Two years ago this week I picked Pritch up from the breeder. She was just an 8-pound pup, and I was foolish enough to think I knew something about gun-dog training. And even more foolish to think it a great idea to broadcast her progress three times a week on a blog. Immediately there were high expectations for her. Dog training, I quickly learned, is not about speed but rather building on the basics. Sit. Stay. Here. Heel. Nothing is accomplished without the basics no matter how unsexy they are.

And Jenny and I let Pritch walk all over us. Pritch was so young, we thought, how could there be any bad habits lurking in those innocent eyes? It was funny at first when she licked the plates as we loaded the dishwasher. It’s not funny now. (Bad habits, by the way, start as early as you allow them to take root.)

But we trained hard. We had highs (her first double was a special moment) and lows (our first hunt test resulted in a decapitated pigeon). But, best of all, we went hunting…dove in fields of sun flowers, ducks in flooded timber in Arkansas, quail beneath the stately oaks, and rails in the Lowcountry marsh. And I’ve honestly never had more fun afield than when in the company of my pup. (To see how far we’ve come check out the video.)

I’ve certainly learned more than Pritch has in the past two years. Much of it due to a couple of folks who gave their time whenever I asked, mainly Pam Kadlec of Just Ducky Kennels, Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels, and Steve Snell of Gun Dog Supply. I’ll leave you with just a few of the pointers these folks taught me.

Let them be puppies. Give them just as much as you expect in return. Be in command. But don’t be out of control. And remember, this is your dog. She’s merely a reflection of what you’ve taught her. Most of all, have fun–gun dog training is not a race.

Finally, many thanks for your support. A blogger is only as good as his community and you are a fine bunch to be associated with. Pritch and I may check back periodically to report on our progress and adventures, but my colleague Chad Love will be manning the blog from here on out. Hope to see you in the field.