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Wed, 31 May 2017 07:19:59 EDT
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If you have been considering it, early summer is the perfect time to get a dog.
By Tom Lounsbury
The definition of “puppy love” relates to a short term youthful infatuation, but I also believe it truly relates directly to puppies. No matter the breed, purebred or mixed, all puppies are cute and cuddly. Due to their natural canine nature, they will quickly bond to new owners and readily fit into the family “pack” (in the pup’s eyes). That short term youthful infatuation is reality when you consider a dog’s lifetime, which on the average is only a little over a decade long. In a relatively short time span, a puppy is suddenly an adolescent and before you know it, an adult dog then all too soon, an old dog.
A prime example is my Labrador Retriever Ebony, who was a little black ball of fur at 8 weeks old when she joined our household. Her favorite place from the start of course, is in my lap whenever I’m in my easy chair. In six short months, she took up all the lap-space, and 11 years later, beset with arthritis now, she still approaches my chair, gives me her typical wanton look, and fully appreciates my assistance in climbing aboard (according to my wife Ginny, Ebony and I are connected with an umbilical cord).
Ebony is a prime example of how quickly it seems, a puppy not all that long ago is suddenly an old dog, but for a fact dogs have the ability to pack a lot of fine memories due to their natural loyalty and devotion, into that relatively short timeframe. Thanks to growing up on a Thumb area farm, I’ve had a lifetime experience shared with dogs as far back as I can remember, and today, it seems like an endless list of canine friends, but I remember each, and appreciate the time we shared as “pack-mates” (people often tend to relate to dogs in human terms, when dogs actually relate to humans in purely canine terms - something which should be realized from the start).
I truly dislike the term “dumb animals”, because it certainly doesn’t apply to dogs which are truly intelligent, possess a keen sense of humor (I truly believe dogs have their own unique way of smiling, and even laughing) and display a whole range of emotions which are easily recognizable. It is this intelligence and devoted loyalty factor which makes the dog the most important and longest human/animal relationship that goes back eons through time. The important role dogs play in our lives today is an endless list.
Being a farm kid, my first experiences were with farm collies being used to herd our dairy cows. For my third birthday, my grandparents gave me a terrier pup, which was my constant companion all the way until I was high school age (I have ever since had a soft spot for terriers, one is lying beside my lap as I write this). I also feel blessed to have been a farm kid during the Thumb’s pheasant heyday of the 1950’s and witnessing the annual pilgrimage of visiting pheasant hunters bringing their bird dogs of just about any hunting breed you can think of (the only exception being some Old World breeds turning up these days, which I think is great). I got to see firsthand how the different breeds performed in the field (our farm collies weren’t bad either, in pursuing roosters - in fact one pheasant hunter tried to buy our farm dog, but we weren’t into selling “family”).
My first true hunting breed experience was an English Pointer pup that was given to us when I was 9 years old, and I named him “Ajax” because he was nearly solid white, except for some red freckles on his ears. This would be the beginning of my training a hunting dog from “scratch”, and I learned a whole lot about proper genetics per a pure hunting breed being a very distinct asset. When the proper genetics are there, the training, well folks, it is actually not all that difficult and I’ve never looked upon myself as being an expert dog trainer. I do believe in training dogs “my way”, whether or not that floats the boat of anyone else.
A case in point is when I was contacted by a person who wanted to know what dog trainer I would recommend for his six month old Brittany. I asked if he took the dog for regular walks and if it stayed relatively close, and he responded an affirmative. I then asked if the dog came to him whenever he called, and he responded another affirmative. I then told him to simply take the dog hunting, and I recommended a hunting preserve to get things rolling in a more controlled manner (it is good to be sure when gunfire is involved, to have a bird tumbling down for an excited dog the first time - and it is what I refer to as being a ”made dog”). The person got back to me a year later, and let me know he appreciated my advice, as he had a great hunting dog.
Like I said, I’m no expert dog trainer, but I know what works for me in doing it my way. For those with little time or inclination to training a hunting dog, I do highly recommend having an expert dog trainer getting the ball rolling, at least in the early stages. It is not wise simply to count on good genetics, and expect miracles without any effort in regards to training, and especially the ability to literally communicate with a hunting dog.
An old wives tale which really annoys me is that turning a hunting dog into a family pet and having it become a “house dog” will ruin it for hunting in the field, I guess due to the dog becoming some sort of “pansy”. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the family “house dog” has a continual association with its human pack-mates, and therefore a strong bond and communication level is very naturally well established. I’ve seen horrific examples in the field where the dog’s only attention other than hunting season was obviously being fed and watered, and basically isolated from any interaction.
Something not a wives tale is the ”Alpha” factor, something dogs readily recognize in their terms and respect. This means the human is the pack leader, and not the other way around. The “Dog Whisperer” TV show is a prime example of this fact, and clearly describes the problems created when humans start assuming dogs think in human terms, which is truly confusing for the dog.
For those of you possibly considering getting a dog, especially a hunting breed, I highly recommend early summer as being a great timeframe for picking out a puppy. If matters are properly handled during typical warmer weather, that pup could readily be taking its first steps as a hunting dog when the fall season arrives (I will always remember my Brittany “Beau” at 5 months old, retrieving his first wild rooster pheasant he had just pointed and the bird in his mouth seemed nearly as big as him).
I personally don’t wish to separate a puppy from its mother and littermates until it is at least 8 weeks old. The pack mentality begins at birth, with a puppy dealing with its littermates, and establishing a natural order. There are other wives tales about the biggest puppy in the litter as being the ”hind teat” dog, and therefore the strongest and most aggressive, and the “runt” always being the toughest.
If I had a choice in the matter, I wouldn’t pick out a pup until it is 3 months old to get a true picture of character, whether it is the biggest or smallest in the litter, but the usual case is picking a puppy out a few weeks sooner than that, and truthfully I’ve never had any problems doing so especially when good (proper) training from the start is in the picture.
Having sold puppies in the past, I have noticed a lot of folks are into the “paint-job”, in regards to color and markings for their first choice, which is fine if that is a priority. For me personally, I like to take the time to watch how a puppy interacts with its littermates and with the paint-job being the least consideration. Getting a little history on both parents of the litter is also quite helpful. Certain breeds have what is known as show dog or hunting dog lines, and I prefer a pup with hunting lines, as it ups the odds on the end result. However that doesn’t mean a show dog can’t hunt or a hunting dog can’t be shown by any means.
Also don’t rule out crossbreds (I dislike the term mongrel - a good look into my heritage would make me a mongrel) as I have seen some outstanding hunting dogs which were crossbreeds, and I have owned a few. A friend I pheasant hunt with has a young English Setter/Labrador Retriever crossbred he calls his “Settadore”, and it is a natural born bird dog to the core (in fact I told my friend I would adopt his dog into my family in an instant - it’s a great pooch).
It is also wise to always remember official paperwork in regards to a registered hunting breed, while assuring good bloodlines and possible potential, is in reality only paper if proper training is not involved. There is a whole lot more to the creation/development of a true hunting dog.
I have also learned that if your present hunting dog is reaching a point past its prime, it is probably a good idea to get a puppy to keep matters going, primarily because the older dog can be an ideal tutor in the field for the younger dog (one of my training “secrets”). There is nothing that can quite duplicate a seasoned old dog teaching a young dog some new tricks because it is a natural part of the canine world.
If you are into getting a dog, the puppy love time has arrived.
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Tom Lounsbury and his Labrador Retriever Ebony relaxing together in the
easy chair after a full day of pheasant hunting.
Anyone who thinks "lap-dogs" can't hunt doesn't know very much at all about