Hunting Hunting Dogs

How Do I Tell My Buddy His Dog Sucks? and 8 Other Canine Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask

There’s no such thing as a bad question, right? You might reconsider that after hearing some of the questions I get from my fans.

One of the greatest services we can give an audience is education, and I treat every question as an opportunity to teach and advise. I get almost two thousand questions a year and some of them are doozies! I answer some on my show, many on Facebook, and some, right here.

So for all of you who were afraid to ask, here are some of the more interesting queries. May they help make you a better dog owner, trainer, and bird hunter.

1. Is it easier for a dog to understand two commands “sit” and “stay,” or is it easier to teach a single command for sit and stay by just saying “sit” (or in spaniel circles, “hup”)?
I like to keep it simple. A dog should obey the given command until released or given another command. When he “sits,” he sits, until he’s told to do something else.

2. Is it okay to roughhouse with my dog while playing, or does that hurt his discipline?
I do it occasionally, but not as often as I used to. I’m becoming a believer in “pecking order,” and that requires discipline on the human’s part as well as the dog’s. A dog that learns he can “play fight” with you is one step away from jockeying for the position of top dog.

3. I have a wirehair puppy that loves water. She runs down to the lake every chance she gets. Splashes around, drinks her fill, wades into her chest—but will not swim. I have tossed bumpers, balls, toys etc., but she just jumps around and barks. How can I make her swim?
Lob a real bird in the water and get ready for one motivated swimmer.

4. At what age is it the best time to spay or neuter your dog?
Most research suggests you wait anywhere from 6 to 18 months, to ensure the hormones down there have a chance to work their magic on a dog’s body.

5. We have five German shorthairs. Our two boys (14 and 9) love helping to train them. Any suggestions or techniques that will encourage them to keep doing this? We do not use any force-break training, just positive reinforcement techniques.
I’m presuming you mean no force breaking on the dogs, not the kids, right? While training can be a lot of fun, at some point, you’ve got to get out of the weight room and play some football. Same for our sport, so take them hunting with or without a gun. Hunt tests or field trials are another “final exam” for your training assistants. PS: I’m glad I don’t have your feed bill!

6. What is proper etiquette when hunting your dog with someone else’s dog for the first time?
Most of the time, everyone is happier when you hunt dogs singly. Alternate them, then compare and contrast their styles at the end of the day over a tall cold one. Dogs need to be trained to hunt as a brace, must honor each other’s points and retrieves, and obviously need to get along. If you must hunt them at the same time, try spreading out–way out–and effectively hunting by yourselves. If that doesn’t discourage you, introduce the dogs on neutral ground before hunting with leashes loose so they are not feeling your stress. If possible, hunt dogs of opposite sex together–they usually get along better than same-sex hunting partners.

7. How and what have you found to help with the passing of one of your own dogs after they have celebrated their hunting career with you?
This one is tough and I’m sorry if you’ve lost a dog recently. I’ll never get over the companionship, hard work, and loyalty my dogs showed me. That’s the principal reason I make my TV show. To show my gratitude and respect, I wear my dogs’ collar tags on my whistle lanyard. I know someone who puts their dogs’ collars under the driver’s seat of his truck. Paintings, impressions of paw prints, whatever—you’ll find something that reminds you of the good times you had hunting with your buddy.

8. What are your thoughts on hybrid breeds? I have hunted with a lodge that breeds shorthairs to Labs. The result is a leaner, faster retriever, and one that will point and/or flush wild pheasants. I was hesitant to obtain one of the pups until I worked with one this early preserve season.
I guess if you want a dog that flushes sometimes and points other times that would be the dog for you. I prefer a dog that I can count on to do one or the other consistently.

9. How do I tell my buddy his dog sucks?
Careful, them’s fightin’ words. He will undoubtedly take it personally, especially if he disagrees with your assessment. Try offering to help with training, or buy him a book or video. (Invite him over to watch my TV show, Wingshooting USA, to raise the bar a bit.) Is his dog better than your dog? Why aren’t you hunting with yours, then? If you don’t have a dog, remember that beggars have a hard time being choosers, and maybe you should keep your opinions to yourself.