A bird dog is a built-in excuse to get outside

The nice thing about having hunting dogs is that you have to work with them all the time. It’s a built-in excuse to get out to the field as much as you possibly can.

I got a golden retriever a few years ago, and I immediately started working on her hunting ability. She’s bred to hunt, so she took to it pretty naturally. But there’s always room for improvement.

Besides, there are some things even natural hunting dogs don’t do instinctively. You have to work with them constantly to make sure they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do when you’re out hunting. And that’s the beauty of a hunting dog.

Golden retriever hunting
A bird dog requires a lot of practice, and that means a good excuse to take her hunting. Photo by Ty Stockton/Bobwire-S.com

Training a dog is enjoyable. Sure, some things aren’t much fun, like force fetching, but that’s a very small part of the training. And when you get the dog up to speed on the basics, the training gets really fun. That’s when you have to go do the practical exams out in the field.

That’s where my dog Cricket is now. She knows quite a few of the commands, and she knows she’s supposed to fetch when I tell her to fetch, even if she’s gotten bored with it. To keep her sharp, I have to haul her out to the duck blind or the pheasant fields as much as possible and get her nose on the ground.

That’s where we are today, actually. While you’re listening to this, we’re headed for one of the walk-in areas near Burns to see if we can kick some pheasants out of the cover. I knew getting a dog would pay off!

There are some drawbacks, of course. You have to use up a lot of vacation days to wander around outside or sit on some gorgeous river bank waiting for the ducks to come in. You find yourself feeling guilty about going to lunch with your coworkers because they always insist on driving since your truck seats are covered in a layer of dog hair. And you have to eat a lot of duck and pheasant to make sure what’s in your freezer doesn’t put you over the possession limit.

Yeah, it’s a rough life, but just having the dog makes it all worthwhile.