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Indoor or Outdoor Hunting Dog?

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January 21, 2010
Indoor or Outdoor Hunting Dog? - 7

 

There's an old myth that says a hunting dog has to be an outdoor dog. The idea is that by living indoors a dog will some how become mentally and physically weak, its sense of smell will be ruined and that an indoor dog "just won't hunt" if exposed to the easy life and the family.

For the most part, that's bunk. But, with every good myth, urban legend and rumor, there are some truths to it. What's real and what's not? Can you keep a hunting dog indoors? Read on and you'll know, but:

My question to you: Is your hunting hound an indoor or outdoor dog? Does it double as a family pet or is it strictly "your hunting dog"?

The second question I ask for my own personal interest. My Lab is most definitely a family pet (and one that lounges on the leather couch and sleeps in the bed) that plays with our toddler and alerts us to someone at the door.

I've talked to many pros that have been around for a long time and they have said that's typical for today's hunting dog. Thirty years ago, however, "Dad's hunting dog" was his hunting dog; nobody played with it and it lived outside. Over the last couple of decades that has seemingly changed and most of the hunting dogs out there double as family pets, live indoors and are cared for by the entire family.

So, does living indoors hamper the hunting instincts and abilities of a canine?

In short: no. However, they do need some time out of doors (both during training and during down time) to acclimate to temperatures (in both extremes: heat and cold). Having a fenced yard or outside kennel is also handy if you want to remove the dog from the house for any number of reasons.

Having a hunting dog inside isn't going to ruin its sense of smell, as many old-timers will tell you. If a dog can take a direct spray from a skunk up the nose and still sniff out pheasants, a little dry air isn't going to destroy its nasal membranes. And in some parts of the country, indoor air is humidified and contains more water vapor than the outdoor air. Health-related issues that impact the sense of smell would be completely different topic (and of greater concern), as would "scenting conditions" (and that can be a big mystery for anyone to figure out!).

Keeping your hunting hound indoors allows you to bond with him and it gives him the opportunity to learn what makes you happy, as well as unhappy. It can learn its place in the pack and how it fits in with the family. By keeping your dog indoors, you exponentially increase your time to train little things: obedience, patience, enforcing commands, etc.

There is a drawback to this though: Dogs are always learning. It doesn't matter if you're training at the time or not. Remember this: You are always training when you're with your dog. It becomes a matter of what you're training; good habits or bad?

This can be a real issue if you have kids. Children love their pets and want to play with them. That's great, but if they're throwing 1,000 tennis balls for Fido to retrieve, his desire to do so under demanding circumstances during training, as well as his steadiness, are going to be negatively impacted. It's hard to motivate a dog (or a person for that matter) to work for an end goal if what they want is freely given to them.

This is where having a fenced yard or outdoors kennel comes in handy. If you're not in position to consistently and effectively train the entire time the dog is inside with you (that's a ton of pressure on you, especially if you have a family), you can put him outside where he can just chill (the constant pressure of training isn't good for him either). His own spot outside can be a haven free of pressure (you can create the same thing indoors with a crate).

The time outdoors also allows him to acclimate to temperature changes. If you're in the South and expect him to hunt the heat of the early season, he has to get used to not only being in it at rest but also under working conditions. If you're in the North, your dog has to get used to the dropping temps, build his coat (if you have a Lab or other similar double-coated dog) and fat reserves (this goes to feeding changes). A dog that is used to the temperature it is expected to work at and has trained under those circumstances for at least 6 weeks prior will hunt better, recover quicker and is less likely to be injured or impacted (succumb to overheating or hypothermia).

How much time he spends outdoors will depend on the dog, the climate you live in and personal schedules. I tend to leave my pooch outdoors during the day when I'm at the office and then train in the evenings and let him in for the night. That might work for you or it might not; there are a lot of variables.

So lets hear it Gun Doggers: Is your hunting dog an indoor resident or does he reside strictly outdoors? Family pet or one-man dog?

 

Comments (7)

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from CAFIthaca wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I agree with all that has been said. I just recently adopted a 2 year old Black Lab/Weimaraner Mix. I have never had an outside dog or a hunting dog(as I am only 16). So I figured I would train he to retrieve and she could be an inside dog. She loves to hunt and retreive. We have a 75yd by 25yd fenced in yard and she and out 9 year old Beagle spend hours outside each day(usually around 3 to 4) plus 25 min. of training a day. I think it is all a personal choice wiether outside or it as long as they get a bird or two.

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from crosbychief wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Our two Labs, Crosby and CHief, are definitely indoor hunting dogs. My wife and I decorated our house a la yellow Lab...pale carpets and furniture, which help hide the shed hair...and we have pairs of dog beds with custom covers everywhere...two on either side of the bed, two in front of the fireplace, and cozy kennels in the Dog Room, aka Decoy Room, which is a 12 x 24 insulated extension of the garage (which sold me on the house the minute I saw it)...the boys spend their days here when we are both away at work or play. They are hunting machines- they get 3 miles of roadwork and fetching every single day of the year...and deserve the coziness of indoors, and the proximity to us that they crave. A quick tip- keep two dogs (or more) at all times- they tend to stay out of trouble when they can entertain each other.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rydatt wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Both of my Labs are outside dogs and so have every other dog I've ever owned. Their kennel has a sunshade over it during the summer and their house is well built and insulated with lots of straw bedding for the cold winter. On nights when it does get below 0 I put them in their crates in the basement. I think an indoor dog wouldn't be thrilled about a late October/early November duck hunt in northern MN. I have to carry towels to dry them off but they still get iced up. Maybe it has to do with breeding or desire to retrieve but they never hesitate to dive right back in icy water.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Lynn wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Hey Blackdawgz,
Nice to have you on the board, I look forward to input from someone with 6 decades of experience!

RE: The dog ruined indoors by smoking. Yes, I wasn't considering smoking (heck, it's practically illegal nowadays!) and the effects it might have on a dog's sense of smell. I was considering normal everyday living conditions when writing this.

When that dog passed up that quail, were other dogs working that day? How'd they do? Just wondering if that particular day's scenting conditions could have had something to do with the performace (or lack thereof!).

Thanks!

B

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Lynn wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Hey PackAttack,
I'd agree with you on the pack-type dogs like hounds when referring to living together (be it indoor or out). And you bring up another great point: proper protection from the elements and clean pens!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackdawgz wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

After 61 years of Labradors of the finest breeding for Field Trials, and a lifetime association with bird dog owners, I find that I must take exception to some of this. I recently saw a setter pup of champion breeding be destroyed by living inside the home of a heavy smoker. Absolutely without question.He ran 10' downwind of a trap that contained a live quail repeatedly without slowing. This requires a total loss of olfaction in a dog of such breeding. His mom was National #3!. All his dogs typically detect birds 75 yards downwind, but the rest live outdoors in a cage. The pup grew up indoors and was pampered and trained to retrieve indoors. My labs are of simiar origins, only maybe even more high-born. They live indoors and eat like kings. Every day without exception they get exposure to whatever kind of weather. Often freezing rain. Sideways freezing rain. They train no matter what climatic conditions, except heat. They will not work at temps above 55. I am glad they protect themselves like that. But one gets cold and needs to be warmed when we get back. The other romps and rolls in the snow as a full-time job.I have to keep it cool indoors as well. No warmer than 55. Small sacrifice for such hunting companions. But maybe that invalidates my answer. The author is probably referring to normal household temps. I keep a small electric furnace next to my computer terminal, being careful not to overheat them dawgz.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from PackAttack91 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

We keep all our hunting dogs outside, whether they are for deer, rabbit, or coon. Most guys in the hunt club do the same, but at the same time we make sure they are well fed, and have clean pens, and a roof to protect them from rain or snow, i think that when dogs live together outside as a pack whehter its 3 or 4 per pen that they pack better when they run

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

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from PackAttack91 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

We keep all our hunting dogs outside, whether they are for deer, rabbit, or coon. Most guys in the hunt club do the same, but at the same time we make sure they are well fed, and have clean pens, and a roof to protect them from rain or snow, i think that when dogs live together outside as a pack whehter its 3 or 4 per pen that they pack better when they run

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from blackdawgz wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

After 61 years of Labradors of the finest breeding for Field Trials, and a lifetime association with bird dog owners, I find that I must take exception to some of this. I recently saw a setter pup of champion breeding be destroyed by living inside the home of a heavy smoker. Absolutely without question.He ran 10' downwind of a trap that contained a live quail repeatedly without slowing. This requires a total loss of olfaction in a dog of such breeding. His mom was National #3!. All his dogs typically detect birds 75 yards downwind, but the rest live outdoors in a cage. The pup grew up indoors and was pampered and trained to retrieve indoors. My labs are of simiar origins, only maybe even more high-born. They live indoors and eat like kings. Every day without exception they get exposure to whatever kind of weather. Often freezing rain. Sideways freezing rain. They train no matter what climatic conditions, except heat. They will not work at temps above 55. I am glad they protect themselves like that. But one gets cold and needs to be warmed when we get back. The other romps and rolls in the snow as a full-time job.I have to keep it cool indoors as well. No warmer than 55. Small sacrifice for such hunting companions. But maybe that invalidates my answer. The author is probably referring to normal household temps. I keep a small electric furnace next to my computer terminal, being careful not to overheat them dawgz.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rydatt wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Both of my Labs are outside dogs and so have every other dog I've ever owned. Their kennel has a sunshade over it during the summer and their house is well built and insulated with lots of straw bedding for the cold winter. On nights when it does get below 0 I put them in their crates in the basement. I think an indoor dog wouldn't be thrilled about a late October/early November duck hunt in northern MN. I have to carry towels to dry them off but they still get iced up. Maybe it has to do with breeding or desire to retrieve but they never hesitate to dive right back in icy water.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from crosbychief wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Our two Labs, Crosby and CHief, are definitely indoor hunting dogs. My wife and I decorated our house a la yellow Lab...pale carpets and furniture, which help hide the shed hair...and we have pairs of dog beds with custom covers everywhere...two on either side of the bed, two in front of the fireplace, and cozy kennels in the Dog Room, aka Decoy Room, which is a 12 x 24 insulated extension of the garage (which sold me on the house the minute I saw it)...the boys spend their days here when we are both away at work or play. They are hunting machines- they get 3 miles of roadwork and fetching every single day of the year...and deserve the coziness of indoors, and the proximity to us that they crave. A quick tip- keep two dogs (or more) at all times- they tend to stay out of trouble when they can entertain each other.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Lynn wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Hey PackAttack,
I'd agree with you on the pack-type dogs like hounds when referring to living together (be it indoor or out). And you bring up another great point: proper protection from the elements and clean pens!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Lynn wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

Hey Blackdawgz,
Nice to have you on the board, I look forward to input from someone with 6 decades of experience!

RE: The dog ruined indoors by smoking. Yes, I wasn't considering smoking (heck, it's practically illegal nowadays!) and the effects it might have on a dog's sense of smell. I was considering normal everyday living conditions when writing this.

When that dog passed up that quail, were other dogs working that day? How'd they do? Just wondering if that particular day's scenting conditions could have had something to do with the performace (or lack thereof!).

Thanks!

B

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CAFIthaca wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I agree with all that has been said. I just recently adopted a 2 year old Black Lab/Weimaraner Mix. I have never had an outside dog or a hunting dog(as I am only 16). So I figured I would train he to retrieve and she could be an inside dog. She loves to hunt and retreive. We have a 75yd by 25yd fenced in yard and she and out 9 year old Beagle spend hours outside each day(usually around 3 to 4) plus 25 min. of training a day. I think it is all a personal choice wiether outside or it as long as they get a bird or two.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)