There are two key attributes that a hunter looks for in a good dog. He wants a dog that is steady and retrieves only when sent and a dog that has a soft mouth when retrieving. The steadiness comes into play in several key areas for both waterfowl hunters as well as upland hunters. While sitting in a pit blind, waiting for the ducks to come in, there is nothing worse than a whining dog! It’s not that the dog can scare the birds away, they are up in the air and you are calling them in, so they will never hear the dog. It’s just super annoying for you and anyone else with you. Even the most fantastic and loyal hunting companion who has racked upped hundreds of retrieves may not be asked to come back next season if he whines too much in the blind. You also need the dog steady until he’s is sent for safety sake. There’s nothing more dangerous than a dog jumping at every shot and who can’t sit still in between shooting times (and for those of you hunting around here this year, the dogs were waiting quite a while in between retrieves!). They may knock into a guy holding a loaded and ready gun, causing him to fire unsafely or they may knock loaded guns down, causing them to fire in the blind. While I know all good hunters keep their safeties on until it’s firing time, mistakes happen and safeties are not put on or get knocked off. It’s best to be able to avoid a nasty situation by having a steady, quiet dog in the first place! The possibilities of accidents are endless when you have an unsteady dog in the blind. For the upland guys, a dog steady to wing and shot is imperative not only from an annoyance stand point, but from a safety standpoint as well. A dog that flushes and jumps up at the bird is a safety concern for himself, because he may end up getting shot. If he’s not steady and stays until he’s sent, he may miss retrieving a downed bird. He may also be over somewhere else flushing birds while you are still shooting at the first bird! All of these scenarios are annoying and come with their own safety concerns.
The soft mouth is kind of explains itself. Whether you’re on land or water, no one wants a bird brought back that is full of holes and has a closer resemblance to road kill than something you’re going to put on your dinner table later that night!
Below are two videos that we worked on today displaying both steady dogs and soft mouths. The first video is of Deacon going through a series training exercises carrying a raw egg in his mouth. I cracked the egg into his dog bowl at the end and let him eat it, so you can be sure it was raw and not hard-boiled! I am very lucky with him that he has such a soft mouth and never had to go through force fetch training. To date, he hasn’t broken an egg yet!
The next video is one we did this afternoon at Boonsboro State park with Deacon and one of Stonnie’s puppies, Henry. Henry is working on being steady, so cut him a little slack, but notice that when Deacon is not working, he sits quietly next to us and waits for his turn. Both are perfect examples of how you want your dog to act in either hunting situation. The puppy is learning patients by watching the older dog retrieve. He is rewarded for his patients by getting to do some retrieves himself! It is a win-win situation for him.
I hope you enjoy watching the dogs work and check my YouTube channel out for future videos!