Friday, July 29, 2016

What is Good Enough?

    Years ago when I had more energy my dogs had better be perfect, or pretty close. Steady to wing and shot, retrieve to hand, with perfect manners around the house were expected. My oldest wire was a struggle with the honoring of another dog’s point, but the steady to wing and shot came without too much trouble. Life looked golden.
Maggie on the run.
    But achieving something and maintaining something are two different things. I hunt alone much of the time and enforcing the steady to wing and shot turned out to be difficult when she had a different mind. I would get frustrated and the dog would dig in her heels. During one December hunt in her fifth or sixth year I threw in the towel and stopped reprimanding her when she broke on the flush. Bird hunting has been more fun since then.
    But I understand and admire owners who demand dog perfection and can maintain it. We all set our own standards, whether bird hunting, trout fishing, or maintaining our home or vehicle. Life demands much and time is finite, so each to their own priorities.  
    A dog’s intelligence is the most important thing and that probably has more to do with the breeding than anything else, but we can do a lot to stimulate a puppy’s brain. I love a dog who figures things out on her own and learns relocate on a moving grouse. My oldest always knew more about where the bird was than I ever would, at least until it flushed. So I let her move, head down sniffing foot scent if necessary…stopping, starting, and pointing whenever the bird stopped.. She almost never bumped a bird, her patience and determination certainly surpassing mine. If I waited long enough we would certainly find and pin the bird for a flush.
    Manners around the house are a must, after all, dogs in our home live pretty darn well. Honoring another dog’s point is also a must, because visitors often bring their dogs along and nothing frays friendships quicker than one dog stealing another’s point.
Georgia working her magic.
    One thing I have learned over the years is that breeding has more to do with how a dog turns out than any training along the way. Georgia, a German shorthaired pointer from Hedgehog Hill Kennels in Vermont, taught me that. With no bird hunting training at all, only the basic manners that every dogs should be taught, she was a gem to hunt over. For four seasons I had the pleasure of “borrowing” her for bird season and she truly was a rock star, repeatedly pointing and retrieving ruffed grouse and woodcock.
    Right now we have a seven month old German wirehair in the house from Ripsnorter Kennel, named Ripsnorter Magallow Magic Snapshot. She seems smart and constantly watches the older dogs to quietly learn. Her lineage goes directly back to my oldest wirehair, who has been a brilliant hunter. Young Maggie hunts hard when we are in the woods, points song birds and butterflies in the yard, and watches with fascination the birds flying overhead. The manners required for civil living are pretty well ingrained and soon we’ll be looking for woodcock to train on.
Chara with her great, great, great, great, niece last March.
    So far she is more than good enough. I am very hopeful.