A Case for Crating

The right restraint can save a dog's life

© Ben Potter

This content is brought to you by Gunner Kennels as part of the Sporting Dog Spring Training Program.

By Addison Edmonds

When I was in college I got a dog who would change my life: Gunner, a chocolate lab who absolutely lives to retrieve. He turned 10 this year and the past couple seasons I’ve thought might have been his last, but his drive won’t let him quit. You can bet I’ll be preparing him for his 11th season this spring.

Gunner has retrieved thousands of birds over his career, but that might not have been the case if a couple of situations had gone slightly different. Here’s the story.

Gunner’s been my wing-man from the get go and we spent a lot of time running up and down the Mississippi Delta in his early years. When we weren’t looking for the next good hunt we were training for it. Those were long days and we put some major wear on the gear we used – including the flimsy plastic crates I kept having to replace for Gunner.

It was always a different issue with those crates I tried…it would crack, or it would roll over while driving, or Gunner would figure out the latch system himself and break out. On more than one occasion I looked up in my rearview mirror to see Gunner staring at me, loose back there in the truck bed. One particular morning I was taking a sharp turn off the highway when I noticed the crate tip over.

I went back there to make sure Gunner was okay. He was shaken up and I could tell he was mad – I was too. What was the point of putting him in a dog box if it wasn’t performing its core function? All that I had invested in Gunner—time, money, and emotion—was at risk because his crate wasn’t doing its job. He might as well ride in the front seat, which I already knew was a big safety risk. I wanted as many seasons with Gunner as I could get, so I decided to do something about it.

As I began researching to build the first Gunner Kennels, I realized that my personal experience was indicative of a much greater, industry wide safety issue that needed addressing. The pet products industry is pretty unregulated with little-to-no oversight when it comes to safety – products claiming they are crash tested really have no accountability to their claims. Dogs traveling in products that had been marketed as “safe” were actually at risk with potentially fatal results. I uncovered dozens of personal stories of dogs who died in vehicle accidents and found unnerving statistics: one AAA/Ford study stated 100,000 dogs die or are injured each year falling from pickup trucks. Another AAA survey found that though nearly 85 percent of owners travel with their dogs, only 16 percent of them use some form of restraint. That's over 75 million dogs in the U.S. at risk, if my math is correct. And finally, in a vehicle accident going only 35 mph, an unrestrained 60-pound dog can become a 2,700-pound force projectile. That means serious injury for your dog and probably your passengers, too.

Addison and Gunner

Photo © Patrick "Buzz" Hayes

After nearly two years of working with engineers and designers, and administering intensive crash testing (both our own and through third-parties), we released the original G1™ kennel. It is designed specifically for safety, with features I knew the invested gundog owner needed. We decided early on to do things the right way – we weren’t going to cut corners on quality of materials or processes, even if it did hurt our bottom line. I set out to build the best and strongest kennel on the market and if I couldn’t deliver on that, then we might as well not do it at all.

Our kennel is the only double-wall rotomolded crate on the market, and that extra layer serves up big impact – the construction and the advanced door system are the two big reasons it earned the Center For Pet Safety’s only 5 Star Crash Test rating for a crate.

Yeah, the G1™ is over-engineered but it’s not for the fun of it – it’s for the well-being of your dog. Think about it: you’re spending all of this time and energy preparing your dog for the upcoming season. You make countless decisions, carefully thinking through every factor that sets the two of you up to succeed. Why leave your dog’s safety in a vehicle up to chance?

We’re a few years into selling the G1™ and we’ve had dozens of people reach out to us saying that a Gunner kennel actually did save their K9’s life. Here’s just a few from the past year that make a stronger case for using the right crate:

● One guy hit a patch of black ice and T-boned another truck, before wrapping his around a power pole. The impact broke the truck bed structure in half and caved in the back corner of the bed. The G1™ Large was the first point of impact, where a 1-year-old pup was riding. That same lab picked up an 8 man limit the very next day.

● A couple was cresting a hill at 60 mph when they slammed into a car traveling perpendicular to the highway. Their truck rolled twice and landed on its roof. Their gun dog was protected in his G1™ Intermediate in the bed. He was safe and unharmed in the crate, which had absorbed the full impact of the rollover and still remained strapped to the vehicle. The door did not even break open.

● A guide was on a scouting trip when a semi-truck smashed into the back of his truck, right into the bed where his  1-year-old springer spaniel was riding in a G1™. The impact spun the Tacoma into a nearby bank and launched his kennel 30-40 feet. The dog was shaken up but unharmed – we got a report that he finished out his first waterfowl season strong.

There are more stories like these, and if you’re interested you can read them here. Personal testimonies make a bigger statement than my lecturing ever could.

Here’s my point: you’ll be loading up your dog(s) to shuttle it (or him/her) from one spot to another this upcoming season. Protect your best friend and investment. Be intentional about crating him and you’ll have plenty of training/hunting seasons to make memories together for many years to come.