Nature vs nurture

Here’s the thing, over the last 25 years I have had a lot of bird dogs come and go. Some I’ve bought, some I’ve been given, and some I’ve bred. Most of them have spent at least part of their lives with me as house dogs as well as being hunted and field trialed. They have all had ample opportunity to get worked on wild birds here and in Texas. Over the years Iv’e won a pile of ribbons and killed an even bigger pile of birds. In the debate over nature vs nurture I’m starting to come down on the side of nature. All of the dogs over the years have had equal opportunity to develop but only a scant few have been truly remarkable. Stokely’s Diablo Buddy was probably the first one and might have gone on to do great things had he not died of bone cancer before turning three. By that time he had already won numerous puppy and derby placements as well as the Burnham Grouse Classic before it became the New England Open Grouse Championship. Another dog who was definitely the result of nurture, as he rarely if ever paid much attention to me, was 2X r/u champion Stokely’s Mikey D. Mikey was named runner up twice in Rhode Island when the trial was run on Labor Day. The first time he dug out two birds on a course that usually had none. The second time there he ended up leaving the birdless course he was on and reaching over to the beginning of the next course to find a bird. And now there’s Wild Apple Jack, he’s had the same opportunities in training as all the others and has turned out to be one of those dogs you hope to have once in your life. We’re running him now on snow covered ground on grouse that have little or no cover, have been hunted a lot, and see us on an almost daily basis. The other dogs we’re working bump them, stop-to-flush on them, or don’t get a chance because the birds flush wild. But everyday we run him, Jack finds and handles grouse — some times singles, sometimes bunches of them. Jack is the progeny of Wynot Ace X Elhew Liebotschaner. A breeding that was repeated four times with a total of 31 puppies. Although there have been numerous good bird dogs, Jack and Autumn Moon have been the only two to rise to the top of the cover dog world. They were both invited to the Grouse and Woodcock Invitational for the fourth time this year. We all think that if we get dogs from good sound breeding we can mold them into something great — that’s the nurture side of things. My point here is that we roll the genetic dice over and over again when we’re breeding bird dogs and like most games of chance we win the lottery very rarely. Winning the breeding lottery is the nature part of it and after 25 years of bird dogs and field trials I’ve come to believe that is the much more important side of the equation.

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