It’s that time of year . . . no, obviously not spring, but puppy season. Last spring, I brought home my second bird dog pup and found the experience much easier the second go-round. Consequently, let me offer seven simple tips I’ve found valuable between dogs one and two.
1. The “Go Potty” Command. I whole-heartedly believe obedience training is the foundation to a good bird dog. Heel, stay, and come are as invaluable in the field as they are in the house. However, one of the most often-overlooked commands is “Go Potty.” On sub-zero winter days, at the end of long drives, or in the middle of the night, my dogs will do their business on command and I can get out of the cold or back to sleep much quicker than my hunting partners who have to wait for their pups to sniff out and circle the perfect spot.
2. Take Photos. Your puppy will grow faster than you can possibly imagine and will never ever be as cute as he/she was yesterday. Carry a camera and use it.
3. A Puppy Partner. Owning and training a bird dog is a ton of work. Work much easier to accomplish with the help of a spouse, sibling, or friend. Whether its morning potty duty, the work conference call you just can’t get away from or the vacation from responsibility we all need from time to time, a partner lightens the load. While I blog and take public credit for my two pup’s proficiency in the field, I owe a lot of their success to my wife, Meredith’s, consistency in training commands and overall assistance in the process.
4. The “Yard” Command. Given the choice, I’d live on a hundred acres in the country with no neighbors within earshot. However, like most folks these days, I’m trapped in the concrete jungle of suburbia on a one-acre lot with neighbors that would prefer my dogs not visit their manicured lawns. Consequently, my bird dog pups also learned the boundaries of our residence and the command to stay within our property-taxed borders through the single word “Yard.”
5. For Crying out loud, Go Hunting! So many new puppy owners are reluctant to take their new pup hunting because of fear their dog will screw up a hunt for others. Any hunter worth their salt knows there is no better recipe to their long-term success than the addition of a good new bird dog to the mix. A busted bird here or there in year one is a small price to pay for a decade of improved hunts as a result of a pup getting a snout full of feathers early on in the development process. Get your new puppy in the field. THERE IS NOTHING BETTER FOR YOU, YOUR HUNTING PARTNERS & YOUR PUP!
6. A Name is Important. I harp on this seemingly every six months. Choose a name that represents who you are, is easy to command and doesn’t add to confusion in the field because the other three dogs are also named after your buddies’ favorite brand of shotgun.
7. Be Patient. You’ll hear this from every person giving advice about dogs, every video you watch on the subject or every book ever penned by a professional dog trainer. Like people, every puppy learns at a different pace and will struggle with different things compared to other people’s dogs or other dogs you’ve owned in the past. Know this as FACT going in and embrace that there will be times that INFURIATE you in the moment. Know also that those moments of furry will also make you laugh down the road . . . maybe a year or more . . . but, eventually you’ll smile about the furry.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever's Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre. You can also catch Bob on FAN Outdoors radio every Saturday morning on KFAN at FM100.3.