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Top Retriever Gear of 2021

From training tools to hunting equipment, here is a list of our must-haves for you and your retriever this season.

Top Retriever Gear of 2021

From crates to vests to training bumpers and you-name-it, not only do quality retriever accessories help our hunts run more smoothly, they help our dogs become better hunters. (Chris Ingram photo)

There are a lot of things that make waterfowl hunting so special, but none rank quite as high as the dogs. Without our retrievers, the pursuit is something that can’t be made quite right until there is a wet Lab leaning against your leg. They are the reason for the season, so to speak, and they deserve good gear. This, of course, helps us have better hunts. If you’re keeping score, that’s a win-win. Following is a long list of those products that will do just that.

Rig’Em Right – Bloodline Elite Dog Vest

Rig Em Right Bloodline Elite Dog Vest

The thing about Rig’Em Right products is you will never be disappointed. No self-respecting retriever owner would go into the duck season without a vest for his dog. Is it necessary for early-season teal? Probably not. But by the time October hits throughout much of the flyway, the air and water will be cool enough to justify a quality vest, like the Bloodline Elite from Rig’Em Right. Five sizes are available, with each vest designed with multiple layers to create next-to-skin warmth, increased flotation, and protection against brush, brambles briers and anything generally pokey. For blind and boat hunters, the Bloodline Elite is built with a braided handle so you can safely and easily help your Lab back into your hide after a successful retrieve.

$80 | rigemright.com

Lucky Duck – Lucky Kennel Large

Lucky Duck Lucky Dog Kennel Large

If your duck dog is too big for his kennel and you’re sick of having to lube him up just to get him to fit, check out the new Lucky Kennel. This 5 Star Crash Test Rated crate is a one-piece rotomolded option for at-home and over-the-road use. It’s designed with easy-clean drain holes, powder-coated tie downs, and is compatible with the Lucky Ratchet Strap Kit. As long as your dog doesn’t tip the scales at over 110lbs, he’ll fit, yet this crate only weighs 45lbs. Having messed with a fair amount of crates in my time, the original Lucky Kennel Intermediate became my go-to for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is that it’s a lightweight, bulletproof crate that is designed well.

$600 | luckyduck.com

Yeti – Trailhead Dog Bed

Yeti Trailhead Dog Bed

Not only is the Trailhead Dog Bed a cushy place for your retriever to curl up for a nap, the way it’s designed allows it to function almost like a place board. Of course, it’s main function is to allow your dog the chance to stretch out and snooze, but you can also separate the Home Base from the Travel Pad. And if your dog does end up covering the Trailhead Dog Bed in swamp muck, don’t fret—it’s built with easy-to-clean materials.

$300 | yeti.com

SportDOG – Sporttrainer 875

SportDOG Sporttrainer 875 e-collar system

Designed for close-working dogs, the SportTrainer 875 is a solid choice for waterfowl hunters looking to keep their retrievers in line. This well-priced e-collar features an easy-to-read screen, and oversized toggle buttons for simple, fast operation while training and hunting. With a 1/2-mile range, the 875 offers 10 static simulations levels as well as the option to train with vibration and tone in certain modes.

$215 | sportdog.com


Tanglefree – Flight Series Dog Blind

Tanglefree Flight Series Dog Blind

Just about any waterfowl junkie who has purchased some decoys, dog bumpers, layout blinds, or even just some “blind grass” to spruce up a hide has probably run across Tanglefree’s offerings at some point. This company churns out a lot of great waterfowl hunting products for us, but also for our dogs. At the top of that list is the Flight Series Dog Blind, which weighs only six pounds thanks to its corrosion-resistant aluminum frame. It’s also built with stubble straps for adding some depth to the camo job to fool the wariest of geese and ducks, offers a double-entry option, and is constructed with ultra-durable 600D polyester material.

$130 | tanglefree.com

Gunner – Food Crate

Gunner Food Crate

Traveling with dog food just got a lot easier thanks to Gunner. Their latest is a bomb-proof option for keeping your dog’s groceries free from rodents, other dogs, water and dust. It boasts a tight rubber-lined seal on the locking lid.The easy-to-carry, rotomolded Food Crate can hold up to 50 pounds of kibble, is designed to be BPA-free, and features a lifetime warranty. When empty, the Food Crate tips the scales at only 10.5 lbs, and if you have the need, can hold up to 11.5 gallons of water.

$250 | gunner.com 

Dokken – DeadFowl Trainer

Dokken Deadfowl Trainer mallard duck dummy

I’ve been fortunate to spend a ton of time with Tom Dokken, and it’s safe to say he’s learned more about dog behavior than most of us will ever know. He’s also the mind behind the best training dummies on the market, the DeadFowl Trainers (DFTs). No self-respecting duck hunter would spend all summer long without tossing the Mallard DFT into the neighborhood pond or a nearby river for his retriever. DFTs are durable, scent-injectable, and teach your dog on every retrieve to not only grip real birds correctly, but to not shake them. Take a look at the entire lineup and you’ll see offerings that represent just about every kind of duck you’re likely to swing on in any given fall, as well as the most common goose.

$23-$50 |  deadfowltrainer.com


K9 Athlete – K9 Pro 

K9 Athlete K9 Pro

When my Lab first showed signs of achy joints and slower recovery times during last duck season, I started her on K9 Athlete’s New Dog supplement. She showed improvement within a few days, which was a most welcome sight. In addition to New Dog and their Hydrate & Recover supplements, they’ve also released K9 PRO, which is an enhanced probiotic designed to improve the gut microbiome. Through probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes, K9 PRO aids in digestive function, offers the immune system a boost, help dogs maintain a healthy body weight, and can provide a much-needed quality of life boost.

$35 | k9athlete.com

Gun Dog Outdoors – Quick-Release Safety System

Gundog Outdoors Quick-release safety system

The number-one complaint about duck dog behavior will always center on steadiness. Breaking is a big issue with a lot of retrievers, and not only is it frustrating, it can be dangerous when a dog decides it’s time to jump out of the blind as the birds are starting to cup up. To address this, you could do far worse than checking out the Quick-Release Safety System from Gun Dog Outdoors. Three versions are available, with the goal of each being that you keep your dog from breaking, whether you’re on the edge of a slough or tucked into a layout blind in a chopped cornfield. When it’s time for your dog to do his thing, it’s a simple release and he’s on his way.

$39-$59 | gundogoutdoors.com

DT Systems – Master Retriever 1100

DT Systems Master Retriever 1100

Sporting dog owners who aren’t aware of the entire lineup that DT Systems offers should check it out. While they are known for their e-collar selection, they also create dummy launchers and accessories, bird launchers, beeper collars, dummies and a host of other quality products. As mentioned, they’ve got solid training collars as well like the extremely popular Master Retriever 1100, which features 16 intensity levels, an 1,100-yard range, is expandable to handle two or three dogs, and is backed by the Premium DT Systems Limited Lifetime Warranty.

$210 | dtsystems.com

Cornerstone Gun Dog Academy

Cornerstone Gundog Academy

Who doesn’t want a more well-trained retriever? No one, that’s who. If you’re a DIY handler who wants to help your dog level up, no matter its age, then consider checking out Cornerstone Gun Dog Academy. Their Complete Gundog Academy option is a Point A to Z program that offers up everything from basic and advanced obedience to advanced gun dog skills and group work. This is a seriously comprehensive training platform filled with easy-to-understand concepts, which are all designed to help you guide your dog from kindergarten to a PhD in skills and behavior.

$597 | cornerstonegundogacademy.com 




Garmin – Sport Pro

Garmin Sport Pro e-collar system

Garmin is well-known for cranking out everything from killer fishing graphs to workout watches, but they’ve also got an extensive lineup of dog products. One that is a great option for waterfowl hunters is the Sport PRO, a compact e-collar that is designed with intuitive no-look, one-handed operation. This allows for perfect timing correction while training and hunting, and is an absolute must for wringing the most out of your retriever. The Sport PRO offers several levels of stimulation, vibration and tone, and has a built-in BarkLimiter in case your Lab is a little too vocal. As you’d expect, this e-collar can handle wet conditions and functions off of a long-lasting, user-replaceable lithium-ion battery.

$250 | garmin.com

Ruffland – Water Hole

Ruffland Water Hole

RuffLand has been building quality dog crates for quite a few years now. New this year is their Water Hole, an excellent accessory for keeping your retriever hydrated during training sessions and actual hunts. The two-in-one Water Hole functions as a one-gallon water jug, as well as a water dish thanks to its innovative design. It’s also built with a tough roto-molded construction allowing it to handle not only the rigors of the road, but also any freezing and thawing that may occur. Choose from three different colors in the Water Hole, which is built with a handy carrying handle for ease-in-portability.

$46 | rufflandkennels.com

Dogtra – 3502X

Dogtra 3502x e-collar system

Serious dog handlers need a quality e-collar, like the 3502X from Dogtra. Not only does this collar offer a 1.5-mile range in case your retriever paddles after a wounded diver as it swims into the next county, but it also features nick/constant stim, an 8-level selector dial, and can be used on two dogs at the same time. This is made possible through the ingenious DUAL DIAL, allowing handlers to seamlessly switch from dog to dog. As you’d expect, the 3502X boasts a IPX9K waterproof rating and was even tested at close range with powerful high-pressure, high-temperature water jets to ensure that it could handle anything the swamps and sloughs threw its way.

$500 | dogtra.com

Primos – Kennel UP

Primos Kennel UP dog crate

Odds are, if you’ve been hunting for more than a few years you’ve probably used a Primos product—whether it was in the elk mountains, the turkey blind or the deer stand. What you might not know is that they also make a solid dog crate called the KennelUP. Weighing only 37lbs, this one-piece rotomolded crate features stainless steel hardware, a reversible locking door, and a removable back vent for additional airflow to keep your retriever cool during summertime training sessions and early-season teal hunts.

$500 | primos.com

Collar Clinic

Collar Clinic

These guys are on your team. If there is a one-stop shop for pretty much anything that can be used with hunting dogs that also requires e-collars, then Collar Clinic is it. For well over three decades, Collar Clinic has been the go-to source for buying e-collars, getting e-collars fixed, or locating spare parts like antennas, collar straps and charging components. This means that if you’ve got an e-collar issue, they’ve probably got the solution. Collar Clinic also sells remote launchers and bird releasers and offers a bevy of products that address the needs of not only waterfowl dogs, but upland dogs, companion dogs, and just dogs in general.

collarclinic.com


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