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Treating An Injured Dog

Try these tips out when your buddy gets into trouble

People usually don’t like to think about unpleasant things, such as illness or injury. It’s just their nature. But in the case of a sick or injured dog, it’s better to have a game plan before the first hunting trip of the season than to suffer the consequences later.

Most dog owners know about working their animals during the on- and off-seasons, but I wonder if they are familiar with cases of emergencies.

What would you do in the case of a bleeding leg or other types of injuries?

The following tips on treating an injured or sick dog:

• Shock: shock can be identified by shallow breathing, glassy looking eyes, and the gums of the dog usually turn pale. A dog in shock should be kept in a quiet environment, kept cool if it’s warm out and taken to a vet as soon as possible.

• A bleeding leg or paw: the first thing an owner should do is examine for any foreign objects. In the case of flesh wounds, an owner can rinse it out with iodine and cover with cloth or sterile dressing.

• Bleeding nails: Examine the nail, and trim it if necessary. If the nail is completely gone, it might need stitching. It’s surprising how bad a nail can lame up a dog.

• Broken bones: Examine the leg and determine whether it’s a fracture or an open break (bone will be protruding). You can make a field splint in an effort to immobilize the leg so the dog can’t move around on it. The dog should be taken to a vet immediately.

• Heat stroke: This is marked by excessive drooling, lack of coordination and rapid breathing. You don’t want to break down to that point, but if it has, you must reduce the dog’s body temperature immediately and get it into water or dump your cooler of ice on him. In a severe case, the dog should be put down on ice for 10 to 15 minutes. However, watch out so you don’t cool the dog down too fast. It only takes a half-hour for a dog to bounce back. If it isn’t back by then, find a vet.

• Poison: Symptoms include convulsions, trembling, retching, or vomiting. If the dog has gotten into poison, put a couple teaspoons of salt or pour peroxide on the back of it tongue. This will make the dog throw up. Then take the container of poison and the dog to a vet immediately.

• Skunks: If a dog gets sprayed in the eyes, flush with plain warm water. Drops of olive oil can help relieve the pain or the sting. The old adage of soap and water and tomato juices works well, it may take a couple of washings, but it does the job. The mixture can be diluted with lemon juice.

• Porcupine quills: These are usually fairly easy to remove, if they are in the mouth or nose. Before starting to remove the quills, cut off the tips at an angle. Because the quills are hollow, this will release the pressure, making them easier to remove. Sometimes, a pliers may be needed. If you twist them, they will come out easier because they are barbed. Also, vinegar applied to quills sometimes will make them come out easier.

• Eyes: Sometimes a dog will scratch an eye or pick up seeds or other foreign substances. A boric acid solution or warm tap water can be used as a flush.

• Ears: When ears get seeds in them, they can be cleaned with ear flush, available at a drugstore. This can be complicated because we have to be careful when digging them out. You may need an expert, so you have to play it by ear.

Owners should try to be real careful with a dog in pain because it may not recognize its master. An emergency muzzle may be necessary before examination. An injured dog’s first instinct is to avoid humans.

For an emergency muzzle, use a bandage, cloth, belt, or rope and looping it around the dog’s mouth, tying it just below the mouth. Then go straight across to the neck and tie it.

Because a dog perspires through its tongue, you don’t want to leave it on too long, just long enough to get the job done.

Dog Owner’s First Aid
  • Adhesive tape
  • Gauze bandages
  • Scissors
  • Iodine
  • Chemical ice pack
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Eye drops

Land/Water Work

The dos and don’t of an important stage in any dog’s training.

You’ve probably heard this story before: “He won’t retrieve on land, but he does it all the time if it’s in the water.”

Hunting dog owners who think that’s the way a good water dog should act might be in for a rude awakening. It’s a waste of time, the only thing you’re doing is reinforcing the bad habit of selective retrieving, where the dog will retrieve only when and what it wants to retrieve. The only benefit is that the dog is getting some exercise.

Preliminary work

Before attempting any advanced water training, the dog should be steady on stay, know what come means, and will make a nice retrieve on land.

Before trying to get a dog to make a water retrieve, trainers should do some basic decoy yard work. I suggest spreading out about a dozen decoys in the back yard and throwing a dummy so the dog has to run through them. This will teach the dog to leave the decoys alone.

If a dog is to be used in a boat, let the dog go in and out of the boat in the back yard. Only after that, should a trainer follow up with a boat work in the water with decoy spread.

Before attempting any water work, a trainer should be sure that a young dog enjoys water.

The first priority with any young dog is to take it to an area of shallow water, with a gradually sloped shore. A trainer should go out into the water with the dog, using either hip boots or swimming trunks. I suggest pitching dummies to an older dog, so the younger can build from its elder’s enthusiasm. You have to encourage the young dog that water isn’t a barrier.

Different diversions

After the dog’s confidence in water has been built, it’s time to move on to different types of diversions associated with water.

The most difficult water diversion is a long retrieve in wide-open water. It intimidates a lot of dogs. I urge a short open-water retrieve first. Then, the trainer can start going to retrieves with other diversions, such as land to water to land, water to land to water, cattails, slough grass, etc. The end objective is having the dog gain confidence in retrieving under all circumstances.

A twist should be added by having a buddy throw the dummies and shoot a starting pistol. The idea is create a diversion between the dog and dummy.

Simulated duck hunt

If the dog is to be used for duck hunting, the process can be taken a step further—a simulated duck hunt.

I suggest buying at least three dead ducks, usually obtainable from a game farm. They can be frozen and used again. The “real” birds will give the dog confidence in retrieving actual game.

I also suggest using ducks on land first. Once the dog has shown confidence and enthusiasm on land, the trainer can start throwing birds into the water. Multiple retrieves obviously are incorporated on land before water.

This may sound like a lot of work to some, but allowing only three retrieves keeps a training session at just a few minutes.

After the dog is comfortable with dead ducks, the next step is live birds. I bind my training ducks with a 3-inch-wide masking tape wrapped three times around the body and 1-inch tape wrapped three times around the legs. Live ducks should be thrown only in the water.

It’s important to go to the live ducks because most dogs will be steady and alert on land with dummies or dead ducks, but throw a live duck in there, and the dog will have a tendency to break. It’s then that the trainer must establish that the dog has to stay until released.

The end objective is to develop manners in the blind, duck boat and getting the dog confidence to retrieve through all types of water diversions.

Yes, they should even retrieve Walleyes!

Teaching Obedience in the Field

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, the old saying goes. But, that was probably written by a lazy old dog or a lazy owner.

An older dog may have a lot of bad habits that you need to correct, but they’re still trainable.

Ideally, we like to start the pup out young, when they’re 12 weeks and older. When you start them with the basics—sit, come, heel, stay—it’s easy for them to learn. They have not developed bad habits yet. A young dog knows no other alternative.

If people wait until their dogs are 1 to 2 years old, the animals probably have learned quite a few bad habits, so more repetition—the key to dog training—will be needed.

If you look at the basic field problems a hunter has, it boils down to sit, stay, and come.

Here is an example: You’re out upland game hunting, and the dog just keeps cheating on you, getting farther and farther away—most of the time out of shotgun range. The dog doesn’t know what “come” means. Most guys will blame it on the excitement of the hunt, but the situations all boil down to the dogs don’t know what sit, stay, and come mean. Excitement is no excuse for bad manners or disobedience.

Simulation is key 

Part of the problem is that most hunters don’t understand those three basic commands. To understand them, the handler and the dog have to develop a relationship based on simple obedience in the field.

So often, we teach the dog obedience where he listens real well on the leash or in the house. The hardest part for the average guy is he’s got to take that obedience out in the field, which takes some obvious dedication and repetition under different hunting conditions.

If a guy hunts waterfowl, he’s got to spend time on sit and stay under a simulated waterfowl hunting situation.

An example would be where a handler and dog sit in the rushes along the shore of a body of water and a hunting buddy throws dummies from a distance, at the same time simulating a gunshot. A few decoys can even be thrown in for good measure.

In hunting upland game, come is a command that’s tricky from the standpoint the dog will blow you off so easily because he has four legs and you have two.

Many owners make the mistake of giving the command three, four, five times or more and the dog still hasn’t responded.

As a handler, you have to be disciplined and give the command only once. If the dog doesn’t respond, run him down, make him sit, shake him up, and make him stay. Then walk away 5 to 10 yards, and make him come, sit, and stay. Repeat the process each time the dog screws up.

Along with repetitions, don’t forget the field work.

The key to this is that you not only make him come in your yard, on an open playground, but more importantly, you have to take him in the field— stubble fields, CRP fields. Even carry it one step further, into a cattail slough.

That’s where most guys goof up, they don’t follow through with field work.

Laying the Groundwork for a Pro Training

There’s work to be done before you bring your dog to school

There is no quick fix to dog training. It takes a lot of time. Repetition is the key. That’s why today, more than ever, people are turning to professional trainers to teach their hunting dogs the fundamentals.

These days, our lives have gotten so complicated, most of us just don’t have the time.

Besides the time factor, the most obvious reasons a new dog owner can benefit from hiring a professional is that a trainer has access to the proper training grounds, birds, equipment, etc.

Getting acquainted

But before a person brings a dog to a professional, some ground should be laid.

The key is to socialize the dog.

Not only to acclimate it to its home environment, but to expose it to field experiences. That could mean a stroll in an urban setting or a trip to the country for a walk through a field or a dry cattail slough.

A dog also should get used to a car kennel or one in the back yard. But it’s a big mistake to let a dog get kennel sour, to waste away its time in a kennel and not do anything with it.

A window of opportunity to professionally train a dog is from about 6 to 18 months of age. From 2 to 6 months, dogs are a lot like young kids, their attention spans are very short. This age is a critical time for training, but not constructive training for a professional.

Most trainers also recommend that owners teach their dogs how to sit, stay, heel, and come before taking them to a trainer. At a minimum, a dog should know to come when it’s called and also be retrieving. If it has those two things down, then I have a foundation to do work from.

One of the most common errors I see is that owners build a good foundation in the home environment, but don’t carry their training into the field. A professional will clean up that dog, under all hunting situations.

It can take two to four months to train a started dog (one that the fundamentals of sit, stay, heel, come and it force broken) to quarter, do different types of retrieves in all types of cover, in water and have the ability to pick up different types of birds.

A finished dog, 18 months to 3 years old, will take four to six months of advanced training—multiple retrieves, blind retrieves, etc.

Most trainers will have an evaluation period where they’ll critique a dog’s ability over a two-week period, and if the dog doesn’t show potential, they reserve the right to return the dog.

There are certain animals out there that have too many issues. If that’s the case, we show the owner the dog’s problems and how they can correct it through a lot of repetition. If the owner follows through with this time commitment, the dog will pick up what we’re trying to accomplish.

Help them out

An owner has an obligation to be honest with a trainer in critiquing a dog’s problems. They also should tell a trainer what commands they use and what and where they hunt.

But most importantly, owners must make a commitment to be trained with their dogs.

In going though a training program, we ask the owners to do a lot of homework, including checking out “Game Dog” by Richard Wolters, a video library that corresponds with the book and the training course and weekly field excursions.

With proper time, I can train any dog, but if the owner doesn’t know the commands or how to respond to situations, the money and effort is a waste of time.

Suggested Reading

Here is some suggested readings and video for those who are considering dog training.

Questions for the trainer If you plan on getting your dog professionally trained, here are some questions to ask of a trainer:

  • Have trainer to detail the methods of training?
  • Ask how many dogs are being trained at one time?
  • Are electric collars being used and how are they used?
  • What kind of birds are used and what is the cost?
  • How do I as an owner fit into the training program?

The Fundamentals

It all starts with sit, stay, heel, and come commands

With the grouse season just around the corner, the most important thing a trainer should remember before turning to real birds is that the dog must know the basics—sit, stay, heel, come.

The dog has to have fundamentals down, I can’t emphasize that enough. They have to come when you call them.

Once the dog has the retrieve with dummies down—not balls, sticks, or play toys—the next step is frozen birds.

We like to start the dog out on frozen pigeons for several reasons. On a frozen bird, the feathers are tight, and the dog won’t get a mouthful of feathers, and there is a tendency with a freshly killed bird because of the taste or smell of blood it will encourage the dog to munch.

The first retrieve with the frozen pigeons should be simple, with no diversions, such as throwing it down the road or into the garage.

If the dog has been having a hard time learning the come command, I suggest throwing the frozen pigeon in a garage and standing in the doorway. But don’t tell the dog to come until it has the pigeon in it mouth.

Don’t be too concerned if the dog drops the pigeon at your feet the first few retrieves.

After the dog is used to a frozen pigeon with no diversion, a buddy can assist by going a short distance away, tossing a pigeon into light to medium cover and shooting a gun while the dog sits near the trainer.

The next step is to incorporate a dead pigeon hidden in the grass and use the fetch command, which means go look and pick it up. Then, the trainer should always start in light to medium cover with a light wind blowing in the dog’s face.

When the dog has developed consistency with the dead pigeons, the next step is to advance to frozen ducks or pheasants. This will introduce the dog to different smells, textures, and weights.

Each dog will act a little differently, some might pick the duck or pheasant up right away, while others will just sniff and leave them.

If the dog won’t pick up the frozen duck or pheasant, tease them with the bird. Drag it around and toss it and tell the dog to fetch it with an encouraging tone of voice. But, don’t let the dog get by without picking it up at all, then it’s time to take it to a professional for force breaking.

A nice technique is to take a live duck with clipped wings, wrap 3-inch masking tape three times around its body and wings and allow the bird to escape into medium to heavy cover while the dog sits on stay.

In a few minutes, release the dog. This gives the dog the opportunity to get its nose the ground to find a live bird.

A final and very simple exercise involves going for a walk with your dog and taking along a live pigeon with its primary flight feathers removed. After the dog is released and it’s quartering away, take the pigeon and throw it like a baseball diagonally over the dog. The pigeon should be able to fly about 30 to 35 yards. While in flight, the trainer should shoot a gun.

This is a good way to simulate a hunt, because it will allow the dog to see the bird falling, and it will be able to retrieve a live bird. This will get the dog excited.

Training the Basics

Repetition is the key ingredient at this early stage

Keep it simple. That’s my philosophy when it comes to teaching a dog the basics.

The most important aspect of training a dog, whether a pup or 1-or-2-year-old, is putting them through lessons of repetition and gradually making the task more difficult.

The problem most beginners have is that they’re a good friend and mother, but not very good teachers. A common error that most people make is they don’t show the dog what they want them to do.

There is a natural method to teaching a dog, and it starts with praise. In the first step, I recommend incorporating praise with the new command.

Through repetition, the dog understands what it’s out there for, whether it’s retrieving or quartering.

Then you stop using praise, the dog will realize doing the work is his reward.

Make sure dog understands

Discipline shouldn’t be incorporated into the equation until a dog understands what he’s doing.

We all know how to give praise and probably give too much of it. In handling, you’ve got to realize that reprimand is a training tool, but do not let it get out of hand. Don’t lose your temper.

And don’t use food to get a dog to do what it’s supposed to do; use praise by voice and touch. Food is a good training mechanism for trick dogs. A retriever or gun dog should not work for food or praise. Our end objective is that a dog’s reward is the field work.

Watch tone of voice

When teaching young dogs the basics, handlers should use a commanding tone of voice, but not a shouting voice, which might frighten the dog. In times of play, a lighter tone can be used.

One weakness that I see most handlers make is that when they talk to their dogs, they put in extra words.

Some dog owners will say ‘come on over here and sit down’, that can be confusing, since what you’re really doing is combining three commands—come, heel, and sit. From experience, one word commands work best.

When teaching basic commands such as come, many people forget to do the field work. Don’t just make him come when he’s in the yard. Make him come in a stubble field, in a CRP corn field. It’s good to do the field work with trained dogs, too, just to keep them honest.

Never too old

A dog is never too old to learn. As a trainer, there is an advantage in training a little older dog—8 months to 1 year old.

When they’re older and mature and show trainability, they can pick it up faster. It may take a young pup two to three weeks to learn a basic command, while an older dog can pick it up in just a or two days.

I start play training my dogs at 7 to 12 weeks. Then I go to town. Within 12 weeks, a dog is an adult, brain-wise.

By 6 months, the pup should be retrieving singles and understand the basic commands of sit, stay, heel, come and quartering.

It’s that simple. You need to understand these basics to start your training.

Kennel Floor Septic Systems

Septic system can help make your hunting companion a happy camper

For dog owners, there’s nothing more detestable than having to clean up after their pets.

A dirty kennel not only looks and smells bad, it also can be a breeding ground for numerous insects and bacterial and fungal growths.

But a carefully designed septic system can eliminate those problems and probably will make your hunting companion happier as well.

Before considering whether to put in a septic system, an owner needs to find out if the soil will ensure proper drainage.

If you have heavy clay soil, don’t put it in. Heavy clay does not have the ability to absorb water. It only will create a bacterial problem. Loamy or sandy soil provides the best drainage. The local Natural Resource Service should be able to tell you if the soil is suitable, and some offices even will send someone out to inspect the site.

After an appropriate site is chosen, the next step would be to pour the concrete kennel run. A 4-foot-by-10-foot floor (4 inches thick) with concrete blocking allows for easy washing and scrubbing. A 2-foot-by-6-foot gutter is installed at the base of each run. This gutter will be able to carry material from a hosed-down kennel floor to the sewage system.

Details for Complete Kennel System and Other Gun Dog Tips

The sewage system should consist of a large galvanized garbage can, set inside a hole, with approximately 2 inches sticking out of the ground. The sewage tank should have:

  • A 6-by-4-inch inlet hole that allows access from the gutter.
  • Half-inch holes drilled down its side and its bottom cut out.
  • An attachable 4-inch perforated sewer distribution pipe that is placed inside a trench that measures 6 inches wide, 10 feet long, and 2 feet deep. A rental company trencher works nicely for this job.

Clean rock should be placed around the can and on the bottom 12 to 18 inches of the trench, beneath the pipe.

Solid materials will settle in the tank, while the water will flow through the precut tank holes and into the distribution pipe, where it will settle into the soil.

The biggest advantage of this system is that you eliminate kennel urine and stool byproduct smells, but more importantly, bacteria and parasite problems. A galvanized can will last on the average of 10 years.

One septic system can handle about five kennels and needs to be cleaned out only once a year. I recommend cleaning a kennel run at least twice a day.

The biggest limitation is that it won’t work in the winter, because everything will freeze up. To get rid of urine or smelly fecal materials the rest of the year, it’s the answer.

Building A Dog House

A dog on the loose is its own worst enemy. How many times have you seen a dog running about the neighborhood, digging in someone’s garbage cans? Or worse yet, getting hit by a car?

Even in the country, a dog should have a place to go, where it will be protected from the weather, bugs and disease. These are just a few of the reasons why it’s so important to provide a dog with a permanent home.

There are two routes a person can take when building a doghouse. It can be either a free-standing structure, or it can be built inside a shed, garage, or other building, where it can double as a work bench.

The advantage of having an indoor house is that when feeding the dog or taking it out, it’s readily accessible from the inside. That’s a big advantage with the weather extremes in the Northland.

The house doesn’t have to be that big—a 3-foot-6-inch by 3-foot-6-inch structure is plenty big. Most people over-design their doghouse. You want it fairly compact and insulated. You want to allow the dog to keep a warm environment. If it gets too big, the house won’t retain the dog’s body heat.

Sleep quarters

When building the house inside a garage, I recommend elevating half of the floor area for the dog as a sleeping area. I use 2 inches of Styrofoam between the platform and the floor for insulation.

Do not use bedding. Electric heat mats are chew proof and energy efficient (60 watts). They’re clean, don’t collect moisture, are washable, and more importantly, I find the dogs are more content, eat less dog food, and, in general, are more healthy. The mats cost about $150.

If a person opts for an outdoor doghouse, it should be even smaller than an indoor one—usually no bigger than 30 inches by 36 inches. It also should have a pitched roof that’s removable to allow for cleaning and ventilation.

pet door in metal buildingFor bedding, an eclectic heat mat is preferable. Never use cedar shaving, that’s the worst thing you can do—it can really screw up a dogs nose.

Either type of doghouse should be equipped with a dog door (see

Whether the doghouse is inside a building or a stand alone, it should have an adjoining kennel run. It generally should have a concrete floor, preferably 4-footby- 10-foot. That’s plenty big, you have to understand it’s just an area for the dog to get fresh air and very seldom used as a bathroom. It’s not an exercise area.

The run should be enclosed with a galvanized wire fence (1 3/8-inch posts) and be at least 5 ½ to 6 feet high. Many dogs can easily jump a 6-foot fence. A cover will keep out the friendly, neighborhood males.

If a concrete run isn’t feasible, dig out a run and fill it with sand, then cover it with 1-inch-by-6-inch-by-12- inch patio block. It makes a nice maintenance surface.

The biggest advantage of a concrete floor is that its easy to clean. A sun baked concrete floor also kills parasites.

While they will make a dog’s life more comfortable and your maintenance chores simplified, there’s a better reason for having a permanent doghouse and kennel run—the dog will train easier.

The biggest advantage from a training standpoint is you’re eliminating the dog’s opportunity to get into trouble. If he’s supervised, he’s not picking up bad habits.

Things to keep in mind before building a shelter

If designing an outdoor doghouse, an owner should keep in mind the following special needs.

  • The doghouse should be raised off the ground to avoid moisture.
  • It should be protected from the wind.
  • It should have outside shade in the summer.
  • It should be painted with nontoxic paint, preferably a lighter color so it doesn’t absorb the heat.
  • It should have its edges protected with metal sheet-rocked corners, so the dog doesn’t chew them up.

For more information on a variety of topics, including kennel drainage, kennel santiation, building a doghouse, kennel construction, cold/warm weather care, etc. go to

The First 12 Weeks

The early stages of a puppy’s development will have a lasting impact—so a breeder’s litter management is crucial.

A new puppy is a lot like a new baby.

Both are very impressionable, and generally what they see and hear in the early stages of their development will have a lasting effect.

That’s why it’s important that dog owners realize that socializing should begin with the breeder—during the pup’s first seven weeks.

Not much can be done the first three weeks of the pup’s life. The first 21 days are survival days; the pups rely on Mom 100 percent. The next week the pups eyes open, and they start to develop their senses.

But from the age of 4 weeks to 7 weeks, a breeder “should go to town”.

At 28 days, the breeder should begin getting the pups used to the sense of touch and voice, at 5 weeks they should be going on short walks.

At 6 weeks, the breeder can start using a hand dummy to look for an “attitude for retrieving”. I make dummies out of 5-pound shot bags. Just take one-third of the bag, put some nylon in it and sew up the end.

When using the dummies, a sterile environment is very important. You don’t want any distractions because of the pups’ short attention span. It’s best to just throw the dummy two to three times and include lots of praise upon retrieval.

Puppies go to their new homes at 7 weeks old, and that’s when the new owner takes over.

I caution new owners about bringing the new pup around the family, though. You must have rules.

I recommend no tag, keep-away, chasing or pulling on toys, because you’ll just have to correct this behavior later.

I also recommend taking the new pup out for rides in the car or pickup, too.

After the puppy gets used to taking walks, different types of noise, people, rides in the truck, I like to introduce it to a car kennel, then a car kennel in the home. Then, at 12 weeks, the new puppy should be well on its way to becoming socialized.

Then, you can start “going to town”.

Picking A Puppy

Do some homework on genetics and follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll get a keeper.

You probably all remember the line, “How much is that doggie in the window, the one with the waggly tail,” from your childhood days.

When it comes to choosing a future hunting companion, basing the selection of a puppy on its price and cuteness probably is the most ineffectual test the new dog owner can use.

The worst thing you can do is pick a pup because he’s cute. Experience shows that cute little pups can grow up into a big-time problem.

And the original cost, which is the least part of an overall investment over the lifetime of the dog, should be the least criteria.

Before looking at a puppy, an owner should have a basic knowledge of genetics by being familiar with pedigrees and making sure the breeder has sound stock.

You must further assume that the dogs having the pups have good temperament and are neither listless nor hyperactive. This may sound oversimplified, but these are two very big assumptions. There are a lot of breeder problems out there.

Once an owner has dealt with these important issues, the task of actually picking a puppy can begin. Owners should decide what kind of dog they want before the process starts.

The test

Animal behavioralists have identified criteria for determining the pecking order of a litter during an age period of 5 to 7 weeks. It’s called the Campbell Puppy Behavior Test.

The test is fairly simple and requires four different procedures. Here’s an oversimplification:

  • First, take the puppy away from its comfort zone, probably its welping box, and love it up a bit. After putting the puppy down, see if it will come when it is called. It’s a good sign if the puppy comes. If it takes off, it shows that it is independent, if it hits the ground and clams up, it might tell you it’s a wallflower.
  • Second, take the puppy on a short walk. A puppy that tags along and nips at your pant legs shows its boldness. The other extreme is one that hesitates, with its tail between its legs.
  • Third is the restraining procedure. Turn the puppy on its back. If it fights and struggles, it usually is an indication it’s a go-getter. If it gives up, it shows it respects you as the boss.
  • Fourth, lift the pup off the ground 3 to 4 inches. An aggressive dog will fight you, while a passive one will let you handle it. What we are trying to do is eliminate the knothead, the one who thinks he’s the boss, or the shy one, that one that gives up.
  • A tough handler might want to pick a rowdy pup. But, if you’re more lackadaisical or easygoing, you might want the mellow one.

But to do a proper job, it takes more than looking at a litter of puppies once and making a selection. The test works, but it has its limitations. First of all, it’s got to be run at different times of the day and at different ages during that 5-to 7-week-old growth period. This can be difficult because you and the breeder have a large time commitment.

Which sex?

On the subject of male vs. female, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I get a lot of phone calls about the pros and cons of males and females.

Males are usually bigger and stronger and, in general, better looking. Physically, they’re more stout and blockier. The  isadvantages include the urge to roam and the tendency to fight. Also, from a maintenance standpoint, urinating males can be hard on shrubbery.

Females generally are more one-on-one orientated. In general, they’re probably a little easier to train. One disadvantage of females is that they go into heat twice a year, which can mean up to 20 days of down time during each heat cycle, if the hunter is with friends who have male dogs. Like males, females also present maintenance problems. They can do quite a bit of damage to a lawn.

Generally, there’s not a great difference between the two. It’s one of personal preference. My advice to those who’ve done their homework from standpoint of pedigrees, titles, guarantees, etc.  Close your eyes and pick one, they’re like bookends.


Checklist from picking a pup

  1. Do the teeth have a matching bite and are they white without any brown stains? Staining indicates the pup has been given poor quality food.
  2. Is the coat clear and glossy?
  3. Is the belly button or navel OK? If it’s popped out, the puppy probably has a hernia.
  4. Are the eyelids tight to the eyeball, not open or rolled inward?
  5. Has the breeder been giving the pups shots?
  6. Have the dew claws been removed?
  7. Can the breeder give hip or eye guarantees?
  8. Are the breeder’s facilities clean and presentable?
  9. Has the breeder socialized the pups over the last month?
  10. Are the pups retrieving already?