We’ve all been there and had to deal with them at one point or another.
BURRS- the bane of every gundog owner’s existence.
These things can get so annoying that they can literally stop your hunt. I often had a dog working up hard only to have to pause in the field for 20 minutes to remove these claws from hell.
Now, if your dogs are anything like mine, you’ll know they don’t like to stop, and what is already a frustrating task becomes even more difficult.
Many gundog owners have stopped using breeds with long hair to avoid this situation. I now use my GSP for most of my upland hunting, and I’ve not had to deal with burrs at all.
My Chessie is a different story, although her coat is stiff, so the burrs aren’t as much of an issue as when I was hunting over spaniels.
So, short of changing your breed, what can you do to keep burrs away?
What Are Burrs?
Burrs are a way for plants to ensure survival. They are little shells with hooks that house seeds within. These hooks grab onto passing animals as they brush up against it.
The burr will stay on the animal or even human clothes until physically removed. This method of survival ensures the seeds travel far, allowing the plant to be widespread.
For our hunting dogs, this spells disaster. These burrs will get everywhere. The dog’s ears will get so clogged up with burs they become one solid mass. The armpits are even worse; the burrs that get caught here can rub your dogs raw.
Even the paws will become a sticking spot for burrs, although most dogs will stop and gnaw them out.
How to prevent burrs sticking to hunting dogs
As with most things as irritable as this, the best cure is prevention. Many hunters will take to the trimmers.
You don’t need to shave your dog completely. Rather, just trim the areas that are likely to tangle. I like to use the trimmers sparingly, not to remove their natural protection or insulation.
Lightly trim under the armpits, just so the hair isn’t so long to tangle with burrs, this will allow much easier removal of any that do get stuck.
Another method used by many hunters is the use of oil. The oil keeps the hairs from tangling with the burrs, and any burrs that do manage to take hold are much easier to remove.
I advise against the use of baby oil as it can be toxic if your dog consumes it. Something like cooking oil or coconut oil is a much safer option and works just as well, if not better, than baby oil.
However, I don’t recommend putting it on before you load the dog in the car, as it is likely they will lick it all off before you get to the field. I put it on once I arrive at the field and the dog is excited and ready to get going, so they’re not much in the mood for stopping to lick themselves.
A big advantage of coconut oil is it’s super beneficial to your dog’s skin and coat. It leaves them healthy and shining and is great at providing coat nourishment.
How to remove burrs in the field
Dog owners are not the only ones that have to deal with burrs. Horse owners have been plagued with these dreadful things also. And if you know any horse owners, you know they won’t stand for this sort of thing. They like to keep their horses looking pretty at all times.
Fortunately for us, a company that sells horse products came up with a solution for this.
Cowboy Magic is a concentrated detangler and great burr remover. Just rub some into and around the hair, and the burr slips right out.
They also have a conditioner that works similar to the oils mentioned above.
It’s not a magical fix, but if used in conjunction with trimming, it makes things a lot easier.
Another method for removing burrs that I find works really well is crushing it. I like to carry small pliers with me in the field, which proves useful in more ways than one.
I check my dogs regularly in the field before the burrs build up or become too tangled. If I find any burrs, I squeeze them with the pliers. Now that they are broken into little pieces, you will find that they are much easier to remove.
With an oily coat, the comb just slips through and removes the burrs easily. Depending on the cover we’re in, I do this more or less frequently.
A good regularity to aim for would be every 20 minutes. You might think this is excessive, but I assure you that you would spend much longer taking out tangled burrs if you don’t check so regularly.
As hunters, a dog is more than just a dog to us. We hate to see them in any discomfort.
If left in burrs can become a real problem to the dog. Not only will they knot up the hair so bad it requires a lot of shaving, but they will also rub the dog, causing sores to appear.
Trust me when I say I feel your pain. But with the methods mentioned above, I get to spend a lot more time hunting and less time picking out burrs.