Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dogs and ducks

Over the past 35 years I have been lucky enough to hunt over some very wonderful duck dogs. I have in fact had a couple that were quite good and more than a couple that were really bad. The bad ones however seemed to be wonderful and loving pets just the same. They didn't care whether they hunted or not. Their only goal was to make you happy. That alone makes them all wonderful duck dogs in their own right.

This time a new dog was in order and I wanted to get a dog with the proper blood lines and one that could be easily handled from the sea duck boat. I gave some thought to a Chessie but after looking at several dogs my wife informed me that she didn't want that kind of temperament around our daughter. I have read many informative articles with mixed reviews about Chessies. Some say they are one person dogs and aren't great with children and others say they are great with kids. As a married man we all know who won. After much thought I decided to look for a Labrador. They are wonderful family dogs and great hunting partners. While talking to a dog trainer friend of mine one day, he informed me that he was having a litter of just the dog I wanted. The blood lines were from champion hunting stock and the size would be true to the Lab breed that I was looking for. I decided to go with his litter and took first pick on his males. He had two dogs that looked like just was I wanted. Using my gut instinct I chose the first born which ended up being the largest dog at 75 pounds, perfect for what I needed. I am very happy that my wife put her foot down and insisted on a lab.

Thunder came home at 11 pounds and was more than a hand full. House training was a nightmare and the crying for a week seemed like it would never end. He finally settled in and became buddies with my daughter. At twelve weeks we started his training. Sit, here, and place were all words that he heard time and again. When he hit five months bench work and forced fetch started. Thunder progressed through this in about sixty days and looked like he was going to be the finest duck dog I ever owned. I wanted so badly to hunt him that first year that my trainer told me he would take the dog from me if I did. Training a male seems to always be more than a handful.

Thunder's second summer came and it was time for gun training, live bird work and boat training. Gun training seemed to go smoothly as we always used retrieving dummies to help him along. After a steady diet of dummies live bird work was more difficult than I ever expected. He didn't like picking up birds and I was beginning to think he never would. Finally, after about two weeks of daily work he seemed to be getting the idea. With steady work Thunder developed a love for handling real birds. We then moved to boat training. Getting a dog to launch from the from off a boat four feet above the water seemed as though it would be impossible. A trip to the bay and a couple of dummies later and he was going full bore. He passed his second summer with flying colors.

Sea duck season is now here and Thunder is only lacking experience. I found that he doesn't really like to jump off the boat. I thought that would be the easiest part but it has proved the most difficult. Boat jumps require a bit of coaxing but once in the water he knows what to do.
I am convinced that with a year under him he is going to be the best sea duck dog I have ever had. I hope that I can shoot well enough to keep him busy.