Andrew Vavra

Andrew Vavra is the marketing specialist at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s national headquarters. Born and bred in Minnesota, he's a passionate sportsman who appreciates the thrills (and chills) that come with hunting, fishing and camping in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Posts about Dogs

Bird Dog’s Brush with Law

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: May 27, 2011 - 8:36 AM

More days than not, I wake up in the morning and throw my dog, Beau, in the back of my old SUV and head to work. There are numerous studies that state having a dog around the workplace greatly improves employees’ morale and productivity, but I drag around the mutt for a much more selfish reason:  I want her to hit the fields running this fall, and lunch-break training sessions at the local park are a great way to accomplish this without giving up much free time.

Sounds like a great idea, right? I thought so too.

Recently, Beau and I rolled into the park’s lot and I put on her e-collar, slipped a lead over her neck and walked to the far end of the property to partake in another uneventful retrieving session, or so we thought.

About 10 minutes into practicing remote releases and the “whoa” command, a city police officer drove up the walking path and parked 20 yards away from us.

ME: Can I help you, Officer?

Officer: How’s it going? Do you know having your dog off leash here is against city ordinance?

ME: To be honest, yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me, but we’re 500 yards away from anyone and she has an e-collar on.

Officer: I see that, but that doesn’t count as a leash and I could write you a ticket. We’ll just consider this a warning, but other officers might not be as lenient.

ME: What about that spaniel I saw walking around with its leash dragging on the ground behind him?

Officer: Technically, it’s on a leash.

ME: You’ve got to be kidding me.

Officer: (Deadpan stare)

He wasn’t kidding me.

Many bird dog owners and their companions face similar “space” challenges. Are you an urban or suburban bird dog owner? Have you had trouble finding unrestricted areas to train, or gotten in trouble training your dog in a public area?

As for me, next time maybe I’ll just let Beau drag a 3 foot lead around…

 

Beau patiently waiting for her release from Dog-atraz.

Beau patiently waiting for her release from Dog-atraz.

 

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

The Uncertainty of Using Bark Collars

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: May 3, 2011 - 9:33 AM

 

 

Two people and a 14-month old yellow lab living in a 1,000 square foot apartment isn’t necessarily ideal, but that’s exactly the situation my pup, Beau, and I will find ourselves in at the end of the month when we move into a new apartment. But this certainly isn’t a “woe is me” rant because in reality, most people don’t have the luxury of owning their own home and letting their dogs run free upon countless acres of woods and prairies. For the majority of us, city-living with bird dogs is as real as it gets.

There’s a whole host of issues when it comes to shacking up with a pooch in a big city. Everything from finding adequate training grounds to locating a bag of rawhides can be an adventure, but nothing has me waiting with as much anticipation as watching how Beau copes with the noise, or more accurately, how my neighbors deal with hers.

She’s not a loud dog by any means, but Beau knows she has a voice and isn’t afraid to use it. Will she bark at the sound of passing footsteps in the hallway? Will she whine every time I leave her alone in the apartment? Only time (and neighbors) will tell, but I’ve already thought of purchasing a bark collar just in case. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the idea of using one.

Call me soft, but is it fair to strip a dog of its voice? It just seems a bit unnatural to have a dog that doesn’t bark to be let out of a kennel before the hunt, or one who doesn’t whine just a bit when you stop scratching its favorite spot. After all, I bought a Lab, not a Basenji.

When it’s all said and done, I’ll have to see how vocal she is in this new setting and then make the appropriate decision. But until then, what’s your experience with bark collars? Have you used them? If so, did it have any negative effects on your pup?

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

Man vs. Dog

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: March 15, 2011 - 4:35 PM

 

It’s my belief that the best dog trainers have an unspoken form of communication with their dogs. Whether going through conditioning exercises or hitting the fields after feathered foe, their brains almost seem to work on similar wave lengths as they display an uncanny ability to be on the same page. Now I’m not suggesting that to be a great trainer you must also have the mental capacity of Harlan Pepper from “Best in Show,” but perhaps the phrase “keep it simple” isn’t so stupid after all.

As a younger dog trainer, it can be somewhat frustrating to see the ease of success other more experienced trainers have and I’ve come to the conclusion that their ability to train dogs is wholly dependent upon their skill to think like a dog and to know how a dog sees the world and the challenges set before them.

Therefore, to help me begin “thinking like a dog” I’ve started writing down various scenarios and what I’m thinking versus what I believe my dog is thinking:

Retrieving Bumpers in the Yard:

(ME): The neighbors are outside watching… please just return this to hand and don’t make me look like a fool…

(Beau): Ooooh! People! Do they have treats? I smell treats.

(ME): Crud.

 

Working the “Stay” Command at Longer Distances:

(ME): Ok, here we need to simulate me sneaking up on a duck slough and then releasing her after shots are fired.

(Beau): Ok, if I just slowly creep up on my belly every time he turns his back he’ll never know I’m moving…

(ME): She's lucky she's so damn cute.

 

Missing a Shot in the Field and Inadvertently Practicing the “No Bird” Command:

(ME): #&*@!

(Beau): #&*@!

As you can see, at least we’re on the same page when it comes to one thing. It’s a start.

The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra.

 

 

 

When both handler and dog are in sync, it's a beautiful thing.

When both handler and dog are in sync, it's a beautiful thing.

Changing of the Guards

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: May 7, 2010 - 10:53 AM

 During the summer months - At precisely 11:30am - a very popular spectacle can be witnessed outside of England’s Buckingham Palace: the changing of the guards. Lasting roughly 30 minutes, weary guards are swapped out for fresh bodies with greater precision than a Swiss watch. Surrounded by pomp and circumstance, tourists can be seen snapping photos and admiring the scene before moving on to another source of entertainment. Over the past week it has become clear to me that Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place to observe this symbolic change.
 
 Since I was nine years old I’ve been lucky enough to have the same hunting dog by my side. Always retrieving ducks and pheasants with unwavering enthusiasm, her past 14 years have been filled with fond memories and funny moments that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. However, this past season she made one thing clear: she wanted to collect her 401K and was ready to pass the torch on to another deserving pup.
 
 Coming to the realization that your best friend is no longer physically able to keep up with you is a heart breaking one and my only resolution was to simply get a puppy. Pushing away any thoughts of betrayal and hoping that my old wonder-mutt would be able to teach the new dog a few tricks, I made a phone call. At the other end was Justin of Hunters Point Kennel in Marshalltown, Iowa and a few months later I had a beautiful yellow Lab puppy in my arms. 
 

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

 Her name is Beau and she’s been with me for exactly one week.Full of energy, enthusiasm and bold as can be, she’s exactly what I wanted out of a puppy. In time I’m sure my old friend will take a liking to her (once Beau leaves her tail alone) and I’ll be able to throw doubles off the front porch for them. But until then, I’m just going to take note of the wise old sage watching the puppy from a distance and remember the past while looking forward to the future.
 
 Every year this happens in households all across the country. There are no bands playing, no one is marching in step and neighbors don’t need a guide book to understand what is going on. This is the way our old hunting dogs would want it. They’ve dedicated themselves to doing our will and putting smiles on our faces and the only thing they want from this “changing of the guard” is a pat on the head, a spot by the fireplace and the feeling that they’ve done a good job. However, a retirement fund full of raw hides and tennis balls doesn’t hurt either.
 

 

Changing of the Guards

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: May 7, 2010 - 10:53 AM

 During the summer months - At precisely 11:30am - a very popular spectacle can be witnessed outside of England’s Buckingham Palace: the changing of the guards. Lasting roughly 30 minutes, weary guards are swapped out for fresh bodies with greater precision than a Swiss watch. Surrounded by pomp and circumstance, tourists can be seen snapping photos and admiring the scene before moving on to another source of entertainment. Over the past week it has become clear to me that Buckingham Palace isn’t the only place to observe this symbolic change.
 
 Since I was nine years old I’ve been lucky enough to have the same hunting dog by my side. Always retrieving ducks and pheasants with unwavering enthusiasm, her past 14 years have been filled with fond memories and funny moments that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. However, this past season she made one thing clear: she wanted to collect her 401K and was ready to pass the torch on to another deserving pup.
 
 Coming to the realization that your best friend is no longer physically able to keep up with you is a heart breaking one and my only resolution was to simply get a puppy. Pushing away any thoughts of betrayal and hoping that my old wonder-mutt would be able to teach the new dog a few tricks, I made a phone call. At the other end was Justin of Hunters Point Kennel in Marshalltown, Iowa and a few months later I had a beautiful yellow Lab puppy in my arms. 
 

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

HPK's Double Curl "Beau" checking out her new home.

 Her name is Beau and she’s been with me for exactly one week.Full of energy, enthusiasm and bold as can be, she’s exactly what I wanted out of a puppy. In time I’m sure my old friend will take a liking to her (once Beau leaves her tail alone) and I’ll be able to throw doubles off the front porch for them. But until then, I’m just going to take note of the wise old sage watching the puppy from a distance and remember the past while looking forward to the future.
 
 Every year this happens in households all across the country. There are no bands playing, no one is marching in step and neighbors don’t need a guide book to understand what is going on. This is the way our old hunting dogs would want it. They’ve dedicated themselves to doing our will and putting smiles on our faces and the only thing they want from this “changing of the guard” is a pat on the head, a spot by the fireplace and the feeling that they’ve done a good job. However, a retirement fund full of raw hides and tennis balls doesn’t hurt either.
 

 

      

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