Choosing the right gear for tracking dogs

ask the experts

ask the experts - Credit: Archant

Do I need any specialist equipment for my tracking dog?

Q: Do I need any specialist equipment for my tracking dog?

TONY LOWRY replies: The only equipment you’re really going to need is a harness or collar and a tracking lead – these are usually 10 metres long. There are no real advantages to be had when using a harness rather than a collar, but most of the handlers I know use harnesses on the bigger breeds of dogs and collars on the small breeds; you could argue that using a collar puts more strain on your dog’s neck over its lifetime.

Tracking leads come in a variety of materials and I favour the ones made of BioThane as they don’t seem to get caught up so much when tracking, whereas some of the webbing type lines do seem to snag on the undergrowth more.

GPS tracking collars are a real advantage if you have to release your dog into heavy cover or you have tracked your animal to a wound bed and you have opted to release your dog on a chase trail. The handset that accompanies the collar will show you where your dog is at any time and some even show you that your dog may be holding an animal at bay. Not all GPS units are licensed for use in the UK so take care not to fall foul of the law.

Dog coats are something that you may want to consider. The towelling and neoprene ones are going to keep your dog warm if it’s cold or wet and give some protection when going through thick cover. However, there is a big risk of these coats impeding your hound’s progress as it works and I would only use these coats when the track is over to keep him/her warm and dry.

A coat made from materials that will protect your dog from the animals it may be tracking is a real advantage. These sorts of coats not only give your dog protection from bites and goring from wounded animals, but also from sharp objects, thorns and brambles. If you are going to get one of these sorts of coat for your dog make sure it fits properly: it should be snug without being too tight, but mustn’t impede movement or get caught up.

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It’s always good to carry a dog first aid kit in your pack and, if it’s hot, a little water too. All of this equipment is readily available in the UK.