Going ice fishing, and taking the pooch along? Practice safety first
To many of us, our dogs are family, and it’s only natural to include our canine companions on outdoor adventures.
My dog likes to go where I go and I like to have her with me. She’s not much of a hunter, but likes to go fishing, rides along with me on my trapline, loves to go camping or just on road trips with me to the store.
With some ice fishing options left, bringing Bowser along for company could be tempting, but also dangerous. A fun activity for you can turn hazardous for a pet. If leaving poochy at home is not an option, at least heed these tips.
Make sure your dog stays warm. An outdoor dog will likely be okay, but for a canine not conditioned to being exposed to the cold for hours on end, consider a warming vest. Neoprene is ideal since it’s waterproof, and picking one with extra flotation will help keep the dog afloat should it fall through a pressure ridge, thin ice, or go in an open pocket.
Keep its paws free of ice. Iced-up paws can hurt a dog and make it hard for it to walk. My dog is short-haired, but I’ve owned others with “hairy toes” that would easily ball up. Consider boots – Iditarod racers often boot their winter-tough dogs.
Take along a pad or blanket, too, for the dog to stand or lie on, whether in a shelter or when fishing outdoors.
If you are in a shelter or shanty, keep a watchful eye on the dog. Keep it away from ice holes so a paw doesn’t slip in and watch for a wild tail wagging too close to the heater. Also, because of dog’s curious nature, be cautious with baited lures and hooks. Colorful and smelly lures can grab a mischievous dog’s attention. Keep lures tucked away in your gear both on the ice and in your vehicle.
Keep it leashed. Even if Ol’ Yeller is typically well-behaved, the ice is a new and exciting place. The best dogs sometimes ignore verbal commands, so leashing it is good for its safety and is a courtesy to other anglers. A dog allowed to run on the ice away from its owner has a greater likelihood of falling through a pressure ridge, thin ice or into an open section of water.
If the worst does happen and your dog falls through the ice and can’t get out, don’t attempt to rescue it alone. You are at risk of falling through the ice, too. Find help quickly, preferably a search-and-rescue team that has experience and proper equipment for ice rescues.