.

Switching foods can be a real stigma among dog owners, but it shouldn’t be. If a dog has a sensitive stomach, mix foods as you transition to new foods. But if a dog is raised on a rotational diet, they can always have different food, even different food for breakfast and dinner. If you get a dog accustomed to changes in their food, you won’t need to mix foods to trick or entice them into eating different flavors, and it’s healthy for them in so many ways.

Recently I saw a big company advertising to use their dog food, and if you didn’t see a difference in 30 days, you could get your money back. Thirty days? I thought it was a joke. If you don’t notice a difference in your dog and its reduced stool size, which indicates efficient digestion three meals after switching foods, something’s off. Dogs won’t suffer from bloating, uncomfortable digestion, or inflammation with high-quality foods. They’ll have more energy and beg to eat, often after only one meal. I routinely mix NutriSource flavors with their Element and PureVita food lines and couldn’t be happier, nor could my dogs.

We invest a lot of time and money in our dogs, and giving them the best of everything they need keeps them living healthy and, hopefully, longer lives.

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