When Bob Osgood followed Zeke, his five-year-old Lab, into the clump of reed grass along the cattails, Osgood's hunting partners expected to see pheasants fly from the cover.
Instead, when Zeke leaped into the thick stand of vegetation, Osgood immediately and loudly hollered "Skunk!" as the Lab suddenly backed up gagging on a face full of fresh skunk juice.
As the putrid, rancid, piercing odor suddenly filled the air, Zeke rubbed his muzzle on the ground and rolled over several times to escape the overwhelming eye-burning, stomach-turning skunk smell.
No amount of rubbing and rolling, however, reduced the intensity of the aroma.
"Now what?" Osgood asked his hunting partner whose Suburban held the dog crate where Zeke was going to ride on the 50-mile trip back home.
"You and Zeke wait here and I'll go into that little town we drove through and get some tomato juice to take the skunk stink off the dog," Osgood's partner volunteered.
"Forget tomato juice for removing skunk from a dog," the store owner told the desperate hunter. "I've got a German wirehair that has never learned to leave skunks alone, so I've had this same problem many times.
"Use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixed with some hand or dish soap and a little water to form a paste that you massage into the dog's coat," the store owner advised. "When the fur is thoroughly soaked with this mixture, wait about 10 minutes for a chemical reaction to occur. The peroxide and soda molecules, according to the theory, will bind with the oils in the skunk juice and neutralize most of the odor they carry.
"After 10 minutes, wash off the peroxide and soda paste, then re-apply the same combination but this time also add a packet of Massengill douche powder to the mix. Massage this in as before then wash the dog down with a mild detergent or gentle shampoo and lots of water.
"In my experience, this process will reduce the skunk odor by 75 to 85 percentâ€¦at least enough so you can stand to ride in the same vehicle with the dog," the store owner added.
Back in the field, Osgood applied the peroxide, soda, and soap concoction to Zeke as instructed and washed the Labrador, then soaked him in a cattle dugout for several minutes. "That's good stuffâ€¦I can hardly smell the skunk," Osgood's partner--the owner of the Suburban--said on their way down the road to the next hunting spot.
"Yeah, I'd say it saved the dayâ€¦and the whole trip!" Osgood replied.
Any hunter who has had a gun dog blasted by a skunk can understand the seriousness of the experience. If not treated, the skunk stink stuck to a dog cannot only end a hunt but can also lose you your place in a motel room and can cause real problems back home for a housedog or even a dog that lives outside in a kennel. So an effective treatment for a skunked dog is, in fact, essential.
"Tomato juice has long been advised as a cure for skunk odor on a dog. But in most cases I've observed, a thoroughly skunked dog, one that has been hit hard and heavy in the face and body, still smells like skunk and tomato juice," says Dr. Woody Franklin, a veterinarian from Brookings, South Dakota.
"Though we sell skunk odor control products in our clinic, the best product is the homemade mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda for getting most of the skunk smell off of most all dogs," Franklin says. "The commercial odor killers we sell will help to control that remaining 25 percent when used along with a strong canine shampoo."
The peroxide and soda mixture will also work to neutralize other odors dogs might pick up, like those from rolling in dead animals or fresh livestock poop, Franklin adds.
USING ROAD-KILLS TO SKUNK-BREAK YOUR DOG
When Jim Steed drives down the road on a pheasant hunt, he always stops at the site of any fresh vehicle-killed skunk. Once his truck is over on the shoulder, he gets out his dogs, one by one, makes sure their e-collars are on and operational, then leads each pooch on a check cord up to the smelly dead critter.
"As soon as the dog expresses even the mildest interest in getting close to the skunk, he or she will get a full blast of stimulation designed to associate the skunk with extreme discomfort," Steed says. In many cases, just seeing a skunk thereafter is enough to persuade most dogs to stay away from them, whether dead or alive, Steed notes.
"De-skunking dogs by using road-kills and the e-collar isn't 100 percent successful because some dogs just can't resist a live skunk no matter how intense the aversion therapy. But repeating the road-kill program whenever possible usually helps to get the point across eventually even to the most stubborn and determined dog," Steed has found.
Is aversion training with an e-collar too extreme? "Though this training method may seem over the line, anyone who has ever had a dog sprayed by a skunk knows how the experience can ruin a training session or wreck a hunting trip. In addition, skunks are disease carriers with rabies being one of the most common deadly diseases they may have and will spread," Steed adds.
SKUNKS AS DISEASE CARRIERS
Though a skunk-sprayed gun dog can wreck a day's hunt, a canine's exposure to these smelly animals can also be dangerous because they are major carriers of rabies, distemper, and other diseases that can infect canines. "Any dog that fights with a skunk and is possibly bitten should be taken to a veterinarian immediately for an examination and rabies booster shot," says Dr. Jim McKnight, a DVM from Brookings, South Dakota. "The booster is in addition to the regular rabies inoculation all gun dogs, I assume, will have before being taken into the field for training or hunting.
"Though a skunk suspected of having rabies should be killed and taken to a medical lab for testing, most gun dog owners are not eager to pick up, bag and carry a dead skunk into town after it has sprayed a dog and then been blasted by a shotgun," McKnight admits. "So the booster shot is the best policy to follow as an all-round safety measure."
SHOULD A SHOOTABLE SKUNK BE SHOT?
If a pointing dog or a flushing dog pauses and looks into some heavy cover and a pair of beady black eyes look back and you can see white stripes running down the back of this critter, should you shoot it?
"I don't shoot skunks if they haven't sprayed my dogs or if the dogs haven't attacked them," says Jim Julson, a Small Munsterlander owner from Colman, South Dakota. "An undisturbed skunk can stay that way, and when possible I'll grab my dog by the collar and lead her off to a new location. The times I've shot skunks that haven't sprayed, they will usually do so anyway when hit with a load of 4s or 6s. And sometimes my dog will then jump in to grab the skunk so she can shake it then retrieve it," Julson adds.
There are other factors to consider, however. "Any skunk wandering out in the open during daylight and acting unafraid of dogs or people or appearing to be aggressive is probably sick and should be shot," says Dr. Jim Rieser, a DVM from Franksville, Wisconsin. "A sick looking skunk may have rabies or distemper and should be destroyed for humane reasons and for public safety.
"Be sure to leash your dog first, then, from an appropriate distance, shoot the skunk in the head with a shotgun. Leave the area immediately and don't let your dog loose until you are far enough away to prevent your dog from returning and making an unwanted retrieve," Rieser advises.
Once most dogs have been sprayed in the face by a skunk, the dog's interest in the skunk is pretty much over while the pooch is pre-occupied with gagging, rubbing its face in the grass, and rolling on the ground. "Shooting the skunk at this time sometimes just complicates the situation," says Jim Keller, an Irish setter breeder from Lincoln, Nebraska.
"The better approach is to leave the scene and go back to your vehicle where, if you have prepared for a skunked dog event, you can treat your dog with the peroxide, baking soda and soap solution," Keller suggests.
"Whenever possible, use your e-collar to discourage any dog's interest in a live skunk," says Tom Dokken, a Labrador trainer from Northfield, Minnesota.
"This is a tricky business, so be very careful because a few dogs when stimulated may become aggressive toward the skunk, identifying it as the source of the discomfort caused by the e-collar. And on some occasions, shooting the skunk at this time can make the dog even more interested in the skunk despite the e-collar," Dokken warns.
The e-collar, however, is one of the best ways to discourage a dog's fascination with a living skunk. So, when possible, use the remote-training tool for this purpose whether or not the skunk is dispatched in the process.
Shooting a skunk while holding on to a dog by its collar with one hand and pointing a shotgun with the other hand is a difficult and dangerous task. Whether or not the skunk has sprayed or is getting ready to release a stream of its foul smelling liquid are still more considerations in this dilemma.
"My policy is to grab the dog and get away from the skunk," says Curt Shreve, a Large Munsterlander owner from Prior Lake, Minnesota. "If one of your hunting buddies is willing to shoot the skunk for you, that's probably okay. But very few of my friends are ready to volunteer for this job. In fact, most of them are leading the retreat from this battleâ€¦and I don't blame them!"
Always put the welfare and safety of the dog before dispatching a skunk, advises Dan Griffith, a German wirehair owner from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "I'm more concerned about using the e-collar to discourage my dog's interest in skunks than I am in killing the skunks. When we have a skunk and dog confrontation, the first priority is to keep my canine from getting sprayed. And if the dog gets sprayed my first move is to get her away from the skunk so that a fight and more spraying won't happen," Griffith says.
"What's with Zeke?" Bob Osgood's hunting partner asked about the big yellow Lab as the dog walked up to a bunch of cattails, sniffed them once, then quickly turned and trotted in the other direction.
"We've been working on skunk aversion," Osgood said. "I'll bet there's a skunk hidden in that cover and I'll also bet Zeke doesn't want to meet it up close," Osgood added as he and Zeke kept moving on past the cattails.
Gun dogs and skunks obviously don't mix, but, when they do, there is almost always an unhappy ending. Though the problem of a skunked dog is treatable and curable, the best practice, of course, is to avoid the dog-skunk confrontation in the first place â€“ something often easier said than done. With a little effort, however, most hunters can train their dogs to avoid close encounters with skunks, something everyone will appreciate, skunks included.
|Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda and Hand-Soap Recipe |
For De-Stinking a Skunked Gun Dog
Though many solutions have been developed for getting the odor of skunk off a gun dog, the combination of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and hand-soap mixed with water works best most often, according to the many dog owners who use this recipe. This mixture is also effective in removing skunk stink from e-collars, identification collars, and hunting clothes.
Note: Do NOT mix this solution before it is needed. It is unsafe to store this mixture for any length of time, so mix only when needed, apply immediately, and discard afterwards.
Hydrogen peroxide in a plastic 16-ounce container. Many gun dog owners carry two of these and replace unused bottles every year so the product is fresh and slightly foams when added to the baking soda. The foam means oxygen, the essential component in this mixture, is being released to neutralize the skunk stink.
Baking soda in a one-pound box. Transfer the baking soda to a waterproof and compact plastic bag for convenience. If kept dry baking soda will keep indefinitely.
Hand, dish, or laundry soap in liquid form and carried in a four to six ounce plastic bottle for easy squeeze-in or pour-on application. A mild hand soap is used for more delicate dogs while Dawn Dish Soap and Tide Liquid Laundry Soap works for its more aggressive skunk oil cutting qualities.
Plastic, latex, or rubber gloves. Several pair will be handy for protecting skin from skunk oil and cleansing ingredients.
A plastic or metal two-quart or larger plastic container for mixing the ingredients.
Measure one or more cups of baking soda into container.
Add 1/2 cup or more hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Expect mixture to foam somewhat.
Squeeze or pour on one ounce or more of liquid soap and, while wearing protective gloves, hand mix the ingredients until smooth and slightly runny.
Hand rub mixture into dog's coat with a massaging motion concentrating on the head, neck and chest region where most skunk oil probably will be located.
Leave mixture on dog for 10 or more minutes. Then rinse with ample fresh water.
Avoid getting the mix in a dog's eyes. Wash out with water if
Repeat the combination of ingredients but this time add a packet of Massengill douche powder or similar feminine hygiene product for the final application.
Rinse the dog with plenty of water and, if possible, have the dog retrieve a dummy from a pond or lake for a final cleansing swim.