Practical and essential tools/equipment for hunters and their dog
Do you have a hunter and a gun dog or duck dog on your gift list this year? If so, you might be at a loss for what to give them. Here are some gifts ideas for retriever owners that are both practical – meaning they will actually be used, and essential. Whether your hunter is an upland hunter or a waterfowl hunter, many of these gift ideas will apply to both. I have sorted them into categories for ease of reading, but many of the gift ideas will realistically apply and be used in multiple categories. For instance, while whistles are used in the field while hunting, they are also used for training.
The products I recommend I believe are a good value or good investment for anyone working to train or maintain training on their retriever. When possible, I include links to the product. Some of these links may be Amazon or other affiliate links in which I am paid a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions and recommendations are my own.
Gifts for use in the field or blind
Communicating with your dog in the field is important. But often your dog may be some distance away from you and yelling commands is not the best practice. Whistle training your dog is the solution. Learn how to whistle train your dog here.
There are many great whistles on the market. We personally use the
SportDog Mega Whistle (pealess). This whistle gives a clear sharp tone that the dogs can hear at a distance. The pealess version means we won’t have problems with the whistle freezing up in cold weather.
If you live in a warmer region, you can opt for the pea version.
If you need a whistle, you also need a lanyard. A lanyard allows you to carry your whistle around your neck so that it is easily accessible when you need it. Lanyards come in all shapes and sizes. You can spend as little as $6 on a nylon single clip lanyard or as much as $100 on a kangaroo leather double clip lanyard. If you are looking for a leather lanyard that will last but won’t break the bank, a good compromise is the Avery Classic Hunting Dog Training Whistle Lanyard. This retails for around $40. We have found that this version holds up well and is comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Briar proof and/or waterproof chaps can be a game changer. Walking through deep cover can quickly break down jeans or other pants. Briar proof chaps can be worn over jeans and are constructed of a ripstop fabric that is tough and sheds burrs.
When I bought my first pair of chaps, which I still use regularly, there were few options. I use the Cabela’s Upland Traditions. They have lasted me over 30 years.
Now there are many different companies that make chaps. Here are one brand that has features I love like full leg zippers and has good reviews.
If you are a both an upland and waterfowl hunter, consider getting a pair that is both briar proof and waterproof.
These stands are great for hunting and for training hunting dogs.
We have one that we use regularly, and it is so helpful for many different training setups. These are also great for waterfowl hunting. They keep your dog out of the mud and water and give him a great comfortable place to sit.
Tools and equipment for training a hunting dog
Leads, leashes and collars
When training a dog for hunting, it is helpful to have a wide variety of leads or leashes. As you work through the training, you often need to move from shorter or longer leads. We have an entire post on the different types of leads, but rather than rehash all of that, I will simply recommend a couple that I find indispensable.
The Mendota Pet Slip Leash is by far my favorite leash. The slip loop is great for times when I need to walk a dog to and from a vehicle. I use mine for vet appointments or for transferring a dog from my truck to a building.
Another leash every dog owner should have packed in their vehicle is a Flexilead.
These work great if you are on the road and need to stop to let you dog empty (aka go to the bathroom). The longer length is helpful for dogs that don’t like to “go” when right next to you and the retractability makes this an easy leash to keep in your vehicle without a mess.
E-collars are the single most essential training tool we use. Want to learn more about using an e-collar to train your retriever?
There are a lot of companies making electronic dog collars. We have used a lot of different brands over the years, but our favorite for ease of use and dependability is
Dogtra. They make a large range of collars.
We, personally, use the EDGE RT but they do have a handy E-Collar Finder quiz on their website that can help you narrow down the collars to ones that will work for your training and hunting style. My only caution is that you error on the high side when choosing the Distance/Range since those numbers are line-of-sight and when you are hunting, line-of-sight is often blurred with weeds, brush and water.
For most of our clients, we recommend the Dogtra 1900S. This collar is waterproof, rechargeable and has a 3/4 mile range. It is smaller than the EDGE RT and more suited to hunters not working with multiple dogs.
As readers and followers of our website, we are happy to provide you with a code for 5% off any purchase over $200 from Dogtra.com. Use the code DGTFSOTK
If you are going to train a retriever, you need to have at least a few (the more the better) bumpers, dead fowl or dead duck trainers. These are what you use to teach your dog to retrieve. And, yes, it does matter what you use to teach retrieving. We cover this topic at length in our post What kind of bumpers/dummies should I use to train my retriever?
If you don’t want to go through an entire education on bumpers, and just want some ideas for gifts, here are a couple of my favorites. We use these extensively in our training.
If your dog is very young, under 4 months old, you will want to use a puppy bumper for retrieving. The canvas is easy on their young mouths and teeth and it is smaller so they can easily pick it up and carry it.
Once your dog has adult teeth, you will want to move to plastic bumpers.
These have been our go-to bumpers for over 30 years. In fact, many of the bumpers we use for training are from the first ones we ordered from this company back in the 1980s. These are made in the USA and made of non-toxic materials. They are by far the best bumpers out there. Buy white ones if you have young dogs, or white/black. Orange is for more advanced dogs since orange is difficult for dogs to see.
Note: these are currently out of stock but the manufacturer says they should be back in stock soon.
Dead fowl trainers
Dead fowl trainers are bumpers that are shaped and look like birds. They are very useful for training since they have more weight, like a bird, and are larger so dogs learn to hold a larger bird.
These are really good for teaching dogs how to pick up a bigger bird. In addition, they work well in water and even snow, as they do not sink like bumpers do. You can get them in a variety of birds (i.e. mallard, pheasant) and sizes.
These are similar to the Dokken Dead Fowl, but are slightly smaller in size and work really well for training your retriever in water and on land. They float really well and are easy to throw.
Gifts for your dogs health and safety
Having a safe, comfortable bed for your retriever can help him or her sleep better. It is also easier on their joints than laying on the bare floor.
All of our Labs love the beds with raised bumpers on 3 sides like on this one.
Dogs should be in crates when riding in a vehicle. I know some people like to just let them run around the vehicle or lay in the back seat, but it really is not safe for you or the dog to let him have free reign in a moving vehicle. We highly recommend that you put your retriever in a crate.
There are many different crates available. Some kennels, like Gunner Kennels , Lucky Duck Kennels, and RuffLand Kennels are built very rugged and give your dog great protection in the event of an accident. But there is a cost for that protection!
There are many other kennels that work just fine for restraining your retriever in a vehicle. We use the Petmate Sky Kennel carrier in our home, this also works great in vehicles and is compatible with airline regulations when we need to ship a dog.
Dog first aid kit
Every dog owner, but especially hunters, should own a dog first aid kit. We keep one in our truck and in our kennel. You never know when a dog might get injured. Like everything though, you get what you pay for when you buy these kits.
We use the Gun Dog Outdoors Field Trauma Kit. This kit was designed by professional waterfowl hunter and firefighter/EMT and is designed specifically for working dogs and hunting dogs.
Final thoughts on gift ideas for retriever owners
There are many tools and equipment that upland and waterfowl hunters need to pursue their hobbies and passions. I have covered just a few of the most common. Things we use often and regularly in our retriever training business.
You can also check out our Resources and Recommendations page for other ideas.