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  • July 28, 2011

    Is A Natural Food Diet Really Healthier For Your Gun Dog?

    By Chad Love

    The subject of canine nutrition and the crucial role it plays in the well-being and performance of our dogs is one of the most vitally-important, yet easily-confused and misunderstood (at least for dim bulbs like myself) issues facing dog owners. What to feed, how to feed, when to feed, hydration, supplements, conditioning--these and other variables act in concert (and sometimes against one another) to make up the sum whole of the canine machine.

    The sheer amount of information floating around out there is dizzying, and to the layman gundog owner trying to make informed decisions about the health of their pooch, it can be a daunting task.

    Unless, of course, you have a bunch of scientists explaining everything to you. As luck would have it, that's exactly what I've been doing.

  • July 22, 2011

    Is the Summer Heat Affecting Your Dog Training?

    By Chad Love

    I recently loaded up the dog and headed to one of my semi-regular training spots at a nearby local public hunting area. It's a good-sized pond where, in a normal year, I can set up the bumper launchers to give Tess some good water work. I say semi-regular because I hadn't been to this particular spot in a couple months. Big mistake. What greeted me wasn't a pond, but a dusty bowl of weeds. Scratch one training pond and hunting-season mallard hole.

  • July 20, 2011

    How Much is Upland Hunting Worth to You?

    By Chad Love

    When I read news stories about the upcoming hunting season, it's no great stretch to make the assumption that one of my dogs is going to be getting a whole lot more mouthfuls of feathers than the other one. Duck populations (depending on species) are at record or near-record highs while many upland bird species continue to slide toward historic lows.

    Just in my region, the lesser prairie chicken - once the most populous upland gamebird species on the southern plains, so numerous it was market-hunted by the millions - will most likely be listed under the ESA. Meanwhile, populations of the bobwhite quail, King Bob (in many hunters' minds the very epitome of the upland hunting experience) are at range-wide, all-time, never-seen-before, staring-into-the-abyss lows.

    But it wasn't that long ago when duck hunters were the ones asking themselves if this was the beginning of the end. And if it was, they were at least going to go down swinging. So began the federal duck stamp program in 1934. Anyone wishing to hunt waterfowl would be required to buy a federal migratory bird hunting stamp. The result is, of course, our beautiful, priceless, world-famous, uniquely American and completely self-funded national wildlife refuge system. Where would modern American wildfowling be without the myriad benefits of the duck stamp program? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it'd be nowhere near what it is today.

  • July 15, 2011

    Zuke's Caption Contest Winner Announced

    By Chad Love

    It's Friday, which means the vote is on the most recent MBF caption contest and we have a winner. It was another great group of captions, and with a big chunk of the nation currently residing somewhere deep within one of Dante's circles, perhaps the subject of keeping cool was on everyone's mind.

    At any rate, it was - as it always is - a difficult task choosing only one. As for the photograph, I snapped it a few years ago in our backyard as my oldest son was sharing an impromptu drink with my then-young chessie, Tess. It nicely illustrates one of my own personal rules of thumb, which is "Never trust a man who won't let a dog lick him in the face."

    Many of the captions alluded to the special bond between boys and dogs. A few honorable mentions include MrsMac with "The Sheriff and his trusty steed takin' a break," along with Proverbs' "Reason I love this boy #283" and Arlo269's "If a Dog is a man's best friend then this kid is definitely a Dog's best friend" and Sherril Philip's "Best friends... Forever!" Ain't that the truth...

  • July 13, 2011

    How Do You Ready a Retriever For Hunting Waterfowl From a Boat?

    By Chad Love

    OK, all you boat-owning waterfowl doggers: I need some training advice...

    I have always been a walk-in duck hunter. In fact, I've never even owned a boat. But two things happened to me recently to help bring some change to my waterfowl hunting techniques.

    One, I turned 40, which means I am now officially decrepit and therefore can no longer pack in gear on a walk-in hunt without imminent threat of heart attack. Two, last season I very nearly drowned in, oh, about two feet of water and ice while busting through thick reeds with way too much decoy weight on my back. I had a "You're kidding me? I'm gonna die like this?" moment. I didn't. At least I'm pretty sure I'm still alive. Then I had the obligatory "I'm too old for this, uh, stuff" moment.

  • July 8, 2011

    Caption Contest: Win a Supply of Dog Treats from Zuke's

    By Chad Love

    It's hot outside. Dang hot. The kind of hot that pushes training sessions to the wee hours of the early morning and late evening. The kind of searing, eye-stinging hot that makes you exclaim - after you've mopped your sweaty forehead against your already-sopping shirtsleeve for the hundredth futile time - "Forget this! Let's go find some shade and an ice-cream cone."

    The kind of hot that drives young boys and dogs to the nearest garden hose for a cool drink of water. The kind of hot that says "It's too hot to train, so it must be time for another MBF Caption Contest!"

  • July 5, 2011

    Should I Force-Fetch My Pointer?

    By Chad Love

    I was recently talking to a bird-hunting buddy of mine whose pointer pup is currently with a pro trainer, and one of the interesting things he mentioned was that she was going through force-fetch. Now the issue of force-fetch is probably one of the most debated and least-understood facets of gundog training.

    If you're not familiar with the concept, force-fetch (or force-breaking or trained retrieve) is, in short, a process by which your dog is taught to fetch on command, fetching as a learned behavior and a trained response to a command rather than natural instinct. That's a vastly oversimplified explanation for an inherently complicated subject and process, and to many it sounds counter-intuitive, unnecessary and even cruel to force a dog to retrieve on command when (at least for retrievers) they already do it naturally.

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