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  • April 29, 2011

    Caption Contest: Write the Best, Win Gear from Delta Waterfowl

    By Chad Love

    by Chad Love

  • April 25, 2011

    Training Dogs to Negotiate Fences and Cattle Guards

    By Chad Love

    It’s something we hope we never experience, but at some point are likely too, anyway: the high-speed intersection of running dog and barbed-wire fence. Or equally dangerous, running dog and cattle guard. But how to negotiate fences and cattle guards generally isn’t something people specifically train for. I know I never have, but what I have done with all my dogs is introduce them to fences and cattle guards as puppies and let them figure out on their own the best way to negotiate their way. I’ve found that with enough practice in a controlled environment, eventually all my dogs learn how to get through a fence or around a guard without trying to run straight through it.

  • April 20, 2011

    Keeping Multiple Dogs In Check During Feeding Time

    By Chad Love

    How many dogs do you own? One? Two? Perhaps three? If you do own multiple dogs you know what a jostling madhouse feeding time can be, what with dogs barking and wagging tails and jumping around. So here's a word of advice: stop right there. Don't get any more dogs, because then you'll want another one, and another one, and another one, and then pretty soon this is what feeding time at your house will look like...

  • April 18, 2011

    Remember, Dogs do More Than Flush and Retrieve Birds

    By Chad Love

    There are tradition-steeped sacred cows so deeply ingrained in the American sporting psyche, that to admit you haven't actually done them is grounds for turning in your red-blooded American male card and setting sail for France. Things like: shooting a deer with a lever-action .30-30. or owning at least one Zebco 33. However, one of these "musts" I've never completed is hunting rabbits behind dogs.

    Pointing dogs, retrievers and flushers are what first come to mind when you think gundogs, and as such they - fairly or unfairly - get the vast majority of the sporting dog press (and this blog is as guilty of it as any). But at one time, back in the sepia-tinged days of yore when small-game hunting reigned supreme, there was only one way to hunt rabbits - with beagles. Sadly, this is no longer the case. For better or worse, we are now a deer nation and the idea of driving out to a small, idyllic family-owned farm, loading up a plain ol' walnut-and-steel shotgun and letting a pack of beagles out of the back of the wood-paneled station wagon is as quaint and old-fashioned as the rotary-dial phone, letter-writing or three channels of television.

  • April 15, 2011

    Good Dog Gear: 'Training Retrievers to Handle' by D.L. Walters

    By Chad Love

    There has never been a greater quantity of easily accessible resources for the beginning retriever trainer than there are today. From dozens of DVD-based training programs to Internet websites, chatrooms, bulletin boards, forums and blogs that are frequented by thousands of like-minded gundog enthusiasts, you’re just a mouse click away from answers to any training question or problem you are likely to encounter. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is feverishly working on a retriever training iPhone app (and if they aren’t, I’ve got dibs).

    Compare that to just a few years ago. I’m not exactly old, but when I got my first dog the only information sources I had were a stack of old Field & Streams and a copy of Bill Tarrant’s "Hey Pup, Fetch It Up!" A few years later I did acquire some worn-out VHS copies of Rex Carr and Mike Lardy training seminars, but that was about as high-tech as it got back in the early 1990s.

    Right now is truly the Golden Age of gundog training information. So why am I singing the praises of a musty, old-fashioned Gutenberg 1.0-based training app that was first published back in the Stone Age, A.D. 1979?

    Because D.L. Walters’ Training Retrievers to Handle is - in a field crowded with a number of very good training books and systems - still one of the classic treatises on teaching your dog to run blinds and handle, whether for the field or field trials.

  • April 14, 2011

    What If Preserve Bird Hunting Is the Future for All of Us?

    By Chad Love

    Monday's post on what to look for in a preserve dog raises an interesting - if troubling - question: what if preserve hunting is the future for all of us? For those of you still fortunate enough to have huntable wild bird populations, ask yourself this: if those birds continued their decline to the point of no return, would you still have the passion for hunting with dogs even if you had to do it in a preserve environment?

  • April 11, 2011

    Training Your Dog to Hunt Bird Preserves

    By Chad Love

    For many of us, wild, free-ranging birds under wide-open skies is the upland-hunting dream, but put-and-take shooting preserves in heavily populated areas is the upland-hunting reality. Declining wild bird populations, disappearing habitat, decreasing access to private land and increasing crowds on public land and a demographic shift toward deer and turkey hunting on what land remains have all combined to fundamentally alter modern upland bird hunting in many parts of the country. You may not like it, you may not agree with it, but it is what it is and it's not going away.

  • April 8, 2011

    Dog Training: Expensive Gear Isn't Necessary, But It Can Be Fun

    By Chad Love

    I was recently throwing some water marks for my dog at a local city park pond when an angler from across the pond (it was a large pond and I was in a small neck, so I wasn't disturbing anyone) got curious, wandered over and struck up a conversation. We chatted for a minute or two, I explained what I was doing and he asked me what, exactly, was that thing I was using to throw my bumpers?

    That "thing" was a remote bumper launcher. I've had mine for years and it's one of my favorite retriever training tools. I showed him how it worked and he seemed genuinely curious. Turns out the guy was a casual dove hunter, he had a lab and had always sort of wanted to train him. He then asked me how much something like that would cost, and when I told him, he gave me an incredulous look, sputtered "you're kidding?" shook his head and went back to fishing.

  • April 5, 2011

    A First Day Stray: What Would You Do?

    By Chad Love

    The dog comes trotting up to the car as soon as I pull into the parking area, a rangy-looking orange belton setter that looks like he hasn't eaten in a few days. He's dirty, his coat is full of cockleburs, his paws are full of sandburs, his ribs stick out from his side and he isn't wearing a collar. That's telling. No one hunts their dog without a collar and tags. This setter wasn't lost, some sonofa**** had abandoned him, left him to die. Dumped him out in the middle of nowhere with no food, no water and no chance.

    He looks tired, hungry, scared and lonely. It's mid-week during the last half of the Kansas pheasant season, I'm 30 miles from the nearest town and I haven't seen another hunter all day.

    Who knows how long he's been out here, hiding from coyotes and waiting for someone, anyone, to come along. He stands off a few feet and eyes me, but when I kneel and give him a soft whistle he walks up, gives my hand a raspy lick and then presents his head for scratching, tail beating a staccato rhythm against the car. I pour him a bowl of water and give him some of my dog's food. Both disappear almost instantly. When I let my dog out of the car he bounces around like a pup, playing and chasing. But when I grab my gun and try to whistle him up to go hunting he just sits his haunches by the car and looks at me as I walk off. "Sorry nice man," the look says, "but I've had my fill of this place. I just wanna get the hell outta here."

  • April 1, 2011

    How To Tell If Your Dog Is Too Fat

    By Chad Love

    It's a question that tends to make us a little defensive: is your dog too fat? Chances are, you'll say, "Hell no, and if you call my dog fat again, buddy, I'll show you a fat lip." But the truth is, he might be fatter than you think, as I recently discovered at a seminar at this year's Pheasants Forever Pheasant Fest. The seminar was put on by trainer Dan Hove, from the North American Hunting Retriever Association and the topic was canine first-aid in the field. But since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, much of Howe's talk centered on proper nutrition and feeding.

    Heat-related death is one of the leading causes of death in the field. And a dog's weight, according to Hove, is the number one factor in keeping a working dog cool. Fat, out-of-shape dogs tend to collapse and die. As an example, Hove cited the unusually-warm opening weekend of South Dakota's 2003 pheasant season, when at least 130 gundogs died from heat-related issues. But how can you tell if your dog is uh… a little too…”stout”?