• Introducing Dogs to Water

    Golden Retriever introduction to water Golden Retriever Introduction to water

    Golden Retriever Swimming

    The warm weather is coming, time to get your puppy out and introduce her to water. With proper introduction, most dogs will love the water, especially the retrievers and longer coated dogs. There are all sorts of ways to introduce your dog to water, all depending on what type of waterbody you have at hand. The key is to check any aprehension you may have; make crossing or swimming the water seem as a routine thing. I usually try to introduce puppies to water between three and five months, provided the weather is warm enough. Warm weather is important, because you want your dog to have a good experience. I usually just put on the hip boots and wade out into the water and call the dog along. They’ll hesitate at the shoreline, pawing the water, but usually following before too long.

    If reluctant, I pick them up, being careful not to give the impression I’m chasing or threatening (just routinely picking them up, as if I were putting them back in the crate as usual). Then, I carry them out and set them in the water where it’s deep enough to get their belly wet. For a timid dog, usually this is enough, just getting wet. If not, next time carry them a bit deeper and then deeper still.

    Another way is to use a favorite toy, stick, or retrieving bumper and toss it close enough that they really want it, but just far enough to make them swim. A lot of times, I’ll cross the water and call them and get them to swim across to me. Yet another way is to get out when it is really hot and run the dog for a ways until they are hot and they realize just how good it feels to get all the way in and cool off.

    Anyway you do it, make it fun.

    Puppy Introduction to Water

    I love to swim with the dogs, you just have to watch out for their nails. When they swim, they splay out their toes and their nails are in max scratch mode and will leave nice tracks down your chest, legs or back. As they come close, just gently divert them to the side.

  • Force Fetching

    Force Fecthing a German Shorthaired Pointer

    I am often asked if I think someone should “force fetch” their gun dog as a matter of standard training (even if their particular breed, or individual dog loves to retrieve). My answer is yes. Along with making the retrieve a command, it can do a lot of others things for the dog, like boost their confidence, soften a hard mouth, establish a solid platform for more advanced training, plus it makes for polished, classy field work. Without a doubt, you can take them through the force fetch training and maintain and even strengthen their passion for retrieving.

    Above is a photo of a wonderful, big running German short-haired pointer named Rat during the force fetch training. If a dog is willing to hold this ugly, uncomfortable metal sprinkler, he will hold anything.

  • To Collar or Not

    Lab puppies

    This is not something I have given much thought to until someone specifically asked me the question, “is it safer to have a collar on your dog or not?” I have always had a collar on my dogs and thought that was just how it should be. So I gave this some serious thought. This person’s argument was that it was safer not to have a collar on the dog, in case the dog was swimming and got a foot up through the collar, or was hunting wide and got the collar caught on a limb or a fence.

    Here are my thoughts on the matter. If your dog was a farm dog out in Arthur County, Nebraska he may not need a collar (trust me, this is some empty country, beautiful, but empty). Otherwise, dogs need collars in today’s world. Here are a few reasons why: First, a collar acts as a handle on the dog. Often times you need to get a hold of the dog, when a truck is zipping by, when you encounter a rattlesnake, meet another hunting party with dogs in the field, or any other myriad of other things you encounter. Without a collar, people end up grabbing the dog’s tail, a handful of skin, or other inhumane and less effective methods.

    Second, a collar on a dog says that it is someone’s and not a stray. A collar on a dog with a reward tag and phone number is the very very best way to get a lost dog back. When you are on an extended hunting trip in Arizona or South Dakota and your dog turns up missing, the best way to get him back is to have a collar and tag. Microchips help once they hit the shelter, but the family at the farmhouse that finds him can call you directly as soon as they find him.

    If your dog can get a leg through their collar, or a limb can fit up through it, the collar is way too loose. You should be just able to get three fingers under the collar. If you are using a e-training collar, it should ride even higher on the neck, right behind the head and to ensure consistent contact with the points, you should just be able to fit one finger under the collar.

    In my opinion, the ability to get physical control of the dog and the information provided on the collar in case of a lost dog is well worth the small risk of a dog getting caught up by the collar in a life threatening situation.

    The type of dog collar is really a matter of personal choice. I like the looks of a leather collar, but they do not hold up as long as nylon ones. As for durability, the best collars I have found are the plastic coated nylon collars. No matter which collar material I use, I prefer one with a center ring, because of the ease of clipping on a lead. I just ordered six collars from Scott’s Dog Supply and they came with engraved brass nameplates. I was pleased with the quality and their service.

  • Kennel Floors

    Dog Kennel Floor Wood vs. Concrete

    Kennel floors are always a difficult issue. Some of the common options are native dirt floor, concrete, gravel, and wire mesh. In my opinion, a native dirt floor, while probably the most common, is not an acceptable option. Dogs can dig out, it gets muddy when wet, is uncomfortable for the dogs, is difficult to clean, and most importantly, it is a health hazard. Concrete works well, but is expensive to pour and is permanent (once you have poured it, you can’t change your mind). Gravel drains well, and certainly toughens a hunting dogs feet, but is not very comfortable for the dog and is difficult to clean (particularly in the winter). As for wire mesh (i.e. Scott’s Dog Supply “above ground kennel”), I don’t have any experience and can’t comment.

    My solution for the past fifteen plus years is wood. I built panels with 2″x6″ joists and decked with 1″x6″ pine. I purchased one side rough and put that side down, since it is about half the cost of finished lumber. I cut all the pieces to size, and then stain all sides with a quality stain. I spaced the planks 3/4″ apart using an extra plank as a guide and screw everything down with deck screws.

    I made each panel 5′ wide and spaced the joists 20″ on center. When I put four of these together it fit my four Priefert kennels with just enough to room to spare all the way around. I have also built panels 3′ wide with 18″ centers, which worked well. I’m sure 24″ centers would work, but they have a bit more flex than I like. The wood needs to be stained once a year and will last for many years.

    Once built, I put the panels together and place up on cinder blocks. The dogs really like the clean dry surface. The advantages are the cost (I built a 10’x20′ deck in 4 panels for $320), they are easy to clean (a 4″ flexible drywall knife and plastic bag works perfectly), they are movable (I move them to an easterly aspect under large shade trees in the summer, and to a southerly exposure in direct sunlight during the winter. They are lightweight enough that my wife helps me move them easily and doesn’t want to kill me. It gives me satisfaction to look outside and see the dogs lounging on a warm, dry, clean surface.

  • Puppy Socialization

    Puppy Socialization English Pointer

    Recently, I was asked by a new pointer puppy owner what he should be working on with his new puppy. My answer may have been a bit of a surprise. I think the most important thing he could do with the puppy is to properly socialize it. I’ll point out here that my focus on gun dogs is in developing well mannered hunting companions. There are two critical phases of canine development. The first is between 4 and 6 weeks old, and the second is between 6 and 12 weeks. During this time it is critical to understand these phases and treat the puppy accordingly.

    The first phase is the pack socialization phase. During this period, the puppies begin to venture around and out of the litter box more, their teeth emerge, they start on semi-solid food, and are weaned. During this period, the dam spends less time with the pups and as a consequence, they begin to focus on each other. It is during this period that dogs learn how to relate to other dogs. They begin to establish a hierarchy, and learn proper canine social behavior and communication. Puppies taken from their mother or littermates before 6 weeks often have serious behavior problems as they mature.

    The second phase is the human socialization phase. During this phase, the puppy’s focus should be on people and the human environment. Most gun dog puppies should be taken between seven and eight weeks of age. It is critical that the breeder begins the human socialization with the puppies during this stage. The new owner should continue this work. If there is ever a time a dog should not be stuck in kennel in isolation, now is it. This is where the dog’s connection with humans is largely established. We do everything we can to develop hunting companions that are team players and a pleasure to be around.

    During this period you should purposely focus on eye contact and facial expressions. Pups are very focused on the face; spend two minutes with a puppy and you will see this. This is where you begin to establish a strong partnership with your dog. You can also begin to work on come, sit and heel with your new puppy, but by far, the most important thing you can do is socialize the puppy. Spend time with the dog, get him into new surroundings and let him experience new situations. Don’t put too much pressure on him, but get him out and about. Kids are excellent at socializing puppies; they fondle, chase, and love them up. Neither seem to be able to get enough, the kids or the puppies.

  • A New Family Favorite – Teriyaki Chukar

    Teriyaki Chukar

    It’s a month past the end of chukar season and I’m already deep in withdrawal. This evening Julie made a chukar dish that was so good, I had to write about it. Legs, wings and wing-butts are typically some of the last of to be eaten, but with this recipe they were gobbled right up. It was delicious with chukar, but I’m sure it would be good with pheasant, forest grouse, or sage-grouse. It will certainly become a new family favorite.

    Teriyaki Chukar
    3 quartered chukars
    1 cup sugar
    ½ cup plus 2 tbsp white vinegar
    ½ tsp salt
    6 tbsp soy sauce
    4 tbsp water
    3 tsp ground ginger
    ¼ cup honey
    2 eggs
    ½ cup flour
    Beat eggs with 3 tbsp water. Dip chukar pieces in egg mixture and coat with flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Fry in skillet with oil until meat is just browned on both sides, then, place in casserole dish. In a sauce pan, mix sugar, vinegar, salt, soy sauce, water, ground ginger and honey. Bring to a boil on medium heat, then pour over meat and bake uncovered at 350F for 50 minutes, or until meat is cooked.

    Serves ~4.

  • The Pleasure of an Older Dog

    New Cell Phone & Golden Retriever

    Puppies are fun, but they are a handful. Older dogs are a pure pleasure to have around. If you have an older dog (probably curled up at your feet as you’re reading this). Take a second to give an extra good scratch. They won’t be around forever. Photos are from our friends Steve & Ellie at Fordesign.net.

    Birding with Shannon - Golden Retriever

  • Dog Training – Small Steps Build Success

    Allie in the snow - Yellow Lab

    Here are three keys to dog training: keep training sessions short, focus on one thing at a time, and focus on small steps where you know your dog can be successful.

    Keep training sessions short; the key here is to keep them short enough that you have your dogs full attention. Just like you or I, they learn best when you have their full attention. If you have gone 5 minutes and see that they are still with you and excited to learn, keep going, if not, stop.

    One way you can stretch out your training sessions is to take a fun break part way through. In an energetic, but deliberate tone, tap your dog on the shoulder and give the “break” command to let them know that you are done with the training and they can have fun for a minute, then do something fun and energetic for one to three minutes. Do something the dog enjoys, not related to the training, but where you know what the dog’s response will be (The idea is that the dog will have fun and let off steam, but will be contained and you won’t have to chase it down or scold it for anything. Stay upbeat.) I will throw some retrieving dummies or tennis balls, run around the house, or some other upbeat activity. This activity seems to clear their head, keep them excited and help them continue with the training.

    When you are training, focus on one thing at a time. It is important that you clearly understand what it is that you are trying to train. Decide on what the final product is that you want, break down the steps to get there and focus on one aspect at a time. For example, if you want your dog to come, circle you on the right side and sit at heel when you command “come”, you have to break it down into steps, focusing on one aspect at a time, then chaining them together to get the desired result. If you are working on having him circle and sit, don’t worry that the dog may not be sitting exactly parallel to you. Polish that after you have some of the other steps down.

    Finally, you want to build success upon success in your training. Success promotes learning, while failure promotes more failure. All dogs want to please; I believe it is in their pack nature. If your dog fails at task, back up and shorten the task to ensure that the dog can succeed. Always end your training on a positive note.

  • Pet Microchips – Well Worth the Investment

    Running Rat - German Shorthair Pointer

    I strongly recommend that all my clients microchip their pets. For what it is worth, it is so inexpensive, yet it works so well. It costs roughly $30 – $40 at most vet clinics and comes with a registration for the lifetime of the pet. It is quick and relatively painless, about like getting a shot.

    How it works: A microchip transponder is placed in a needle and injected just under the pets skin on the back between the shoulder blades. The device, just about the size of a grain of rice sits dormant until it is pinged with the scanner device. The scanner reads a number from the transponder. This number can then be called into a toll-free national database (staffed 24/7). The service then immediatley connects the lost dog with the owner.

    The chip does a number of things; first, it helps quickly return a lost pet to the owner. Many police officers and sheriffs carry the scanners in their cars, and all shelters and vet centers have them. Further, it is policy in most all animal shelters to scan pets when they first come in, and again before any disposition (placement or euthanasia) of the animal. What’s more, in some shelters, if a dog is microchipped, they will often waive any fines or fees associated with picking up your pet, if they are microchipped. Finally, the microchip can help prove the ownership of the dog if ownership is in question.

    All this is well worth $40 over the lifetime of your dog.