“I think you should show off what your dog can do at our get together next month.”
That was suggested to me recently when discussing an upcoming corporate-type event. This event would also include representatives from Pheasants Forever.
Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be more proud of my lab, Mika. She went through the live bird and gun-training program at Oak Ridge Kennels and I followed Tom Dokken’s training book when she came home. She’s impressed me the last two falls and I’ve been known to tell people that she’s “pretty much the greatest dog ever.” But doesn’t every dog owner say that?
When you get into the offseason, it’s very easy to get out of the habit of training your dog. Even older dogs can use some fine-tuning during the summer to keep them sharp for fall. I decided it was time to get back to work.
It wasn’t like I’d completely abandoned working with her; it just didn’t have much of a regular structure to it. I always tried to get her some exercise and she has a Kong Frisbee that might rival a rooster in her eyes.
Once it was suggested to me that we do a demonstration, I figured I better get to work. Starting with the basics, the heels, comes, sits and stays. I think it’s a great way to get the dog into the “work” mindset. If I mean business on the small stuff, then I mean business on everything.
Blind retrieves, casting and doubles all get worked into short sessions when it’s cool outside. It’s important to do the work, but do it during a time that the dog doesn’t get overworked and run the risk of overheating.
Now that I’m living out the in country, I’m fortunate to be in an area with a healthy pheasant population. During a recent walk along a sprouting cornfield, the unmowed ditches held 3 pheasants along the way that Mika scented and happily flushed.
Watching her flush pheasants brought back that exciting rush that had been held dormant since my last North Dakota walk in early January. Pretty soon both of us were whipped into a sweat as Mika gave chase to the low flyers and I felt my heart race with anticipation of the opener just over 3 months away.
The instinct and training that Mika has did not disappear despite my worries of her getting lazy in the offseason. Combine that with some summer drills and we should be in for a fall full of long tail feathers and tasty barbeques!