Gun Dog Confinement: How and Why

Because gun dogs are highly active animals, outdoor kennels of some sort - like these by the Mason Company - are almost mandatory.

As I write this, I have two dogs skidding across the wood floor of my office, slamming into walls, and in general burning off the energy they've accumulated in what has turned out to be a very long and cold winter. They need to be confined.

I've never been a believer in the idea some folks seem to have that our dogs need to run free in order to live fulfilling lives. Since hunting dogs are, by definition, highly active animals, an outdoor kennel of some sort is almost mandatory. But it doesn't have to be huge. A run that's four feet wide by 10 or 12 feet long is fine for two dogs. You can build one that's bigger than that—mine is—but it isn't really necessary. Naturally, if you plan to keep him outside in inclement weather, you'll also need some kind of snug, weatherproof dog house to keep him warm.

Will a fenced backyard work? Sure. But don't make the mistake of thinking that a dog turned loose in your backyard will exercise himself. Instead, most dogs will find a favorite corner and spend most of every day sleeping…exactly as he would do in an outdoor kennel.

Confinement options become a bit more challenging on the road. The preferred go-to method, especially among field trialers, is a "chain gang," which is nothing more than a long chain between two stakes with several shorter chains and snaps clipped in at regular intervals. Lengths can be whatever you like (but short enough to keep adjacent dogs from getting tangled), for as many dogs as you need to stake out.

For those who like to bring their dogs into their motel rooms with them, I've found that foldable wire crates are perfect. They keep any problem dogs safely confined while you're out for dinner, avoiding potential problems with dogs whose loneliness while you're gone sets them off on a chewing rampage.

Finally, at home, even if you have an outdoor kennel, it's always a good idea to have an airline crate or two in a spare room, if for no other reason than to get over-active dogs out of your hair. We all love our dogs — but sometimes they're hard to love when they're bouncing off the walls.

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