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Brandon Currin

Survival Skills to Master with Your Dog

Survival Skills to Master with Your Dog

One of the first (and possibly toughest) decisions you’ll need to make when building your bugout bag and creating a plan for a SHTF scenario is whether or not your dog will be joining you.

Your pooch is part of the family. We’ve all seen I Am Legend, so we know having a dog can keep us sane at times. Keeping your dog during uncertain times isn’t impossible, nor is it frowned upon -- it just requires a little extra prep on your end. But we’ve got you covered.

First off, here are some things you’ll need to do to prepare your dog for a survival situation:

Make a dog-out bag. You’ll need a solid backpack, preferably the color of your dog. Just like in your own bug-out bag, include the following items:

  • Dog food packs
  • Water
  • Thermal blanket
  • Collar and leash
  • Dog toys
  • Collapsible, durable dog bowls for food and water
  • Water purification tools
  • Rope
  • Pet first aid kit


    Store plenty of food. Even if your dog is a hunter, you’ll still want to store. Stockpile plenty of kibble -- the same kind your dog is used to eating now. Buy it in bulk and store in food grade buckets. And don’t forget treats. You’ll want to keep incentives in order to continue training and rewarding your dog.

    Next, here are some vital skills you can teach your dog in order to increase the chance of survival for both of you:

    Be quiet. If you’re hiding out and can’t afford to give up your location, your dog should be trained to be silent on command. The best type of command for this is a basic hand command -- ideally, this will ensure neither of you will make any noise. Use this command consistently, and use treats for obeying as you train. This is where having a stockpile of treats in your dog-out bag will come in handy.

    Hunt. While some breeds are naturally better than others at hunting, most can be taught to fetch. Train your dog to fetch what you’ve taken down, or train him to pick up a trail and lead you toward food. This requires a lot of training, but can pay off big time when SHTF. Even consider professional training if you’re really concerned. While we’re here, it’s also a good idea to familiarize your dog with the sound of gunshots and other loud noises. The less spooked he gets, the calmer he’ll be in a survival situation. You don’t want the added concern of losing your dog when you’re already fighting for survival.

    Protect. Having a dog around in a survival situation can greatly increase your chance of survival. Your dog’s main purpose in life is to protect you and your family. Train him when to attack and when to stand down with a single word command. This can give you the time you need to escape or find a weapon to take down your opponent. He can also alert you if an unknown visitor approaches. Train him when to speak on command and to speak in the event of an intruder. This can also help alert someone of your location if you’re awaiting rescue.

    Rescue. It’s easy to lose a member of your family or bug-out party amidst all the chaos of a situation like this. But train your dog in search and rescue, and you’ll have a better chance of keeping your party together. This training should be started at a very young age as it’s pretty complicated. Train by dropping a piece of clothing with another person’s scent and walk 10 to 20 feet ahead, dropping treats along the way. Have the other person hide, then show the dog the piece of clothing. Use a command like “find,” and show him how to follow the treats and the scent to the other person. Reward him with more treats (of course). Eventually, begin using less and less treats, and have the other person hide in more and more places that are difficult to find.

    Of course, you may have some extra training to do if your dog isn’t obedient or is overly protective, fearful, or excited. But investing the time and money now can help save your life later. Plus, having an obedient dog who can do tricks on command is pretty cool these days.

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