Typically, most of the advice shared in this column has come via the courtesy of professional retriever trainers, who have far more expertise than I will ever be able to match. But on this issue — dealing with altercations between dogs and skunks, snakes and porcupines — I will match my credentials with anyone.
Call me lucky. My dogs have been skunked and quilled by porcupines more times than I can count, and although my experience with snakes has been limited to one prairie rattler, once was enough.
The best defense is to avoid these animals completely. The unfortunate truth is that you can't control a dog you can't see, and your good intentions will last just about as long as it takes your pooch to disappear from sight on a training run. Once your dog has been bitten, sprayed or quilled, however, your actions will help determine whether that run-in becomes an unpleasant learning experience or a far more serious, and possibly deadly, accident.
Early this summer, one of my dogs, a young setter, came to a wavering, half-serious point in an alfalfa field. About the time it dawned on me she was not pointing a pheasant, she jumped in and tried to toss the skunk she had cornered into the air — not once, but twice. When I finally got hold of her, her face and chest were coated with a god-awful yellow slime. Since this had happened to me many times before (I once owned a springer that got skunked twice in 45 minutes), I knew what to do.
Back home, I mixed up my never-fail skunk deodorant: one quart of hydrogen peroxide, one-quarter cup of baking soda and a squirt of liquid dish soap. I sponged it on the dog and let it soak in for a few minutes, then rinsed it off. By the time she had dried, 95 percent of the odor was gone.
I would like to take credit for the recipe, but the truth is I discovered it in my hometown newspaper. Remember those proportions: quart, quarter, squirt. This concoction works much better than tomato juice or anything else I have tried. For really tough spots, a bit of Massengill dabbed on the area and allowed to dry kills most persistent odors for a day or two. Still, no matter what you use, skunk scent will often lingers for quite some time on a wet dog.