The Big Thudd stirred things up over on the Upland Journal message board by starting a thread based on the post I made a couple of days ago about range (see below). I basically said that range should not be a primary issue when picking a puppy. In reality I was being a little disingenuous. The hunter that uses his pointing dog as a glorified flushing dog and wants it to always be in range of his 12 gauge autoloader really doesn’t want one of my puppies nor does he really want most FDSB bred English setters and pointers. He should get a lab, a springer, an English cocker, a Boykin, or . . . you see where I’m going with this. Those are all good bird dogs that can be taught to quarter for the gun and retrieve what you manage to knock down. In the pointing dogs there are also a number of breeds that will basically stay within sight 90% of the time and those breeds have their aficionados and defenders and rightly so. My assumption in that earlier post was that people calling me about possibly getting a pointer puppy out of my breeding are looking for something a little different. My earlier point was that most of the puppies that come out of my breeding and that of many others who breed field trial cover dogs provide the potential owner with the chance to have a dog with great natural ability, style, class, intelligence, and desire to find birds. We can’t win field trials with dogs that run off and I have yet to see some one get a ribbon with a dog they didn’t have at the end of the stake.
So field trial cover dogs handle if they are going to win. The also have to be willing to stand their birds while we go through the sometimes difficult task of finding them at the edge of bell range standing in heavy cover. To make my point here’s an excerpt from the write up Deb Kennedy did for The Field after Jack’s winning performance at the Amateur Woodcock Championship last fall:
“Once released Jack exploded forward over a rise and then, nothing. The bell stopped before 50 and the search began. Both judges, Craig, his scout Mike Flewelling, and this reporter fanned out into the woods looking for the dog everyone knew was there somewhere, but where? Craig walked fast and kept up a quiet patter, “I’m coming Jack, I’m coming.” Finally there was a ghostly whisper of a bell next to a beaver pond where the alders grew thick as grass. Craig waded into the stand to find the bird he knew was there. The hour had run out. After several minutes Mike Flewelling joined the group starting at the far end of the grove and found Jack standing. Craig ran to his dog, the woodcock flushed, the shot was fired, thus capping a championship performance by man and beast.”
So, to get back to my point about range, if the dog is going to stay put for almost 15 minutes while you find him and the bird is still going to be there the only thing you have to worry about is being able to hear the bell in the woods. And when you are hunting and training you should be taking advantage of modern technology. I never cut a dog loose in a training session or during a hunt without a bell, an e-collar, and a
GPS unit. When the dog goes out of bell range I can look at the GPS and see its still running, I can call on the dog to come closer, if it doesn’t I can make a correction. If it goes in the wrong direction I can call on it and make a correction if it doesn’t respond. As far as I’m concerned the only time you’re not training a dog is when you are running it in a field trial (and there are exceptions to that rule as well). The rest of the time the dog comes first and the birds come second in importance. So, yes you can shorten up a big running dog to adjust it to the cover and I do especially when they’re young and I’m trying to build the staunchness that they will need later on to win. But there so much more that makes a dog a “bird dog” you really need to figure out what you want. If you want puppies that will run with a bracemate and find birds to the point that you empty a couple of blank guns in the middle of a mild June day (see Early Season Bird Report below) and repeat that day in and day out through the summer and into the fall, then give Tony or I call the next time we have a litter of puppies.