The good news: hunting dogs need training

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 new golden retriever a few weeks ago, and I immediately started working on his hunting ability. It’s been a while since I had a good hunting dog, and I’m hoping Copper fills that void.

But even if he’s instinctively a good hunter, there are some things even natural hunting dogs don’t do without some reinforcement. 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.

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.

Once your dog knows most of the commands, and he knows he needs to fetch when you tell him to fetch, even if he’s gotten bored with it, get him out to the duck blind or the pheasant fields as much as possible and get his nose on the ground.

Copper’s still just a little guy, so this season’s probably not going to have any actual hunts as part of the training. But there will be plenty of opportunities over the next 10 to 14 years. 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.