A good hunting dog is irreplaceable in the field and will take on the majority of the workload without hesitation. It is important to utilize the correct gear to make your hunting partners job easier. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of a dog hunting vest.
There are nearly limitless options for hunting vests that are available, but some hunters are unaware that certain vests are detrimental to their canine partners. One type of vest that owners mistake for a good vest for hunting is what is known as a tactical dog vest.
In this article, we will look at what we define as a tactical vest and our reasoning as to why they make poor hunting choices in most cases. Like anything, there is often a time and place, in this case, a type of hunting, where a tactical dog vest makes sense, and we will explore those scenarios as well.
Let’s first take a look at tactical vests and determine our definition of a tactical vest and their function.
Tactical Dog Vests
Tactical dog vests chief function is to provide protection to a dog’s vital areas. Dog vests used by military and police forces are what we have in mind when thinking of tactical vests.
There is no clear definition of what exactly constitutes a dog vest to be labeled tactical. For this article, we will define a tactical dog vest as a vest made with resistant material able to withstand punctures, cuts, and ballistic damage. Vests with these characteristics are also normally used to allow the dog to carry gear in combat situations.
Heavy protection and ability to carry gear are two characteristics that can come in handy when under the right circumstances, but in most hunting conditions they might hinder the dog’s ability to hunt or put it in difficult and dangerous situations.
So why are tactical vests poor choices for your hunting dog?
- Poor ventilation
Hunting dogs used for upland birds such as pheasant or quail will be covering a lot of miles and may be working for hours on end. The problem with tactical dog vests is that they will not provide the breathability in the material used. If you look at reviews online, most tactical gear will mention breathability, but compared to vests designed for hunting they are lacking.
- This is critical, especially if the hunting is occurring in warmer weather. Vests that are designed specifically for hunting use much lighter material or much lower denier nylon fiber that is often used in tactical vests and allow more airflow to help keep your dog cool. We will cover what to look for in a good dog hunting vest in our next section, and we will describe how to keep your dog cool.
During a lot of hunting situations dog’s are required to go into and maneuver in very thick cover as when bird or rabbit hunting. The material used in tactical vests will help shed briars and burrs, but it is overkill, and the number of straps and pockets on these vests to carry gear will hang up easily when in thick brush.
- Poor visibility
When bird hunting, there are usually several other hunters, and it is important that your dog remains highly visible while on the hunt. Most tactical vests are in colors that blend in with fields and brush, and you can’t always trust that your fellow hunters will have steady trigger fingers when birds are jumped. You could attach a second vest or material to a tactical vest, but that only adds to the potential for hang-ups.
- No insulation
For waterfowl hunting, most tactical vest can be extremely dangerous for the dog. While dogs are better adapted to handling environmental conditions encountered when hunting for waterfowl, tactical vests will not insulate like neoprene. The typical material in tactical vests provides little to no insulation and several hours of being wet and in freezing conditions could negatively impact the dog’s health.
The material that is used in tactical vests may at times be water resistant, but they are not waterproof like neoprene. Extended trips into the water are eventually going to lead to a waterlogged vest. Unlike hunting vests, which are designed to add buoyancy, the tactical dog vest is going to make staying above the water difficult for your dog.
So should tactical vests never be used on your hunting dog?
We mentioned that in certain situations tactical vests might come in handy and this is true with several hunting scenarios. Using dog’s to hunt larger game such as wild boar and bears require vests that add a lot of protection to the animal.
Vest’s in these situations need to be able to deflect claws, tusks, and teeth away from the dog’s vital areas. Tactical vests do provide the strength and durability in material needed to deflect such dangers. They are still not optimal as many companies design dog vests for these hunting scenarios, but they are useful in these situations.
We have laid the groundwork for why we think tactical dog vests are poor choices for most forms of hunting. We don’t want to end the article on this note without mentioning the qualities that go into a good vest for your hunting dog.
How to pick a suitable dog hunting vest
If you are looking for a good hunting vest for your hunting partner, here are some important qualities to consider.
- Pick the right material
The type of material is going to depend on the type of hunting. For waterfowl and other hunting conditions where your hunting buddy is going to be spending hours wet and in sub-zero conditions, neoprene is the material of choice. Neoprene provides extra insulation for your hunting partner and these vests also use foam within the vest to add extra buoyancy for the dog while retrieving ducks or geese.
Nylon is a common material found in dog hunting vests. This material provides durability, is lightweight, and is flexible enough not hinder your dog’s movements when they get into the thick brush but still provide protection from thorns and burrs.
- Adjustable fit
Most hunting vests that you can purchase come pre-sized based on the circumference of your dog around the chest directly behind the front legs. Some other areas these vests are sized is the neck circumference and the circumference of the dog’s stomach area directly in front of the back legs.
It is important to have the correct size of vest for your dog. Too loose and it will hang and lose its ability to provide protection. Too tight and you will restrict your dog’s movements and cause discomfort.
Even with the standard sizing, it is important for the vest to have some size adjustment to get a snug and secure fit. These are usually in the form of Velcro or some buckle and strap mechanism.
While waterfowl hunting requires good camo to blend your companion in with its surroundings, other forms of hunting require a dog that is highly visible to the hunter. There are a lot of hunting vests available in hunter’s orange and the correct material for use in heavy cover. This is especially important if you are using your dog around other groups of hunters.
It is common knowledge that dogs do not sweat as humans do and to regulate their heat dog’s pant. Vests normally have a tight fit on the dogs and the material used for protection does not breath easily, trapping a lot of the body heat against the dog and potentially leading to overheating.
A good dog vest usually has a mesh layer between the more durable nylon. This keeps the less breathable material from directly touching the dog and allows better airflow to vent out some of the dog’s body heat.
In hunting situations in the warmer seasons where the dog might not need as much protection such as dove hunting, nylon vests are not even needed, and a mesh vest in hunter’s orange is perfect for the situation.
Having several durable and well-placed handles on a dog’s vest is necessary for waterfowl hunting. The vest not only serves as an insulator and floating device but also as a carrier and is valuable when having to pull your dog into the boat.
These handles should be sturdy and be situated along the back of the dog near the front and back of the vest to distribute the weight of the pull comfortably along its body.
As we wrap up this article, it is important to keep in mind that tactical dog vests serve a variety of purposes and depending on the situation, might be the best option for your furry companion.
Even in some hunting situations, a tactical vest might be a good option for your dog, especially when hunting larger and more dangerous game.
For other hunting purposes, such as upland birds, waterfowl, and rabbit, tactical dog vests will only hinder your canine’s ability to hunt and in some situations endanger the dog.
Our hunting dogs are more than just a tool to having a better hunt; they are often friends and even members of the family. Be sure to have their health and well-being in mind when determining how to outfit your companion for the hunt.
It is important for you, as the owner, to be aware of the cons of using tactical vests in certain situations and we hope that this article has provided you with a good basis of understanding of hunting situations tactical vests should not be utilized. We also hope we have outlined some specific attributes to look for picking out a proper hunting vest for your partner.