Ready or not, hunting season’s here for my dog and me

I’ve got a new hunting dog this year, and I have yet to put her in the field. I haven’t done as much training as I should have, but we’re about to find out where the biggest holes in our training are.

My family was given a black lab puppy right before Christmas. At the time, I was a little hesitant to take the dog, because we already had three dogs, and one of them was my hunting dog. I wasn’t sure I was up to taking two dogs – one of them being a green recruit – out into the field the next hunting season.

As it turns out, though, my golden retriever didn’t make it to hunting season. She got sick and died in March, and in a strange stroke of bad luck, the collie got sick with something completely unrelated and died the same day. Just like that, we were down to two dogs.

I no longer had Cricket to help me train the new hunting dog, but with only one dog to train, I was able to devote more attention to the lab. I still didn’t do as much training as I should have, and now the hunting season is upon us. I don’t know if Riley is quite ready for a waterfowl hunt, and I’m certain she’s not ready to retrieve blinds, but I’m going to take her out to flush some pheasants, at the very least, to give her a taste for live birds.

I may be in for some tennis shoe training, I’m afraid. Riley’s been pretty good about not ranging too far, but she hasn’t had many opportunities to really stretch the boundaries. Once I get her out on a section of BLM land, she may see those wide-open spaces and decide to see if she can outrun the e-collar.

I’m hoping the chance to find some live birds will reinforce the lessons I’ve been trying to teach her. She’s been getting pretty bored retrieving the dummy, even when I use the one that’s launched with a .22 blank. And I’m a little worried that all our training has been in the familiar environs of our yard. But it’s do-or-die time – I’ll let you know how it goes.