It’s officially been thirty years; I can still remember my first bird dog…she was a German Shorthair that went by the name of Gypsy. I had a few less proper names that I called her during those first training years. I have to say right up front that most of the issue was mine and not hers but what would you expect from a 21 year old who had grown up shooting rabbits behind a mess of beagles?
As a puppy she lived in the apartment-the one that didn’t allow pets! I smuggled her into the place beneath a laundry basket and I am quite sure that a squiggling mess of clothes that whimpered had to be a big red flag to most folks…but to their credit, no one turned us in.
Clearly Gypsy taught me much more than I imparted to her. She might just have been the wildest, most outlandish dog that I have owned in my 30 years. Guess it was good to start out with the one that was going to push all the buttons than to ease into it. I moved to Wyoming the fall after Gypsy and I became a pair and I can still clearly remember sitting on a rock/ledge that overlooked Poison Spider Creek just west of Casper, Wyoming; Gypsy did everything full bore and this time was no different. I caught a glimpse of her as she approached me at the speed of sound and then launched about 15 feet down into the creek that was below. Here is where I’d love to tell you she splashed softly into a pool of clear trout water…but the truth is it looked more like a scene from a wild western where the buffalo jump off a cliff to their death. I was by myself and much younger, I vaulted off the ledge after her knowing that upon getting to her she would be dead! I hit, rolled and popped up to have her meet me face to face just as if to say, “Where you been”?
Fast forward to a year ago and I was once again in hot pursuit of a bird dog puppy. Many of you might remember back to a couple articles where I described the purchase of and the falling in love with a male German-Wirehaired Pointer by the name of Pappi. Me and this shaggy little dog did about everything together this past year; we even made it all the way to North Dakota where I shot his first ever wild rooster pheasant over him. To say that I was a proud-papa that day would be quite the understatement as I was beaming; it was a glorious ND day…sunshine was abundant and the air temperature was near perfect for Pappi and I to take a long walk together. The culmination was a weed patch full of cattle…and one wily pheasant that the pup bumbled into; I sent him packing with a load of copper 4’s.
July 5th marked a one year birthday for my long-haired friend and lots of changes have come and gone in this first year. Pappi, I am proud to say, has turned into one stunning specimen. He is 60 pounds of muscle with a rather quirky personality to go along with it. I have had lots and lots of bird dogs-some very special, some that can never be replaced; Pappi has made his way into my all-time favorite list…and did so in less than a year.
So, here we are, the two of us, still spending lots of time together and trying to put the finishing touches upon his bird-dog-abilities. It sure helps that he has a very high IQ; the problem comes in matching this ability to think with his naturally bred instincts. As I once read in a very poignant outdoor article…it takes birds to produce and finish a good bird dog. You can’t print colored photos of quail and pheasants, then just tape them up in the field and expect a pup to become steady. Just like with many facets of life, experience is by far the best teacher; thus I am in the process of teaching Pappi to point (the easy part) and then hold his point (the very hard part) for an extended period of time.
If you’ve never been involved with this task, it can be both exhilarating and intensely frustrating in the same minute. As a trainer you are walking a fine line whereby you want to keep the passion and drive that pup has for the bird…yet reign this in and ask him to point (not chase) the bird until you, the trainer, enter the scene, then flush the bird. I don’t have close to the amount of space here to explain the numbers of hours spent on obedience prior to this point but suffice it to say that it is sort of like owning dairy cattle…they have to milked each day and pup has to have positive interaction each day…pure and simple, there is no short cut to the process.
To watch a video of Pappi’s training session, click here.
If I were being asked to bet on Pappi; well let’s just say that I’d bet the house that he is going to be a great bird dog…only time however, will tell. As you can see from the photo today, Pappi is pointing (and temporarily holding) a pigeon…and this leads me to a short request; if you have a barn or feed lot that has pigeons…and you wouldn’t mind me trapping and removing a few of them-give me a shout out at my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). We, me and Pappi, would be very grateful.
While it is July and quite hot, November and bird season is just around the corner; you can bet your bottom dollar that Pappi and I will be out cruising ‘hill and dale’ as we Enjoy the Great Outdoors.