Thanks! I think I learn as much as you do when we talk via Facebook, Twitter, or when you ask questions on your contest entry at wingshootingusa.org so many of your questions are universal, everyone faces the same challenges at some point in their life with dogs and bird hunting. Maybe you’ll save yourself – and your dog – some headaches by reading these.
Q: I have a GWP puppy that loves water. She runs down to the lake every chance she gets. Splashes around, drinks her fill, wades into her chest, but will not swim. I have tossed bumpers, balls and toys etc., but she just jumps around and barks.
A: Try real birds and get ready for one motivated swimmer.
Q: At what age is it the best time to spay or neuter your dog?
A: Most research suggests you wait anywhere from six months to 18 months, to ensure the hormones “down there” have a chance to work their magic on a dog’s body.
Q: What is the best method to convince your children to not undo your dog’s training? Every bit of progress seems to be undone, for instance, by the kid’s uncontrollable urge to play tug of war with the dog, etc.
A: Train your kids too. Get them to help in your training and it might have more relevance to them. They’ll have to deal with their misdeeds.
Q: Is it easier for a dog to understand two commands “sit” and “stay” or is it easier to teach a single command for sit and stay by just saying sit or in spaniel circles hup?
A: I like to keep it simple. A dog should obey the command until released or given another command. When he “sits,” he sits, until told to do something else.
Q: Scott, I live in the big city and own a young GSP. What do you think is the best way for me to keep my dog in shape for hunting? Not only physically but also her bird finding skills?
A: Running alongside your bike (attached via a rig like the “Springer”) would be good for physical conditioning. Even a small backyard can be used for fundamental bird contact, especially combined with a long drive once a week to a spot where you can let your dog stretch out and find birds in a more natural setting.
Q: Is it OK to “rough house” with my dog while playing with him or does that hurt his discipline?
A: I do it occasionally, but not as often as I used to. I’m becoming a believer in “pecking order,” and that requires discipline on the human’s part as well as the dog’s. A dog that learns he can “play fight” with you is one step away from jockeying for the position of top dog.
Q: What are your thoughts on hybrid breeds? I have hunted with a lodge that breeds the GSP to Labs. The result is a leaner, faster retriever, and one that will point and or flush wild pheasants. I was hesitant to obtain one of the pups until I worked with one this early preserve season.
A: I guess if you want a dog that flushes sometimes and points other times that would be the dog for you. I prefer a dog that I can count on to do one or the other consistently.
Q: Do dogs stay on the scent of a bird better when their nose is wet?
A: Great observation. I think so. More humidity, period, helps a dog scent better (scent molecules “stick” better to vegetation and the ground). A nose that is damp collects more scent; nostrils (where dogs’ scent receptors are) that are damp are able to use more of those receptors.
Q: Is there a quality dog food that helps to limit the shedding of hair and the amount of gas that the dogs pass?
A: On the shedding question, probably not. See a veterinarian to make sure it’s not a medical condition like thyroid imbalance. On the gas question, yes. Causes are often: 1) overfeeding any ration; 2) too much fat; 3) too much protein; 4) a protein source that your dog is not able to metabolize well. Check your dog food’s nutritional content and adjust one or more of those variables.
Q: I don’t understand how you know when to shoot when the bird is far enough away after the dog flushes it. I have a feeling the dog is going to get hurt (shot).
A: Congratulations on having some awareness of the dog when shooting! As far as height, the general rule is don’t shoot a bird unless you can see daylight between the bird and the ground. As far as distance, only practice will make you comfortable with knowing “shootable” distances of 15-35 yards. So, go hunting more often.
Q: I noticed while watching the show that you place a piece of tape on the left eye of your shooting glasses. I believe it’s because your left eye is dominant and you shoot right-handed. So here is my question: Why don’t you learn to shoot left handed?
A: I’ve tried, and failed. Twice. The tape is not a perfect solution, but I don’t mind missing birds (as you have probably observed on the show).
Q: I have two Brittany’s, full brothers same litter, one will almost always lay down when backing and stand when first to point until I’m standing beside him. Then he may lie down. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it doesn’t bother me too much as I just hunt and do not field trial. Are there any suggestions on correcting this? He is a little timid when corrected very much, but he is a hard hunter.
A: You’ve probably identified part of the problem: he’s a soft dog that fears harsh correction … maybe you came down hard on him a few times when he wasn’t steady on a bird? Maybe instead of correcting him for flushing a bird, work on praising him when he whoas for the same bird? He may staunch up if he’s feeling good about the work he does for you.