By Chad Love
by Chad Love
The old lady is seven now, not young any more, but not quite old either. Middle-aged, I guess you'd call her—on the cusp of the backside of her prime. She still has no trouble hopping in the dog box or, when we're hunting by ourselves, hopping in the cab of the truck. She hits the water as hard as she ever did, still loves busting through the skim ice on late-season hunts, still runs as hard and fast as the eight-month-old blur of kinetic setter energy she shares the household with.
There's no hitch in her get-along, or if there is, she doesn't show it, but I know it's coming. And I know that eventually, I've got to start thinking about a new pup. I don’t want to say replacement. I don’t ever want to say that, or even think it, but I can't avoid the fact that in a few short years there's going to be a new dog sitting beside me in the cattails.
It's probably one of the more difficult questions that gundog owners face: when to bring in a new pup when your old dog starts slowing down. If you've got the room and resources, staggering multiple dogs of different ages is certainly a nice option so you've always got a good rotation between the grizzled old veteran, the up-and-comer and the young dog. But many of us don’t have the room, resources and time for multiple dogs or we simply prefer hunting with a single dog. In that situation, we've got to time the introduction of the new pup just right so the transition from old to new is as seamless as possible.