Injuries to hunting dogs unfortunately aren’t that uncommon.
Sometimes the outcome is a superficial injury such as a rash caused by arable crop stubble/coarse grass, or deep scratches from coming into contact with briars.
For the not so fortunate, barrelling full speed to flush, chase or retrieve can lead to an early end to the hunting trip, a hefty veterinary bill and sometimes even life changing injuries.
Chest protectors, skid plates and vests, all provide varying degrees of protection to dogs whilst they execute their hunt duties.
There are important features and designs of each which make them particularly suited to certain cover, season and game so its important to know what options are available and what might suit your dog best.
To save you the hassle we’ve combed the markets, read all the reviews and collated 3 of the best Hi-Viz and 3 of the best Camouflage chest protectors so as to offer a good option for all breeds and types of hunting.
Mendota Products Skid Plate - Our Pick
The real winning feature of the Mendota skid plate that shines through in customer reviews is its ability to be fitted to any dog without risk of causing rubbing or chaffing.
The many buckles allow size adjustments to be made whilst being far more robust and long lasting in construction than Velcro (which tends to lose its grip strength after collecting dust, dirt and debris inevitably encountered during a hunt).
The Cordura Nylon is an interesting but welcome choice of material as it’s tough enough to withstand sharp impacts but durable enough to be easily wiped clean of dirt, tree sap or blood.
The Mendota is also not overly priced to the point where you would regret keeping one as part of your warm weather hunting kit, even just as a back-up, or for the ‘just in case’ scenarios.
Browning Dog Protection Vest - Budget Pick
It’s hard to beat the Browning for sheer value for money when it comes to Hi-Visibility vests that also offer a degree of chest protection.
Trimmable areas are worked into the Browning design to allow a perfect fit around the chest region of all dogs who adorn this protector.
Look after the Velcro straps by cleaning them of debris regularly and the adjustable straps will remain solid and secure.
The stiffness of the fabric when the vest is new and unused is somewhat of a concern as chaffing has been reported by a small number of dog owners.
Hurtta Worker Vest - Great Pick
Remaining visible at all times becomes essential when hunting with more than one gun, or where dogs will actively retrieve during a live shoot.
This is where having Hi-Viz material across the top of the dog’s back becomes as critical as the chest protection itself.
This design feature, as seen on the Hurtta, is especially useful if you are working with a young, or inexperienced dog who might be at risk of becoming distracted and running into the line of fire.
Not a true chest protector in the sense of the word, the Hurtta Worker Vest has the added benefit of also covering the dog’s vulnerable areas around the stomach and sides, perfect too for additional thermal protection during cold weather.
Rig'Em Right Waterfowl Bloodline Elite Dog Vest - Our Pick
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Just like your own hunting kit, it often makes sense to carry seasonal and cover specific equipment for your dogs.
For cold weather and cold water, often experienced during wildfowl hunting, a vest made from neoprene would be a good idea as it provides thermal as well as physical protection.
Throwing the same vest on a dog taking part in a dry land hunt in even mildly warm weather is not a good idea as the risk of overheating skyrockets.
The Waterfowl Bloodline from Rig ‘Em Right, takes our best in class for cold camouflage chest protector for a number of reasons.
The chest protection is offered by 5mm neoprene which is thick enough to provide a layer of protection from sharp rocks or briar thorns, but not so thick that it inhibits movement.
A solid handle is perfect for keeping your partner close whilst in the blind.
Avery Hunting Gear Standard Dog Parka - Budget Pick
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Fit and maneuverability are incredibly important during hunts, however this is regularly sacrificed when vests are designed with a particular breed in mind.
Neoprene vests for example are mostly designed using a Labrador frame because they are the most popular retriever for hunts involving cold water.
Whereas the same vest placed onto a deep chested narrow waisted pointer might cause bunching and rubbing around the forelegs.
The Avery Dog Parka overcomes this fitment issue by using a lightweight neoprene and tapered design that can be adjusted to fit any body shape.
A winning option if you aren’t sure whether your dog will adapt to being ‘suited up’.
Tip: The fit on this vest is reported to be slightly on the small side. Opt for one size greater than you think you’ll need and use the Velcro torso strap to bring in the slack.
Browning Camo Neoprene Dog Vest - Great Pick
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The Browning Camo vest doesn’t quite have the same build quality as the Rig ‘Em Right Bloodline Elite.
Nor is it as low cost as the Avery Parka.
However it does have the most beautiful, vivid cover specific camouflage designs on the market!
Ok, it’s probably not the correct reason to choose one vest over another but the woodland, grassland and reedbed options are really pretty special and offer a chance to blend into your surroundings just slightly better than a standard camouflage pattern.
Sometimes that extra 1% is all you need!
Ample thick 5mm neoprene will provide warmth and buoyancy whilst serving as the all important chest protection your dog needs.
What are the common hazards faced by hunting dogs?
The most common hazards facing unprotected hunting dogs are…
- coarse tall grass
- sharp sticks and branches
- briar thorns
- sharp rocks
- barbed wire
The risk from each of the above can be eliminated or greatly reduced simple by kitting the dog out with vest that acts as a chest protector.
Arable crops such as corn leaves or stubble can be extremely abrasive (especially important when protecting the teats of females that have had litters in the past).