July 17, 2023
Selecting the right crate or kennel for your hunting dog is crucial for ensuring their safety, comfort, and well-being. A kennel serves as a secure space where your dog can rest, relax, and feel protected. However, with numerous options available, choosing the ideal kennel can feel a bit like having to choose between a gas or inertia-driven semi-automatic shotgun. This guide aims to provide you with a better understanding of what to look for in a dog kennel and how to select the perfect one that meets your dog's specific needs and is a complement to the way you train, hunt, and travel.
Types of Use
One of the first steps in choosing a dog kennel is deciding whether you need it for indoor (home, duck camp, hotel) or outdoor use (in the back of your truck bed), or both.
If you’re simply looking to crate your dog while you’re working or keep them corralled at camp, a simple kennel made of thinner, lighter material may suffice. If there’s no need for protection from impacts, find something that will give them a cozy, secure place to relax.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to put your kennel in the back of your truck and travel with your dog, you’re going to want to consider something that will provide not only a safe and secure enclosure, but a shield to protect them in the event of an accident or rollover. The larger, thicker-walled, wider-base, heavy-duty kennels can offer an incredible barrier and prevent your pup from being thrown from a vehicle or crushed in a crash. These kennels also tend to offer better protection from the weather and outside environment to keep them comfortable while traveling.
If you’re considering purchasing one single versatile kennel to do-it-all, there are many options on the market to fit the bill. These crates can be safely secured inside your vehicle or strapped into the bed and then carried into your house, camp, or hotel to offer your dog a quiet retreat. They offer the best means of protection when driving, along with many creature comforts to maintain your dog’s welfare.
Size and Space
Whether you intend to use a crate to keep your dog safe when travelling between home and hunts and/or you’re planning to kennel them at home during working hours or in a hotel room while you’re out having dinner, their comfort should be a top priority. That being said, the first major considerations are size and space requirements.
Your dog should have enough room in their kennel to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Measure your dog's height, length, and weight to ensure the kennel you choose is adequately sized. Many manufacturers have sizing guides and customer support teams ready to help you select the proper size crate for your particular dog. If you can, pay a visit to a nearby friend or family member to see what kennel they’re using and reach out for testimony from others who have the same breed and size of dog and are using the products you’re interested in.
If you currently have a puppy, you know well they’re going to keep growing before they reach their adult size. This is why it’s a good idea to choose a kennel that allows for some extra space to accommodate their growth. Several manufacturers offer inserts and dividers that will provide the proper space for your pup and then open up to allow for full access inside the kennel once your dog has grown up.
Taking a look at the weight of kennels can be an important factor in influencing your decision. If you’re planning to keep a kennel in the bed of your truck or stored in the corner of your living room, weight may not be an issue. If you think you may have one kennel to do-it-all or there may be times when you need to move it around, so weight is something worth considering.
Most of the kennels for hunting dogs that fall into this category will be of a similar form and made of rotomolded materials, however, they may come in various weights depending on their size and other construction attributes. Think about how easy or difficult it will it be to carry that kennel from the house to the truck into duck camp before your make your purchase.
Material and Durability
The material and durability of the kennel are another important factor to consider, and this is one of the most important points to focus on if you are transporting your dog in a vehicle. Modern kennels are made tough and designed and tested to withstand the punishing forces of impact during a collision or rollover event. By opting for a kennel made from high-quality materials that are sturdy, crash-tested, and proven to protect dog, you’ll be glad you invested in the means to keep them safe while doing what they love best.
Most kennels for hunting dogs will be made of polyethylene or rotomolded materials that are meant to be strong and impact-resistant. These materials generally offer the perfect combination of being rigid, somewhat flexible, and durable. From here, different manufacturers have their own unique designs such as one-piece molds, double walls, or reinforced frames to set them apart from each other. Each kennel comes with its own unique combination of flexibility, weight, and durability.
Many kennels have reversible or two-way doors or multiple doors to allow you choose your custom configuration. Look for powder-coated or stainless steel doors and hinges that won’t rust and are removable for easy cleaning.
Safety and Security
Your dog's safety should be a top priority when selecting a kennel. They’re likely going to spend ample time inside riding along in the back of your truck or interior of your car. Protecting their life in the event of a crash or rollover is of utmost concern. Each kennel manufacturer has their own set of standards, data, testing, and crash-test ratings for you to review and nothing beats personal testimonials from when the unthinkable actually happened.
Keeping your dog safe inside their kennel is another part to think about. Ensuring the kennel can be secured into position and not move or become loose while driving down the road is vitally important when loading them into the bed of a truck. Look for kennels with secure latches, locks, and doors that cannot be easily opened by your dog or by anyone else.
Ventilation and Insulation
Proper ventilation and insulation are essential for your dog's comfort while inside their kennel. You may want to consider where you live and where you intend to hunt with your dog to ensure you’ll be able to help them thermoregulate while they’re kenneled up. Choose one that has sufficient holes and openings to support adequate airflow to prevent overheating during the warm months. This is also important when placing them inside after a training session or hunt when they need to cool down after exercise. If needed, several companies such as Gunner and Ruff Land Kennels make kennel fans that aid in keeping your dog cool as temps rise.
Insulation during the winter months is crucial, especially in the cold and snowy months of the late season. Providing your dog with a fresh bed or warm blanket can help them warm up after a hunt and several kennel makers have custom pads and mats to help dogs dry off and stay warm. Additionally, some companies make kennel covers that have thermal properties to help trap heat and keep the wind and wet weather out.
Easy to Clean
Duck dogs get dirty, there’s just no way around it. By providing them a kennel, you can keep the interior of your vehicle or truck bed a little cleaner and keep the mess out. It’s always a good idea to wipe down and dry off your dog after a hunt or training session, especially during the colder late season months. After a quick once-over, give them a clean bed or blanket to lie on inside their kennel for the ride home or back to camp.
Keeping a clean and tidy kennel is important to your dog’s overall health and comfort. When choosing a kennel, look for options that make it easy for you to clean and maintain. Many have smooth interior surfaces, recessed floors, and drain plugs that make it easy to wipe down or flush away any dirt, grime, or accidental liquids accumulated from anxiety.
Dog Kennel Accessories
Dog kennels, like every other good piece of waterfowl hunting gear, can be customized and accessorized to your heart’s content. Many of these add-ons enhance your dog’s experience and enjoyment using their kennel and can help to keep them safer, pushing your peace of mind to higher levels.
Kennels mats and pads are available to provide additional comfort to your dog lying down and can offer extra warmth and insulation during cold temps. Fans are available from most manufacturers to aid in keeping your dog cool during the warmer summer months. Other features and accessories that can be found include water and food dish hangers, tie downs, kennels covers, and stacking kits to help make transporting your duck dog easier and safer
Of course, cost is a factor, but it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason, especially if you intend to put your dog in a kennel in your vehicle. One could argue that kennels, like other pieces of waterfowl hunting gear are not cheap. But now is not the time to gripe about spending greenbacks after you just dished out thousands on your duck boat, autoloader, and new breathables. When your dog gives you everything they’ve got and asks for little in return, the best you can do to reward their hard work and dedication is to provide them with the safety and security of a proper kennel. And just like your favorite shotgun or waders, there’s a price point and flavor to match whatever the needs of you and your dog might be when shopping for a dog crate.
Choosing the perfect dog kennel requires careful consideration of various factors such as size, material, safety, ventilation, and comfort. Prioritize your dog's needs and preferences to ensure they have a secure and enjoyable space. A well-chosen kennel will provide your dog with a safe retreat and contribute to their overall happiness and well-being while giving you a peace of mind to focus on putting birds in front of them.
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