If you chase upland game, percentages say that you own, will own, or want to own a four legged hunting partner. Dogs are called “man’s best friend” for a reason; we love having them around (no matter how much mischief they get into). However, there will come a few times in every dog’s life where you should make the tough decision to leave your pup at home or in the kennel.
When you’re invited on a hunt, you’re someone’s guest and you should act accordingly. If you know you’ll spend more time yelling at your dog to stay within range than you’ll spend talking with your friends, you should probably save yourself the sore throat and give your friends’ eardrums a break.
Make a game plan before you hit the fields. If you hunt over a flushing lab and you’re planning on hunting with the owner of a pointing dog, you should know if your lab is capable of honoring a point. It takes a lot of time and energy to produce a dog that points and doesn’t break. The last thing that owner wants is your lab crashing in on the bird and teaching his pointer that it’s acceptable to do the same.
In certain situations, less is more. It can actually be more beneficial for a younger dog to hunt around less birds (I know, this sounds crazy). If you take a young pup to a field that’s loaded with a hundred roosters the scent can become overwhelming and you’ll soon have a crazed ping-pong ball on your hands instead of a controlled dog that’s learning to use its nose. Therefore, bringing your new, never-hunted-before puppy along on your trip to South Dakota could be fun – but it could also cause setbacks for the future.
If your dog’s old age is starting to stir thoughts of retirement, take note of the terrain you’ll be hunting and the dog’s current capabilities. For instance, my 13 year old Labrador/German Sheppard mix couldn’t make it 100 yards while chasing pheasants without having to stop. Nonetheless, if I know I’ll be hunting smaller fields with more frequent breaks, then I’m more than glad to have my dog out in front of me.
Few things are stronger than the bond between a hunter and his or her dog. Just don’t let this bond (or your ego) get in the way of what’s best for the group and what’s best for your four legged friend.