Hunting Dogs photo

When I hit the dog-training wall… When I’m sure that I’ve ruined pup… I always find myself looking for guidance and support from talented amateurs and pros. Close to home I rely on my older brother and a handful of established pros like Pam Kadlec of Just Ducky Kennels. I bounce my problems off these folks, and they give me honest appraisals and solutions.

And during those times when I can’t sleep because I’m worried about how my dog’s progressing (this ever happen to you?), I often head to my library and reach for a dog book. I have them all, and then some. Of course, there’s Richard Wolter’s classic Water Dog and James Lamb Free’s Training Your Retriever. But I most often turn to Bill Tarrant’s Hey, Pup Fetch It Up. (Sadly, all three of these men have passed away.)

I never met Tarrant. (My time as a full-time staffer at Field & Stream did not overlap with his illustrious tenure as the F&S Gun Dog columnist.) But I’d give just about anything to spend a day with the man. Tarrant knew dogs…not just pointers or retrievers, but all dogs. Hell, he once raised litter of coyotes to see what a wild dog could teach us about training. But beyond that, he ventured out-of-gun-dog bounds to learn from sheep dog trainers and his counterparts across the big pond. He was happy to learn from those who did it differently, especially the great Delmar Smith. And he always placed the dog first. Nothing happened in the Bill Tarrant world until a dog was secure in its new home.

I often wonder what Pritchard would be like if she was under the hands of Tarrant. But I do my best to channel his wisdom. Who do you turn to when the gun dog road seems impassable? Do you have a local trainer that helps you out? A favorite uncle? Or is there a dog trainer, like Tarrant or Wolters–who has long since passed to the duck blind in the sky–who you seek inspiration from?