January 14, 2013
Gun Dog Training: Bad Habits
By Chad Love
Porcupines are a fact of life for many of us, especially if we spend enough time in the field or have the bad fortune to own dogs with an unhealthy interest in them. Take my two setters, for example. My female loves porcupines. She's fascinated with the damn things and will point them with as much style and intensity as any bird. And as you may recall, I've had some porcupine troubles this year with her.
Up until yesterday, however, my male setter, who is still just a pup, had not encountered a porcupine. I was out quail hunting and noticed that Ozzy, who was running about 150 yards out in front of me, suddenly wheeled around and tentatively sniff around a soapweed (yucca) bush. He craned his neck, took a sniff of something, then just as abruptly turned away and went back to hunting as if nothing had been there. Dogs, of course, do this all the time. Mice, box turtles, bones; young dogs will flash point or investigate just about anything.
Curiosity piqued, I walked up to the bush and discovered this porcupine huddled against it. Ozzy had caught its scent, investigated, and wisely determined this thing was not a bird, bad news, and something not to be jacked with or pointed. I was immensely proud of him, and relieved that, at least at this point, he seemingly has zero interest in porcupines.
And what of Jenny? She too, keyed in on the bush, went on a staunch, quivering point, and got a correction and a stern "No" for her troubles. Not once, but twice. We hunted the rest of the afternoon without trouble. We'll see if my impromptu porcupine breaking session sticks. But something tells me Jenny's fascination with porcupines hasn't quite left her.
Have you ever had an otherwise nice dog that had that one incorrigible, seemingly unbreakable habit? What was it? Did you ever manage to fix it?