Vested interests

A properly fit hunting vest can help your dog stay afloat and warm while hunting in cold-weather conditions. 

Have you ever been working on a project and thought, "If I only had a ______ (you fill in the blank)"? Having the right tool for the job is essential. I have spent what seemed like hours struggling with the removal of a simple ring clip just because I had misplaced my ring-clip pliers. The arduous task that took thirty minutes trying to manage with a couple of screwdrivers would have been accomplished in 30 seconds had I had the right tool.

The ultimate tool for the waterfowl hunter is their retriever. But, there are also tools that can be advantageous to our retrievers as well. One of the most popular is the neoprene vest.

I have had hunters ask many questions about using vests for their retrievers and recently while on the Southern Sporting Journal radio program, I was asked to give my opinion on using them for the hunting retriever. Here are a few of my replies to such questions.

There are many hunters, especially duck hunters, using the [neoprene] vests for their dogs. They are using the vests, I guess, for buoyancy and to keep the dogs warm. Is that something that you recommend?

Yes, I like the vests. I have talked with hunters using them and they like them too. If you've ever worn neoprene waders you know that they are pretty buoyant, so it seems reasonable that the vests would also help retrievers swimming in deep water by providing a little floatation help.

But an equally important benefit is the protection they give from cold and brush. Again, if you've ever worn a wet suit in cold water, you know that they make your time much more comfortable, which is what the vest can do for your dog. Additionally, a properly fitted vest can protect from injury while running in thick brush.

My dog's [medium size] vest fits her snug everywhere except the neck. There is a little more room here. This is a medium. I have a large from a previous dog and it's too big. The small is too tight. Is there a way to fix this or is this OK?

In order for the vest to work properly, you need to get one that fits snuggly. Don't be cheap. If your dog is still a pup then just realize that you'll have to invest in a bigger one as he grows. A loose fitting vest is dangerous. It can get snagged on underwater objects trapping your dog. Also, if there is much vegetation around your dog will get sticks and grass stuck under the vest. In addition, it will not be as efficient at creating buoyancy and keeping him warm.

Sounds to me like it would be fine to use as you described it, but having the vest fit correctly at every interface is ideal. If there had to be problem with the neck I guess it would be preferable for it to be a little loose rather than too tight.

When not being used for its waterproof qualities, neoprene is fairly easy to modify with scissors and thread, so you might consider a small alteration to take some of the slack from the neck. The vest that you can get two fingers under at every interface, especially around the neck, has the proper fit.