Even the most experienced hunters wrestle with questions about how to use a layout blind with a hunting dog. One of the most common of these questions is whether or not you should put your dog in a layout blind at all.
For those new to hunting in general and hunting with a dog in particular, it can often feel like the learning curve is ever-growing. So in this article, we will break it down for you to help you make the best decision for your and your faithful canine hunting companion.
What Is a Layout Blind?
What is a layout blind, exactly? This is most likely a question you will have as you are getting outfitted for your hunting trip with your dog.
A layout blind is a form of concealment designed to be very versatile, lightweight, and portable. It is often waterproof. It allows the hunter to lay on the ground inside the blind and be camofauged. This type of blind is often used when hunting in fields or can be used at the edge of ponds of marsh where vegetation is low.
Most layout blinds are designed for a single human occupant. Its pretty tight quarters but there is room for a dog in there, which raises the question.
Should You Put Your Dog In a Layout Blind?
Before we even look at the question of whether you can put your dog in a layout blind, the better question to ask is should you put your dog in a layout blind?
There are several things to consider here, but the simplest answer is “probably not.”
What is behind this answer? To put it simply: your dog’s safety. Now, if you have a very seasoned, well-trained and steady adult hunting dog – and by this, we mean a dog that never minds the sound of gunshots at close range and never, ever jumps up without a direct command – then the guidance to not put your dog in your layout blind may not necessarily apply to you.
But in all other cases, there is so much that can (and sometimes does) go wrong when you combine people, guns, dogs, and prey animals all together in a tiny, low to the ground hiding spot that isn’t much bigger than your standard sleeping bag. For example the dog could bump you resulting in a neglagent discharge of your shotgun injuring you, the dog or a fellow hunter; or the dog could get between you and the birds during the shot resulting in injury to the dog.
For all the things you can think of that can go wrong, as well as all the things you can’t think of, it is usually advisable to find another place for your dog to hide while you wait for prey.
Can You Put Your Dog In a Layout Blind?
All safety disclaimers aside, there are definitely many hunters who stash their canine hunting companion right inside the layout blind with them.
You absolutely can put your dog in a layout blind if you feel you have the safety considerations handled or you have no other option.
But before we go there, what other options might there be for a safe place for your dog to hide?
What Other Options Does Your Dog Have Besides Your Layout Blind?
One interesting option many hunters are using today is to have two blinds – one for you and one for your dog. Many suppliers now offer canine blinds or you can adapt even the dog’s crate for use as a blind.
This lets you get the dog further enough away from you reduce the chance of their being a problem.
If you take this option, the next question becomes where to put your dog’s blind?
Answer one: Behind you, here is why. Your dog is completely out of harm’s way when you take aim and shoot and your dog can take their cues from you.
Answer two: Beside you. Another option is to have your dog’s blind positioned next to your blind. This also greatly reduces the risk that your dog may inadvertently cross your line of fire and you have the ability to keep an eye on the dog at all times.
Are There Other Options to Hide Your Dog Outside Your Layout Blind?
Another option that some very experienced hunters with very experienced dogs will use is to simply have the dog lay down outside of but near to the hunting layout blind.
Here, the key phrase is “very experienced.” Only the steadiest of gun dogs will have the discipline to stay put, hidden away until the time is ripe to take action.
Unless your dog fits this description precisely, you may want to explore other options for hiding your dog on the hunt.
What Is the Best Location for Your Dog Inside the Layout Blind?
When you decide to stash your dog inside your own layout blind, you will need to think very carefully about how to ensure your pup’s safety.
The absolute worst place for your dog to lay down inside your own layout blind is in front of you between your legs. And yet that is exactly where most dogs end up because a layout blind is not what you would call roomy!
But it is vital not to allow your dog to get used to this position because of the safety risks they might cross the line of fire.
The best places for your dog to lay down inside your layout blind are behind your headrest or beside you to one side or the other. The best option is to have your dog lay on your dominant (shooting) arm side. This way, when you sit up to shoot, weapon in hand, you have more control over where your dog goes.
What Safety Features Should Your Layout Blind Have With Your Dog Inside?
Some layout blinds have a doggy door feature so your dog can lookout. And some hunters fashion their own, whether by unzipping the layout blind enough so your dog can stick their head out or by actually cutting a doggy door in the blind.
Some hunters suggest using a metal stake in the ground with a heavy-duty rope tie to keep their dog in place inside the blind.
How Can You Know Your Dog Is Steady Enough to Go Into a Blind?
Steady dogs are not typically born. They are trained. This type of hunting dog training typically starts as early as six weeks old.
For future hunting dogs, blind training is started right alongside crate training and is an organic part of obedience. By starting early and training consistently into adulthood, you can feel much more confident your dog has what it takes to stay inside a layout blind, either their own or yours.
Experienced hunters also caution against trying to rush a dog through layout blind training, whether in puppyhood or in adulthood. It is safer and better to take your time and try out different scenarios, using positive, consistent reinforcement. Even older dogs with average hunting skills can be taught to lay quietly in a layout blind if the training is consistent and thorough.
Are There Ways to Secure Your Dog Inside the Layout Blind?
The hands-down best way to secure your dog inside a layout blind, whether yours or their own, is through steady, consistent training.
Staking your dog, as some hunters choose to do, is controversial. Some hunters say it keeps the dog safer while others say if a dog needs to be staked it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
There is no way to completely control your dog’s actions inside a layout blind other than hours upon hours of good old-fashioned training.
What Are the Best Layout Blinds With Room For Your Dog?
Layout blinds, like people and pups, come in many shapes and sizes. Some are larger and will allow you to move about inside the blind. Others are very compact and you pretty much have to sit or lay in place.
It will ultimately be up to you to decide whether comfort or compactness is more of a priority in the field.
By understanding the pros and cons of using a layout blind for hunting with your dog, you can make the best and safest choice for both you and your dog.