Sage Monkey

Sage Monkey

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Howl-O-Ween!

Today Cleo dressed up as the rare spotted sassy turtle for Halloween. Although this species appears calm in reality its twice as vicious as the common snapping turtle and four times as cunning. This rare beast can steal cat food off the counter in one single leap, it can chew holes in Victoria Secret panties in seconds and without warning it can shred carelessly placed paper towels under the dining room table.

You may have a better chance of watching Sasquatch meander across a field than pinpoint when this beast will show up. Happy Halloween everyone!

Click here to see Cleo as the Elusive Easter Pointer.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Choosing a Hunting Dog Breeder

I've decided to do a post on things to be aware of when choosing a breeder for a hunting dog. These are all things that I wish I had had a better understanding of when Jim and I set out on this adventure three years ago. Luckily, I did allot of research at the time and we choose a great breeder with Nobelle's Kennel. But to someone who knows very little about hunting dogs and wants to purchase one I hope this helps steer them to choosing a reputable breeder. I would like to point out that I am not a breeder and this post is based solely on my experience and the things I have learned over the last couple of years.

Before even looking at breeders the most important step in my opinion is deciding what breed of hunting dog you want. The term hunting dog covers allot of ground. There are pointers, flushers, retrievers. There are also versatile breeds that do more than just one of those actions. Some breeds are high strung, some breeds require more physical maintenance due to longer coats, some breeds are better acclimated to colder weather, some breeds are Velcro dogs and require allot of attention. The first step is deciding what breed best suits you, your family and the type of hunting you plan on doing.

Once you know the breed you can start to research breeders. Let me start by saying that not all breeders and breeding programs are created equal. Anyone and I mean anyone can breed two dogs. It's not rocket science people. But to develop a good breeding program and breed to better the breed takes allot of responsibility, knowledge and experience.

A good breeder will be picky on who gets to have one of their pups. When you contact them they should be evaluating you just as much as you are evaluating them! Good breeders will have a certain criteria that you the buyer will need to meet in order to be eligible. Not all criteria for each breeder will be the same but be ready to explain some of the following things: whether or not you plan on having the dog live inside or live in a outdoor kennel, how many hours a day the dog will be crated, who will be training the dog to hunt - you or a trainer, what species of birds do you plan on hunting, are you single or married, do you have children - if so how many and how old are they, how large your yard is, will your yard have a fence, ect. If the breeder you contacted doesn't ask you any of these things then that should be a big red flag.

Responsible and knowledgeable breeders take the steps to get proper health clearances for the dogs they are breeding. Just because a dog sits in a blind or has great desire in the field it doesn't mean it should be bred. Make sure that the Dam and Sire are at least 2 years of age. The parents should also be certified by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or a Penn Hip certified veterinarian to ensure your puppy won't have hip dysplasia. Many breeders even take the extra step and have the elbows certified. Ask your potential breeder for proof of health clearances. Purchasing an inexpensive dog with no health clearances will most likely cost you 10 fold in the future.

Not all but a good percentage of reputable breeders will require you to sign a contract. The contract binds the buyer into certain stipulations. For instance, if you the buyer can no longer keep the animal the seller has the first right to take the dog. Reputable breeders don't want there dogs turned over to shelters or abandoned. There may be a breeding clause that states you can only breed your animal if it passes a certain level of testing and certifications. The contract will also state that you will provide proper food, housing and vet care. Some contracts like the one we signed required us to run our pup in a NAVHDA natural ability test. All these stipulations are insurances you will care for the pup. A backyard breeder only wants your money and doesn't care what happens to the dog.

Since we are talking hunting dogs here you want to make sure that the Sire and Dam of your new potential puppy are actually hunted. Just because the breeder tells you that the puppies parents have great noses and a family member hunted them allot on a farm somewhere doesn't mean a flippin thing unless he or she can back it up. Ask if the puppies parents hunt wild birds? If so, ask where, how often and for what species of game. Find out if the parents are hunt tested or field trialed through respected organizations such as NAVHDA, AKC, NSTRA, NADKC? If so, what level of testing have they completed and how well did they do? Do they hold any titles, if so what are they? A breeder who tests and trials their dogs at a high level is showing that the dogs they have produced are able to meet stringent standards. Not all breeders participate in hunt tests or trials but they should hunt their dogs.

After you purchase your puppy your breeder should be a resource for you. An educated and experienced breeder will know their dogs better than anyone. When you have questions about your dogs heat cycle, puppy teething, how to best crate them, how much you should be feeding them, how to introduce them to birds ect., the first person you should be calling or emailing is your breeder. A knowledgeable breeder will have those answers for you. They will steer you in the right direction and be supportive of your hunting endeavors. A good breeder doesn't disappear after you pay for the puppy and take them home.

Often times it can take a long time to get a puppy from a reputable breeder. Many breeders only have one or maybe two litters a year. Allot of those litters will be sold out in advance. You may luck out and they will have pups available but most often you will have to put a deposit on a litter and wait. Be patient. I know its hard and you want a puppy now but take that time to do research, attend hunt tests and field trials, talk to experienced handlers and get yourself prepared. When you do get your pup you will be that much more ahead of the game. Don't make the mistake of settling or taking a pup from someone who is not reputable. Sadly there are allot of backyard breeders and puppy mills out there. Educate yourself to protect yourself.

Just so we cover all the bases, here are some signs of backyard breeders and puppy mills:
~Carrying multiple hunting dog breeds
~Having lots of dogs kept in often times poor conditions
~No health clearances
~No Papers
~They can not produce or show lineage
~They have little to no hunting knowledge
~They ask little to no questions

Keep in mind that a puppy is also an immense amount of work. Purchasing a started dog is always an option. When doing that be sure to purchase a started dog from a reputable person as well. And of course there are always rescues. Some breed specific rescues will purposefully place rescued hunting dogs with families who are interesting in hunting. Be sure to cover all your bases before making any decisions. Remember once you get your pup your getting a 14 to 16 year companion. Make sure you have made the commitment to that pup for its life, through thick and thin, good hunting seasons and bad.

My only other warning is if you are a novice and looking to get into bird dog hunting be prepared to get addicted. Before you know it you'll be driving great distances to buy birds, spending your weekends building whoa tables and pigeon coops, you'll be kayaking across lakes doing duck searches and asking for gift certificates to Ugly Dog Hunting and Lion Country Supply for Christmas. Be prepared to do ridiculous things for the love of your dog. It starts as a hobby and becomes a lifestyle. But it all starts with a good make sure you choose educated.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Dog Who Cried Wolf

Cleo is a quirky little beast. She loves swimming in the ocean and riding in waves, jumping off of docks into lakes and searching for ducks in ponds. She has her own doggie pool to keep cool in the summer and she loves blazing trail in the snow but when it comes to rainy days she refuses to go outside. Today just happened to be a typical chilly and rainy Pennsylvania Fall day.

Starting early this morning Cleo began to cry wolf. She walks to the back sliding door and punches the glass. This is our signal to get up or stop what we are doing and open the door to let her out to run the perimeter of our yard. Except on days like today when she smacks the glass we walk over and as we open the door she runs away. As soon as we walk away from the door she sits herself back in front of it and after a minute or two punches the glass again.  This would go on all day if we let it. At some point we shove her out the door and little Ms. Sassy Spots has learned to go hangout on the front porch where its dry.

The only way she will go outside and do her business is if you stand outside in the pouring rain with her. Otherwise she just chills on the porch. Someone has learned to work the system.

I would also like to share that when I started this blog post tonight Cleo was in my good graces where she normally resides like the little spotted princess she is. But when I left her home and ran out without her, Lady Cleopatra dug through my closet and carefully choose my favorite pair of black heels to make her chew toy. And this is what she did to them:

Needless to stay when I came home and she failed to meet me at the door I knew something was up. She delivered the shoe to hand and put herself in timeout. Not only is she sassy but she's vindictive and now she resides on my crap list. I wonder how long I'll actually be able to keep up this whole mad charade. At least she knows she was bad and I didn't even have to tell her. Ugh....I really liked those heels. Boo.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sweet Taste of Success: Senior AKC Hunt Test

Today Jim and I ventured an hour or so north to Weatherly, PA to run Cleo in an AKC Senior Hunt Test. She passed with flying colors, most notably receiving a score of 10 in hunting. To say the least Jim and I were elated. We ran her back in May with less than desirable results. You can read about that here. But most importantly it really felt great to be successful today. And it just goes to show that you only really fail when you stop trying.

Cleo runs big. On more than one occasion the judges joked about double checking that this was indeed a hunt test and not a field trial. One judge even heckled Jim after the test about investing in a horse. Jim did a great job of handling her and kept her out of trouble. In return Cleo listened wonderfully. She had some really nice points and stayed steady to the shot. She also retrieved to hand.

Cleo on Point

Jim looking to flush the quail while Cleo remains on point 

Jim instructing the gunners on where to stand 

Cleo has to pass her Senior test four times in order to earn her title. We have one down and three to go! Way to go Cleo!

And be sure to check Cleo out on facebook! Her page is titled: Adventures of a German Shorthaired Pointer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A little Fall Training!

Fall is here! Well sort of. The leaves in the northeast are starting to change but yesterday during training it reached almost 80 degrees. It looks like were in for an Indian Summer.  After a 3 week lay off from training it was great to be back at it. Jim, Cleo and I headed up to North Jersey to shoot some chukars over Cleo and get  her ready not only for the upcoming hunting season but another shot at her AKC Senior Hunt Title.

Cleo had a pretty good training day. She ran big and she ran hard. She stayed steady to the shot and fall on all her birds. She did pretty well with retrieving. On two birds she dropped them about 5 feet from Jim. She readjusted and then delivered them to hand but that would have earned us a big FAIL if she was to do that during a test. Jim worked her on some force fetch this morning and she had no issues.

Cleo on the go!

Cleo on point

Retrieving to hand

Another nice point
A requirement for the AKC Senior hunt test is your dog needs to honor another dog while it is on point. To do this you need to work with another dog. Today we had Cleo honor Frank Hulsman's 13 year old GSP Jenny. I have to say this was one of the best parts of my day. Jenny is clearly a senior dog but watching her run through the field, hunt, point and retrieve you would have thought she was a puppy. I'm gonna use this as an opportunity to hijack my own blog. Senior dogs are great dogs. Just because they move a little slower, are grey in the face it doesn't mean that they are useless. I wish people would open up to the idea of adopting senior dogs. Go to any local GSP Rescue website and the will have senior dogs available.  For some reason people always overlook these great animals. Senior dogs are worth adopting and loving. And they are much more mellow than a high strung puppy. 

13 year old Jenny hunting for chukars

Jenny on point

Cleo honoring Jenny

Does that look like a 13 year old Senior dog to you? 

Cleo did good with backing today. Hopefully we will run her in the AKC Senior Hunt Test in the next couple of weeks. But more than anything Jim and I can't wait to take her out hunting!