Picking up from where I left off last week, let’s first consider obtaining a hunting dog.
I’ll assume that most hunters have selected a breed that will suit their hunting style, plan on getting a puppy, and training their own dog. If this is the case, try to pick up your puppy at seven weeks of age. When you bring the puppy home, remember that pup’s entire world has just been upended and the puppy doesn’t know you or its new surroundings.
Give your new dog a chance to adjust and time to be a puppy. Make sure the pup has lots of play time and opportunity to get to know its new family. Don’t screw this part up! Socializing your new puppy is incredibly important if you want a productive bird dog. This is your only opportunity to make the pup a member of your family.
Now let’s consider initial training. Books have been written on this subject so I can only hope to scratch the surface here. If you have never trained a bird dog, try to pick up some tips from local dog trainers and buy and read 1-2 books on training the breed you own. I still like the old classic “Gun Dog” by Richard Wolters but I have at least five dog training books on my library shelf. Begin simple training exercises when the pup reaches 10 weeks of age. Start by teaching the commands sit, stay, come, and heel for 10 minutes a day every day, and always end on a positive note. This means letting the pup chase a bird wing on a flyrod and a treat with lots of praise.
Continue with the basics until you’re sure the dog understands those commands. Once you’re over that hurdle, begin to introduce the fetch command and, for pointers, the whoa command. Your books should provide guidance on teaching these commands. Remember to always take time to practice the commands the pup has already learned. Again, make sure each training session ends on a positive note; you want your dog to bond with you and look at you as a purveyor of fun and good times! Every dog trainer has a system that works for them. I think this is one of those experiences that a person grows into. It’s part of the fun and challenge of successful dog training.
I’ve always been surprised by people that willingly fork over $1,000 or more for a pup and then complain about veterinarian costs. Dogs need regular healthcare just like people and routine care can save expenses down the road by catching potential problems early. I used to hunt with springer spaniels. This breed has an incredible hunting drive and are whirling death on pheasants, but prone to ear infections because grass awns easily work their way into the dogs’ ear canal. Several times over the years a veterinarian has saved me unnecessary expense and the dog unnecessary discomfort by finding these awns during routine checkups. Bingham County is lucky to have several great veterinarians so local dog owners don’t have to travel very far.
There are lots of potential problems waiting for an unwary dog including skunks, porcupines, snakes, fences, and sharp branches. Always carry a first aid kit for dogs. Although folks seem to focus on the “horrors” of a dog sprayed by a skunk, this is not a very serious problem. Porcupines pose a far greater threat and unless you know what you’re doing, a porky encounter means a quick trip to the nearest veterinarian.
Dog ownership requires great responsibility but comes with great rewards. When you obtain a gun dog you are also getting your best friend. Treat the dog accordingly.