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
- SKID PLATE: The Skid Plate protects your dog’s chest, stomach, and side areas that are hardest hit when in the field! The Skid Plate is a commercial grade chest protector that will prevent both injuries to your dog and costly visits to the veterinarian.
- MATERIAL: Made with two layers of water resistant 1000 denier Cordura nylon. Adjustable strap system made of rugged nylon webbing with quick release buckles.
- TRUSTED: Recommended by veterinarians to protect post-surgical wounds. Used by hunters and trainers for it's optimal mobility, visibility and durability.
- MENDOTA GUARANTEE: Mendota's gear for dogs is built to last, we guarantee it for the life of your pet.
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
- BROWNING | Since 1878, Browning has continued to represent "The Best There Is" in firearms and outdoor products
- DURABLE CONSTRUCTION | Constructed from a lightweight water and tear resistant fabric. Protective chest plate provides your dog with protection against sticks and rocks while still offering flexibility for comfort and ease movement
- ADJUSTABLE FIT | This vest is designed with a trimmable chest area for a more precise fit. Hook and loop neoprene straps with neoprene padding offer optimum comfort and
- HIGH VISIBILITY | Bright Hunter Orange with reflective accents ensures high visibility in low lighting
- SIZE | Medium: Fits dogs 35-65 lbs., 14"-18" Neck, 19"-26" Waist, 22"- 30" Chest | Large: Fits dogs 55-85 lbs., 17"-22" Neck, 21"-28" Waist, 25"- 33" Chest
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
- NO TWO DOGS ARE THE SAME - Don’t guess on the size. Use the size chart along with the “Measuring Your Dog” size guide. The chest measurement is the most important for the Worker Vest
- USES – The Worker Vest is a light, high-visibility vest for outdoor activities and hunting where being able to identify your dog is a must. The vest also has attachment loops around the neck for a GPS collar
- DURABLE - The belly flap is made of durable Cordura fabric to protect your dog when moving in the woods or fields, where there is a risk that branches may scratch the belly and chest. (this area can be trimmed to custom fit your dog)
- MATERIAL - The weatherproof Houndtex material is durable and does not rustle in use. The vest is also lined with a soft, mesh like fabric for breathability
- SAFETY - The back of the vest has zip fastening with a locking mechanism on the slider that prevents the zipper from opening when the dog moves. The snug fit makes the vest ergonomic and safe
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
- 3-Layer Construction - The unique 3-layer construction of the upper material consists of 3mm neoprene gives a next to "skin" for warmth and comfort
- Increased Protection - Built with a thin layer of foam for added flotation, and an outer layer of heavy-duty canvas for protection from brush and briers
- Designed for Perfection - Features 5mm neoprene throughout the chest for flexibility and warmth, and a sturdy braided handle to help you buddy back in the blind
- Comfortable and Mobile - This vest has a more athletic cut around the neck and between the front legs to provide better mobility without rubbing and bunching
- Rig'Em Right - Producers of the most well-designed and well-built products, tried and tested by the most heavily seasoned waterfowlers on the planet. Our gear consistently dominates the category for sales and performance
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
- 3mm neoprene
- Heavy-duty zipper and cold-weather pull tab
- Velcro torso Adjuster and neoprene zipper Protector
- Tapered design provides maximum body coverage
- Double bar-tacked seams for customizing
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
- BROWNING: Since 1878; Browning has continued to represent "The Best There Is" in hunting and outdoor products
- QUALITY MATERIALS | 5mm neoprene fabric featuring authentic Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades Camo promotes enhanced warmth while a flexible chest plate provides added protection from rocks and sticks
- TRIM-TO-FIT | Vests are designed to be trimmed in common friction areas for improved comfort and personalized size
- ADJUSTABLE | Straps across the back and side are adjustable with release buckle closures for added security
- SIZE | Medium Vests fit best on 45-55 lb. dogs that fall within the following measurements: Neck 15"-19" | Chest 22"-26" | Waist 20"-23"
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).