Joy and Frustration of the Young Dog

Coming Soon Feature Excerpt

By Frank Jezioro

When it comes to bird dogs, especially pointing dogs — which, by the way, are the only dogs I find interesting — there is nothing I enjoy more than working with a pup. Watching the new prospect develop through the various stages brings great joy; but it has been my experience after 50 years of training them, that there is always a generous portion of frustration. It seems they move forward at a satisfying pace and then fall back. And from what I’ve seen, that happens with both the good pups and the bad ones.

An issue or two back, I talked about the traits of a young dog that can help to predict what the final product might be. I talked about our young setter, Tikki. This is the ongoing saga of that little white pup. As we mentioned before, Tikki was showing great promise from the beginning. He demonstrated a strong nose and a strong pointing instinct. There was very little I had to do to staunch him up on his birds. After only three or four contacts with the pigeons, he hit the scent from a long distance and locked on point. He showed no inclination to creep or to jump in and flush the bird.

These traits easily transferred from the pigeons to liberated quail. If anything, he showed even more intensity on the quail and no desire to flush. He did, as I hoped he would, show a strong desire to get the bird after it was flushed. With no fear of the gun, a strong desire to get the bird, and a retrieve with a soft mouth, he was ready for his first road trip and contact with wild birds. So at 11 months old, he was loaded with the older dogs and off we went for our annual hunt in the Lake States.

This past fall we found adequate numbers of grouse to make the hunt a success, even though we didn’t get into the woodcock until the last couple of days of our trip. The weather was warm and not really conducive to gathering the birds into their staging areas. The first grouse Tiki encountered went out wild without his seeing or hearing it. I watched closely to see what would happen when he came into contact with the area where the grouse just left the ground. As I hoped, he locked onto point. When I got to him, he stood for a moment and then pounced on the ground where the bird had been seconds before.

A few minutes later he was working ahead of me when he turned to his right and pointed again. The cover was fairly open, and I walked in to honor his point and let him know that I would always eventually get to him when he stood his bird. This time when I got to him, he never moved, staring straight ahead along the right side of the old two-track. I made a little circle on the right of the road and started back to him. After another minute or so, I ˵clucked˶ him ahead. He feverishly searched for the bird while I stood and watched. As you have guessed, while I stood there watching him work the right side of the road, a big old grouse got up behind me on the left side of the road. I whirled around but not in time for a shot and only to watch the grouse fan its tail and sail on down through the cover.

The frustration here was with me for not looking hard enough and for moving him ahead while he was in bird scent. I forgot that young dogs sometimes point, knowing a bird is in the area, but haven’t learned yet to locate it.

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