Hunting Dogs

The "Nightly" News - Training C-crets

In my travels I have seen more and more dogs that do not know simple commands such as heel, sit, stay and come. These are the most important commands your handler will teach you. Each is special in it’s own way, such as sit, sitting gets me a cookie and I sit before I eat my meals. Most importantly I must sit before Lynne will release me to retrieve a bird or dummy this exercise also includes the heel and wait or stay commands. We will explore all the commands in the second segment of this article, we want to let you in on all the C-crets in the first. These training C-crets are the foundation for all training, obedience, field work, hunt test, and hunting. We promise to get you started on the right paw so you too can be a dog and handler team that posses all the secrets.

Students (people) that come to Lynne’s obedience classes always ask her to teach them to better understand their dog. She tells everyone the secrets to being a great dog trainer/handler are very simple, we call these secrets the 4 C-crets or 4 C’s of dog training, and they are as follows:




Common Sense (which is most important)

Each of the 4 C’s coincide with heel, sit, stay and the come commands, let me explain.

To be able to teach a dog anything the handler mush first have Control, I know it’s fun to jump around and play but in order to learn we must be still and quiet to understand what our handler wants, work now play later just like school. Your handler can begin to teach you at a very early age (8 weeks). Everything is taught on lead, because you can’t control pup if she is loose, we will also learn the boundaries of the leash if we are started early.

To teach pup when she is young to get use to a lead, attach a very light weight lead with a small snap to pups collar and let her drag it in the house or outside while you supervise. You never want to leave a pup unattended while dragging a lead, they can become tangled and hurt themselves. It will take a few days for pup to get use to the lead dragging behind her, she may also be a little afraid of it. Praise her and reassure her, play games with her while she is dragging the lead, in a few days you can pick up the lead and begin your control work.

Sit on the ground or floor and hold the end of the lead at the handle if pup goes to the end of it and pulls, gently pop the lead toward you and pat your leg, call pups name and tell her "here or come" and praise her. When she comes to you pet her and give her a treat this will begin to teach the "come" command as well. This exercise lets pup know that by your side is safe and when she gets to far away something "pops her" so to speak. Pup will know that the negative pop did not come from you because you are talking to them in a positive and reassuring voice.

Don’t be surprised if the first few times you pop the lead pup whines. This is not because you are hurting them only because you are stopped her from doing what she had in mind. On occasion you will train a pup that will throw a holy fit when you pop the lead. Again this is not because you are hurting them, they will learn very young how to train you. Pup thinks that if she puts up a big fuss you will stop your training and she will be able to continue what she wants to do. You as her handler can not let this happen. Continue with the light pops and continue to call her name and praise her. When pups realizes she is not going to win she will submit and come to you, this can take several minutes. If you let pup win one time she will learn to throw fits longer each time you train and will become unruly to get her way. Neither of you want that, just be very patient and continue calling her name and praising her until she submits. Pup will learn quickly that her way is not always the right way. Your training sessions will become easier and more fun everyday.

This exercise will also take several days then you can begin to walk with pup on the lead. The same will apply when you start walking a quick pop with the lead if they pull, pat your leg and pet and praise them when they come back to your side. Very young puppies learn this quickly and you won’t have the problem of them being 6 months old and never being on lead.

This is how you will gain control of pup, then you can begin teaching the commands that she will use everyday for the rest of her life.

Consistency is a big one, sometimes our handler’s try to teach us too much and only show us how to do a command a few times. We learn by repetition and by the rules always being the same, we don’t do well when it’s ok jump up on you one day and then we cant the next day. It is also very hard when you have several people in your pack/family and all of them allow you to do something different. For instance, Dad doesn’t mind you jumping on him but Mom and sister do. Sister will allow you on the bed if no one is looking and if you get on Mom’s bed you will be pushing up daisy’s instead of digging them up. It is very helpful if everyone in the family will teach you what is right and what is wrong and they are the same. This is a problem most people have when they get a pup. One person can untrain quicker than the main handler is training.

In my home I am only allowed to sit in one chair, I am not allowed on the other furniture and I am not allowed on the bed. This is taught by telling pup "no" in a very stern voice and putting her gently back in the floor if she is on the furniture, the same if they are jumping on you. Tell pup "no or off" and bump them with your knee in their chest, if pup is very small just push them back with your foot and give the same command. When they are in the desired position praise them and give them a pat, it won’t take long for pup to learn that 4 feet on the floor will get them praise and petting. I have to admit that I like knowing when I am doing the right thing, my people scratch behind my right ear.

Communication is the most difficult C-cret to teach a handler, they know what they want us to do but have a hard time getting us to understand. Teaching us with one word commands and showing us what that command means is the key to communication. Sometimes handlers think their dogs know the commands after only a few sessions and they get upset because we forget. If this happen to you ask you handler if she/he learned their multiplication tables after only two or three days? Yes that includes the 7’s, 8’s and 9s. I think that will help your handler see that repetition and communication will get the job done even though it may take longer than they think it should. We do understand more than more people think, we do best when we learn commands in sets of 3. If our handler tells us to sit and places us in the sitting position (which we will go over) we will do that exercise over again 3 times in succession. Our handler will release us between each exercise with a release word, pet and praise us and then repeat the exercise. The key is for our handler to communicate with us by telling and showing us what they want us to do. Again it wont’ take long for pup to catch on but practice makes perfect and we, like people have to understand the task that is being ask of us to complete. Some pups catch on in a few days and others take months, so be prepared to be patient with them.

The last C-crete is the most important Common Sense, if you and your handler are having a difficult day understanding each other take a break and play for a while, then start again. Think about what it is that you are having trouble with, is your handler leaving out a crucial step, did they have a bad day at work and are now taking it out on you? How about starting from the beginning, sometimes that is all it takes to better understand where the problem came from in the first place, then you can work through the problem together.

As you can see this is a great place to start with your new or older pup. With this knowledge you can teach your pup what it takes to be a pleasant part of you family. You must also set rules for the house and when you are in public. You are a very important part of your family and with these secrets you can insure that you will remain the first one everyone runs to when they come home at night. Without these C-crets and manners you may be the pup that no one wants to play with because you can’t sit quietly and you jump on everyone. My bark of advice to you is when you are in a training session try your best to understand what your handler wants from you.

Now I will tell you my personal C-cret, people don’t know it but we are really the ones that teach them to become good handlers. We are the one with patience when they have none. We are the ones that will greet them at the door and give them a good lick up the face after a bad day at work. We are the ones that will be there in the duck blind with them in freezing cold. We are a team, buddies, and best friends till the end.

I hope that I have helped you better understand your handler and your handler better understand you. Until next time:

Keep you Nose in the Wind,

Fowlcreeks TF Black as Night


© 2004

He’s Cute – But Will He Hunt?

Waterfowlers understand the importance of life-like decoys, high-grade shotguns and artistically crafted duck calls.  Yet when it comes time to select a canine hunting partner, many of these otherwise discriminating hunters often succumb to sentimentality at the first sight of a litter of wriggling puppies.  Selecting a high quality hunting retriever puppy is more crucial to a hunter’s overall success than all of her equipment combined.  A selection based solely on the cuteness factor is likely to be a mistake.
Look for a reputable breeder who breeds for performance.  Performance dog breeders require the same attributes in a dog that hunters do:  (1) trainability; (2) the ability to “mark” or perceive and remember the area of a fallen bird; (3) the instinctual love of birds and water; and (4) the ability to concentrate.  Given that all these characteristics are inheritable traits, one can see the need for sound, selective breeding practices.  It is important to remember that the best stock is closely held within the retriever sport community and not typically advertised through more common venues such as the local newspaper.  Professional retriever trainers are often among the best sources for advice on locating reputable performance dog breeders.  Through their training experience, they know which bloodlines possess the attributes you are looking for.
Once you have selected several breeders to contact, you should ask these pertinent questions:
1.                   What is the pedigree of the litter?  Working retriever pedigrees are made up of bloodlines and their respective field titles.  Common titles include Field Champion, Master Hunting Retriever and Hunting Retriever Champion.  Dogs holding these titles have shown through competitive testing that they are intelligent, trainable animals and possess high levels of prey drive.  The closer the working titles are the parentage, the better, because the “blood” is less diluted.  On the other hand, conformation or show titles (designed as “CH”) carry much less weight because they have relatively nothing to do with a dog’s working ability.
2.                   How are the parents registered?  Purebred dogs are registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).  For sporting dogs, there is also the United Kennel Club (UKC).  A dog that is registered with the AKC can easily be dual-registered with the UKC.  Both registries offer pedigrees; however they will only reflect titles awarded by their own organization.
3.                   Is this a repeat breeding?  Repeat breedings can serve as strong indicators as to whether or not the particular match of sire and dam works, because the breeder should be able to provide some feedback as to the success of the previous progeny.
4.                   Do both parents have OFA and CERF certifications?  The OFA or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals maintains a genetic database for breeders addressing hip dysplasia and other orthopedic issues.  The Canine Eye Registration Foundation or CERF keeps a registry of purebred dogs which have been examined and found to be unaffected by major heritable genetic eye diseases such as retinal atrophy.  Reputable breeders use these databases as a culling mechanism in order to sustain quality breeding stock.  It is an industry standard for breeders to provide these certifications.  However, having parents with certified hips and eyes does not guarantee that their progeny will not develop these problems later in life.  This fact in turn supports the use of genetic health guarantees.
5.                   What type of health guarantee does the breeder offer?  Most breeders offer a two year genetic health guarantee with provisions for a replacement animal or refund if the dog is proven through testing to possess a genetic defect.  There is no age minimum for a CERF eye examination; however, OFA requires that the animal be at least 24 months old before testing its hips, hence the reasoning behind a two year time period for genetic guarantees.
6.                   Can you afford a bargain pup that drops the duck in mid-stream? Generally, the price of a puppy is commensurate with the quality of the pedigree.  Quality puppies cost more, but remember that the money you spend buying a puppy is just as much a long-term investment as the money spent on your shotgun or duck boat.  Quality puppies are a lot easier to train and don’t cost any more to feed than a “bargain”.
7.                   Can the breeder provide references?  Reputable breeders welcome the opportunity to share the names of satisfied clients who have purchased puppies from them in the past.
Be prepared to talk to several breeders for comparison.  Most importantly, don’t get in a hurry to buy a puppy - quality puppies come on their own time schedule.  Remember this and be patient or most likely, you’ll end up regretting the one you bought on impulse.
Once you have found a breeder with a promising litter, make an appointment to evaluate the pups.  Puppy evaluations and subsequent selection are typically done when the pups are 7 weeks old.  To ensure that the pups will be “on their toes”, schedule your evaluation either early or late in the day and before they have eaten.  It’s helpful to take a notebook to write down your observations.  Be careful not to cloud your decision-making process with preconceived notions about sex or color.  When selecting a working retriever, gender and color should be secondary to ability and talent.
To begin your evaluation, take note of the facilities and the puppies’ environment.  Observe how the pups have been kept, if their pen is free of waste and that clean, fresh water has been provided.  A fly-infested, dirty pen could have exposed them to potentially deadly viruses that can overwhelm their fledgling immune systems.  Be sure to inquire about the pups’ health and inoculation records.  If the parents are available, see if they possess an athletic conformation and workman-like temperament.
One of the most important evaluations you can make is how “birdy” the pups are.  This is measured by observing how much “prey drive” they exhibit.  Prey drive, or the instinct to chase and subdue game, is the inherited trait that enables a dog to be trained to mark, scent and trail.  One common test to determine birdiness requires an enclosed area and a live pigeon.  Pigeons are commonly used for this test because they have game bird scent.  A simple 10 x 10 foot pen can be made with a roll of chicken wire and t-posts.  This size will allow adequate room for a puppy to chase the pigeon, and the pen can be set up and taken down quickly.
Clip the pigeon’s flight feathers along the length of its wings so it can flap its wings and attract the pup’s attention, but not fly away.  Next, hold the pigeon at eye level with the puppy and gently tease the pup by pulling the bird away.  If necessary, use your voice to try to excite the pup.  Now, step out of the pen and allow the pup to chase the bird.  Look for the bold, aggressive pup which shows no fear of the flapping wings and immediately chases and carries the bird.  The pup which initially shows hesitation, as if he’s trying to figure out how best to grab the bird, but then goes after it, is acceptable, although not as impressive.  Needless to say, the pup that shies away from the bird, tries to hide in the corner, or shows no interest in the bird at all, is to be avoided.
Of equal importance is how “fetchy” the pups are.  Fetchiness is another indicator of the strength of a pup’s prey drive.  Trigger the pup’s prey drive by pulling a squeaky puppy toy away from it.  As he begins to chase, flick the toy a short distance across the ground.  Be careful not to throw the toy up in the air or toss it too far away, because a pup’s eyesight is not fully developed at this young age.  What is most important to observe is the pup’s desire to actively chase and carry the toy.  Don’t expect the pup to bring the toy back to you – that is trained behavior.  What you are looking for is the pup’s desire to chase and carry.
Once you have identified the birdiest and fetchiest pups, you are ready to sort out the more subtle differences between them.  Make a high-pitched sound and watch for the pup that looks at you with curiosity.  This behavior is not to be confused with that of the puppy to tries to solicit your attention by jumping or licking.  You want to find a puppy which shows a natural inclination to pay attention, an important indicator of ease of trainability.
Finally, take the pups that have successfully passed the previous tests and move them to a different place.  Typically, pups are raised in a specific area and that’s all they are familiar with.  Take a group of two or three pups at a time, set them down in an environment that is unfamiliar to them, and observe their initial reaction to their new surroundings.  Do they cower or jump up and begin investigating immediately?  A pup that can cope and adapt to changes quickly has confidence and heart.
By following these guidelines, you should be confident about your pick of the litter.  The pup you selected will have shown the all-important traits of birdiness, fetchiness, the preponderance to pay attention and self-reliance.  Now the real fun begins.  With proper training and development, your pup will mature into a valued hunting partner – one that will reward you with many memorable years in the field.    
© May 2005

Wingshooting and Natural Wonders

It’s next to impossible for me to miss an opportunity to hunt with other women. So when my invitation to the Second Annual Ladies in Conservation Dove Hunt arrived in the mail, I was on the phone to R.S.V.P. before the mailman got to the end of the driveway.

The event was organized by Stephanie Harmon of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and invitees for the season opener included women employed by various conservation agencies, owners and operators of ranches, and those involved in outdoor recreation arenas.

Before the hunt, I had asked Stephanie if I could bring a friend – Rebel, my Labrador Retriever. A well-trained retriever is the ultimate conservation tool, ensuring more recovered birds.

Rebel and I were experienced waterfowlers with hundreds of ducks to our credit, but had only occasionally hunted dove. Stephanie agreed and said that she was bringing a hunting dog, also - Cotton, her German Shorthair.

John and Juanita Miller of Arnett, Oklahoma hosted the hunt and the ladies arrived at their ranch the night before to get acquainted. We shared hunting stories on the steps of the bunkhouse and marveled at the Milky Way swathed across the night sky. As the citronella candle flames dimmed, we retired to our sleeping bags, eager for the next day.

At dawn, we divided up into hunting groups. I was paired with Stephanie and Ellen Tejan, an aquatic biologist with The Nature Conservancy. With dogs loaded, we followed our guide to a rye field dotted with mottes, or clumps of hybrid post oaks and sand shinnery.

Stephanie and Ellen were excellent field guides, explaining that the area was the largest intact parcel of shinnery remaining in the country. Derived from the French word chenneire, shinnery is an oak that is literally shin-high and produces a large acorn favored by the many whitetail deer inhabiting the Miller ranch.

While the shinnery was abundant, the dove had yet to make an appearance in the cool morning air, so we amused ourselves by counting the more plentiful migrating Monarch butterflies.

Soon the air warmed with the sound of cicadas and we picked up our dove stools to move to another hunting site. We found a small watering hole and set up along its edge.

As the temperature rose, we began to see dove, but none flew anywhere near gun range. Lunch time beckoned and we abandoned the watering hole for sandwiches and cool drinks back at the bunkhouse.

With the afternoon at hand, Stephanie and I decided to join Ellen and her Conservancy colleague, Chris Hise, for a trip to the neighboring Four Canyon Preserve.

A long bumpy drive through the preserve’s colorful canyons led us to the banks of the Canadian river, where we rolled up our pant legs and waded in while Ellen and Chris set stakes to monitor the movement of the ever-changing river.

The afternoon sun began to fade and Stephanie and I headed back to the ranch for our evening hunt. Our host led us to another watering hole, where we set up a small portable blind.

Hunting now with our dogs, Stephanie and Cotton settled in the blind and Rebel and I sat beside it in a small depression. Soon, thirsty dove began to swoop about the muddy edges.

Stephanie and I had agreed to take turns shooting and she easily downed the first bird. Cotton was not as experienced as Rebel with dove, so I suggested that she take her dog downwind of the bird and work her up into the scent.

Cotton’s instincts kicked into high gear when she scented the bird and to Stephanie’s delight proudly carried it all the way back to the blind. Taking the bird from Cotton, I let Rebel hold it for a moment, refreshing his memory with the smell. Soon another group of dove arrived.

Following the closest bird, I pulled the trigger and my gun’s load of 7 ½’s exploded in a puff of feathers. For a moment, I sat in disbelief until Stephanie came out of her blind to congratulate me for dropping one of the small speedsters.

In the midst of our high-fives, I realized I had forgotten my other hunting companion. But Rebel was still on the job – he had marked the fall and was ready to retrieve.

With only a sharp call of his name, he bounded across the water, snatched up the bird, and wheeled back towards me. As he returned to my side, I reminded the dripping dog to "hold".

Then on command, Rebel softly released the bird into my hand and I told him to sit as I stepped back. "Rebel, shake!" I barely got the words out before he let loose with a wild spray of water. I tucked the dove in my game bag and turned back towards my dog. I patted his heaving shoulder and praised him, "Good boy, Rebel, good boy!"

As the evening progressed, our foursome accumulated a stack of the coveted prey. Stephanie and I heard numerous shots off in the distance and surmised that the other group was doing well, too.

All too soon, shooting hours were over and we headed back to the bunkhouse for dinner. Illuminated by the headlights of Stephanie’s truck, the ladies stood around the grill, eager for a taste of the day’s work. Laughter filled the night air as new friends made plans for the next year’s hunt.


 © October 2005

The "Nightly" News - Heel, Sit, Stay, Come, Good Dog!!!

Heel, Sit, Stay, Come, Good Dog!!!

Hi Everyone!  Here is the second part of the C-rets article. Now let’s explore each of the commands that every dog needs to know from the smallest house pup to the greatest hunting dog. Your first question might be how young can my pup learn? I am sure you have heard everything from birth to 1 year of age. There is truth in all ages. Dogs can learn from a very early age as I said before.  Think of children: how much do they learn in their first year of life? Dogs are the same way and pups catch on quickly, but sessions must be kept short because their attention spans are short. Lynne started teaching me at eight weeks. I learned sit, how to walk on a lead, where heel position was, and of course to come to her when she called. All dogs learn by repetition, saying the command and showing the dog what each one means over and over again. It is very important to lavish your pup with praise when they get it right, praise with your voice and your hands, pups will respond to this and will be eager to learn. You will need a good grasp of the 4 C-crets before you begin these next steps.


Heel means two things, the first is the position of heel, which is my right shoulder even with Lynne’s left leg. All commands start from this position no matter if you’re right or left-handed. Some left-handed hunters will teach their dogs on the right side instead to keep the gun blast further away from their dogs' ears instead of right over their heads. So you will have to decide which will be best for you. If you plan to enter obedience trails you have to teach pup on your left-hand side, regardless to your dominant side.

The second is walking in heel position, when your handler says heel she/he will step off on their left foot give a pop forward on the collar with the lead, call your name, and give the command "heel".

It will take a little time for your dog to get the knack of walking in heel position. If they get out to far ahead or are lagging give a pop on the collar with the lead in the direction, that will correct them back to heel position, when they are there repeat "heel" and give them a "good dog". Start out walking in a straight line at a normal pace this will help your dog better understand what you want. Also understand that "heeling" is not a way of life. When Lynne takes me on outings where I have to be on a lead and there are lots of people she tells me to "heel" and it keeps me and others safe. A good example of this is the trail we like to walk on in the woods.  It is usually clear, but when we meet people on the trail Lynne will give me the heel command until we get past. When we are past them she tells me "ok" and lets me walk where I want within the 6’ lead as long as I don’t pull her. Again, praise is the most important part of successful training, we have to know when we are doing it the right way. Just think how you would like working for someone and they never tell you that you are doing a good job? Would you know for sure you were doing everything the right way?

Another form of heel is when we are doing retriever work, when I bring a bird or dummy back to Lynne I return to heel position then she takes the bird from me by telling me "out". As you can see the "heel" command has many uses that will come in handy everyday.


The "sit" command as I told you before has many uses, we will sit a million times a day sometimes when we are told and sometimes just to sit and watch the ducks fly by. This is one of the easiest commands to teach for your handler and for you to learn. Lynne likes to teach this command at a very young age as well, pups are very easy to handle when they are small and believes that this is one of the most important commands to learn.

The way we teach "sit" is to put the pup in heel position (their right shoulder should be even with the handler's left leg).  If pup is very small you can get on your knees and teach this exercise.  Heel position is the same. You will want to put the 6’ lead on their collar, that way you can control the situation and pup can’t get away. You will always put the loop of the lead or handle on you right wrist, you don’t want the lead wrapped around your hand. You should have already taught your dog not to pull and you must be able to control her for her to be able to learn to sit.

With your dog at your left-hand side, you will put your right hand around the lead with your little finger 2" above the snap. You then place your left hand with your little finger at the base of pup’s tail and your hand lying gently on her rump. You will then pop the collar straight up with your right hand while gently pushing down on her rump with your left hand. You will call the pup’s name and give the command to sit..."Night, sit", as you are guiding pup's rump into sitting position. When pup is sitting take your left hand away and loosen the lead by putting your right hand closer to the dog’s neck. If pup gets up tell her "no" and then pop the collar up and guide the rump into sitting position again. Do not repeat the command "sit".  Did you know that dogs could count? If you get into the habit of repeating commands two or three times, pup will learn not to sit until you say it three times. When pup sits in position for ten or fifteen seconds let them up.  You will need a "release word" and Lynne uses "OK". When you are ready for pup to get up put the snap of the lead under her chin and pop to lead straight forward as you step off on your left foot, tell her "OK" in a happy voice, and then praise them wildly with your voice and hands. You will then put them back into heel position and start the sit process again.  Remember to do each command three times in a row, play for a minute, and do it again. In the beginning, you will need to keep your training sessions short 10 minutes or so. Puppies have a short attention span and will get bored easily so do more playing then training to begin with. You will also need to set aside training times during the day.  Don’t train at meal time, nap time, or potty time, and especially potty time. If you start training when you take your dog to potty they will begin to want to train and play every time you take them out. Potty time is for one thing only and nothing else. Your pup will only learn what you teach them so be careful what you teach.


Lynne teaches "Stay" and "Wait".  What is the difference you might be thinking? "Stay," mean for me to stay where she puts me until she returns which may be a few seconds or several minutes. "Wait" on the other hand means for me to stay there until called to her or sent after a bird or dummy. They are taught the same way and your handler will need to teach you to "stay" first.

The "stay" command is taught after pup can sit still in heel position for at least 30 seconds to a minute. You have to have control of pup in a sitting position or you can not teach the stay command. One word of advice, do not try to rush pup or teach her more than she can comprehend in a short period of time. Some pups learn quickly learning a new command in only a few days, others it may take weeks or months before they fully understand a command. Patience is the key.

With pup sitting in heel position, you will take you left hand and make a gesture with the palm of your hand in front of their nose (like you would for a child to stop walking). You will call their name and give pup the command to "stay" as you give the hand gesture. You will then step off on your right foot and stand facing pup right in front of her, your toes will almost be touching hers. Your snap should be on top of pup’s neck. If she gets up pop up on the lead with you right hand as you lean over her to place her rump back into the sitting position. With that done stand back up straight, stay in this position for 10-15 seconds and then return yourself to heel position without pup getting up. Be ready when you begin to move back, pup will want to move as well to begin with until she understands what you want. Remember don’t yell at pup if she don’t get it correct the first several times. This is hard to understand in the beginning, but keep trying till it comes together.

As pups learn what you want and will stay in position when you step in front of her and then return.  Lengthen the time you stay in front of her and do this for a week. The next week when you step off you will take one large step away from her. If pup obeys do this for several days and then take two steps away before you turn to face her. If she starts breaking her stay, simply start over with standing right in front of her. You have to remember that we have taught her that close to you is what you want, now we are teaching her that we want her to stay while we walk off. It can be confusing, but pup will catch on with time and patience.

Work up your time and your space away from your dog, three steps away from her will be 6’ and the end of your lead. It will probably take you two weeks to a month to teach the "Stay" command. Whatever you do don’t think she will stay in any situation, she won’t. Don’t try to push her to stay while you go out of sight, or for you to leave the room and come back. Pup will learn this in time and with practice and boosting her confidence she will become a dog that will stay no matter where you put her without her breaking.

The "wait" command can only be taught after pup has "stay" down cold and not until. The "wait" command is taught as a "wait until you are told to do another command" such as "come" or to retrieve.

Lynne taught me this after I had a firm understanding of all the commands that we have learned in this article. She will tell me to "heel" and then give me the command to wait. She then will walk away from me and I will stay there until she gives me my next command. I really like it when she gives me the "come" command and I can run to her where I then sit in front. She always gives me a treat!

Lynne also uses the "wait" command when we are doing fieldwork. I sit in heel position and she will give the command to "wait". She will then blow the duck call, shoot her shotgun, and I will "mark" (watch) where the bird will fall. She will then give me the "back" command and I will go retrieve the bird and bring it back to her. I can’t go get the bird or dummy until she gives me the "back" command. Lynne taught me all these exercises on lead, again she had to have my attention and had to be able to control me for me to learn.


The "come" command seems to be the main command that everyone wants their dog to do first and best. I see pups come to obedience class and their handlers will beg to learn this first. Lynne tells them that it is the easiest command to teach and the easiest for a pup to learn. Her students always reply, "If it is so easy, why won’t my dog come to me"? That is easy, the handler had not given their dog any incentive to come.

What usually happens if our handler lets us out to potty and we decide to go on a little exploring adventure? The handler usually yells and screams and threatens us with our very life if we don’t come back. We don’t care if it’s 12 degrees and our owner has on their nightgown.  Matter of fact, this is usually when we decide our adventure is more important. Well, shame on them and shame on us for not obeying.

The come command is taught with food, always, always, always! Not just dog food either, something we can’t resist, treats, hot dogs, cheese, anything that we love. It will be used sparingly so don’t think you will ruin pup's appetite with these.

Now one thing your handler has to understand is that "treats" are used for training not because we are cute. Do not shove food down your dog every waking moment of the day, instead use it to your advantage. Example: if you give a child candy everyday it will get to where they expect if and it won’t mean anything to them. If you only give them candy for something they have done well, they will think it is really special and they will feel proud of their accomplishment that was rewarded with the candy. Dogs are the same way.

O.K. here goes the super easy "come command". You will start this as soon as you get pup, the very first day you bring them home. If you have an older pup, it’s all the same regardless of age. When you feed your pup his regular meal you are going to make a huge deal out of this event. (We have already went over meals for your pup and not free feeding in a previous article) You are going to bang the bowl with you hand you are going to really talk it up that they are going to eat. You will then say, "Night, Come"!

Make it loud and make it proud, only say come once, if you dog is sitting under your feet during this whole ordeal that is fine as well. When you say "pup come", sit the bowl down and let them have at it. Pet them a few times while they eat to teach them to not be possessive over their food and leave them with it. Do this every day for a week, the only time during your day you can say come is when they eat.

If you want pup to go with you say "lets go" instead of "come", this will teach them quick that when you say come it’s time for food. After they catch on that the command "come" is associated with food then we can take the command to the next level.

With your dog on lead you will have treats in your pocket.  Please don’t use their dog food for treats, get them something special, remember the candy? Now with you dog on lead you can just go for a walk, while you are walking give your dog a pop on the collar toward you, hold the treat in front of her nose, call her name and give the command to come. As she starts for the food guide her in front of you so she is facing you. You will have to take a few steps back, it’s a game of chase in a way. When she comes in front of you give her the treat and then step into her and continue on your walk. Do this exercise as many time as day as humanly possible. Never, ever, ever, think that you can do this off lead for the first few weeks unless you are doing the "food bowl recall" which is taught off lead. Pups are smart and they will learn if they are off lead that they don’t have to come to you. Coming to you off lead will come in time don’t rush this command. If you take your time and teach them correctly with the pop of the collar, pup will learn to beat the pop and come to you as if she was on the end of a fishing line and your were reeling her in.

When properly taught you will never have to worry about your pup going on an adventure at 5:30 a.m. when you are not looking your best in your faded nightgown. Nothing says, "I am not coming to you" like screaming at the top of your lungs through the neighborhood at a very early hour of the morning.

I know these commands will get you stated on the road to some wonderful adventures and memories that you and your handler will make. If you take your time and teach each command with love and patience you will have a wonderful pup that everyone want to be with and have next to them in a duck blind or couch.

Until next time

Keep your Nose in the Wind,

Fowlcreeks TF Black as Night

Going to the Dogs

My daughter and I first met Samuel B. Rourk outside our leased cow pasture the day after we moved to South Carolina. Our animals were due to arrive, and "Buck,” the farmer who leased the pasture previously, was out of town, as was his key to the gate. Buck arranged for "S.B.,” the pasture manager, to give us a spare key.

The three of us chatted for a while, and as is inevitable, I bragged about my daughter's archery skills and our mutual love of hunting. S.B. then told us he was president of the club just down the road, the Community Hunting Club of Elloree. I asked what the membership fees were, and he told us the cost, but then added, "Ladies are free! Come join us any Saturday morning you want!" I was taken aback by the generous show of hospitality, but then again, this is the South, so I need not have been surprised. I teased, "Are you sure that's a good idea? We're pretty good shots!" He repeated the invitation, and said he'd love to have us. What a great place this would be to live! Only one day here, and we've already been invited on a hunt!

Finding the time to hunt would be another story entirely. Our cattle would be staying near Elloree, our goats would stay with a fellow near Santee, I still had to return to Pennsylvania for settlement and drive back with my husband, then the next three months would be spent going back and forth between my parents' house north of Lake Marion and a tiny condominium at Myrtle Beach. My husband's health was poor, and the ocean air was just what the doctor ordered. Besides, my children had never seen the ocean, and the off season rent was much cheaper than anything we could find in Santee. During that time, we had to purchase land, I had to shop for and order a manufactured home, care for the animals, and arrange for all necessary permits. When I did manage to get out on one hunt at a friend's farm, I saw nothing. The long season was quickly coming to a close and I was empty-handed.

I had put off the invitation to hunt with the club because of some prejudices I had about their style of hunting. Too bad it was a dog drive with shotguns and buckshot, I thought to myself. “Can't be much fun in that . . . not very sporting.” Up north, I hunted by sneaking, stalking, and sitting along likely trails, pitting my senses against the deer's superior senses and instincts. However, my newly purchased little 16 acre lot held no opportunity for that strategy, and I was getting very hungry for venison. A friend of mine from the WomenHunters™ site urged me not to dismiss the invitation; a dog drive is simply another way to hunt deer. So, on New Year's Eve morning, I showed up at the club and announced, "I'm not sure I belong here, but S.B. told me to come sometime, so here I am!"

I have always believed that some of the best company is to be found among sportsmen, especially Southern ones. My beliefs were strengthened that morning. You would have thought I was a long lost cousin! S.B. looked up from his cooking, came from the kitchen, and announced my presence to the growing group of sportsmen. Several came over and introduced themselves to me, one saying, "There are no strangers here! Welcome!" I began to see what was meant by "Southern Hospitality.” I was truly among friends.

After the drivers and the club officers went over some topo maps and planned where to release the dogs and place the standers, S.B. rang a bell and called us all to order in outside the clubhouse. After going over some important safety rules and hunting etiquette, S.B. announced, "We like to keep doe numbers high, so the hunt is for bucks only, except that women and youth may shoot does!" Some numbered metal tags were placed in a tin cup, which was passed around for each to draw a stand. Then hunters were sent out in groups according to the area hunted.

I went with an older gentleman named John. S.B. had told him to take good care of Judy, since  "She is used to hunting with a high-powered rifle, not a shotgun." Little did they know that I shot my first two deer with buckshot over two decades ago! I was quite comfortable with it. Still, the special treatment was really nice. How often does a lady get such consideration these days?

The morning hunt was uneventful for me, but the stander nearest to me did get a buck. After a couple hours, John came by in his truck and we went to join the hunters back at the clubhouse. I watched as a few young fellows quickly skinned and quartered the deer harvested in the morning, then we went in for dinner.

John told me to be sure to get some black-eyed peas and collard greens for good luck for the New Year. After all were seated, a preacher in the group stood up and led us all in prayer. I found this to be particularly refreshing! How many other social groups do this in these secular times? Not one hunter objected, or claimed his "civil rights" were violated. Yes, these were my kind of folks!

I was just about to head home for the afternoon and accept a deer-less year when another elderly man, Don, asked me if I was joining them for the hunt. "We're hunting again? I wouldn't miss it!" I exclaimed. S.B. rang the bell and we all drew tags. I happened to draw a tag for a cypress swamp not far from my home. I was with Don's group, and he drove me and another "ex-Yankee" to our stands. Don told me exactly where to sit, and as John had done in the morning, he let me use his portable chair.

I listened for the dogs to start baying, and saw a few of them criss-cross through the swamp and head into a brushy field nearby. Nothing much happened at first, but then the dogs got really excited, and I got ready. I heard the telltale sound of four hooves approaching. I had to make a quick decision when I saw the antlerless deer coming at a lope. Was it big enough? S.B. would fine us for anything under 65 lbs. I am used to figuring the weight on dairy goat kids, and this was definitely over the lower limit, so I shot. He broke into a run, I swung on him and shot again. He was down! But wait, the head came up. No way would I let my prize go off into a swamp and be lost . . . I aimed high so as not to hurt the meat. I went over to see my deer. It was a buck after all! I felt good that I did not take a doe so close to my home . . . more chances for deer the following year, I figured. The dogs caught up to my deer and sniffed him. I was crying tears of joy, and thanked the hard-working creatures for my prize.

Don heard the shots, drove over right away, and came into the swamp to retrieve my deer so the dogs wouldn't eat him. He laughed and said, "You got a buck, but you shot the antler off! Go ahead and sit back down. You can still get any deer you see. S.B. will count this as a buck." I did sit back down, but saw nothing. I didn't care. I had my deer, and that one was enough to call the year a success. It was exactly one year prior to this that I had gotten a 115 lb. button buck with my flintlock in western PA, and I thought back to the joy of that hunt shared with a good friend. How I missed him! I rejoiced in the fortune of finding new hunting friends after my world changed so much with our move. Wherever there are true sportsmen, there are friends.

Back at the clubhouse, S.B. awaited my arrival. He teased me about shooting the antler off my deer. Then he sat me down for a traditional initiation. One of the fellows cleaning my deer came over and smeared my face, while one of the ladies in the group took a picture. I protested that this was not my first deer, but they said, "It is your first one HERE!" No doubt some folks would find this vulgar, but I just saw it as a simple "redneck" celebration. I was in the South, after all, and I had just taken part in a deep-rooted tradition, the dog drive. There was no pretense in these folks, just a love of hunting, an appreciation for good meat, good friends, and good fun.

I saw S.B. again at the club's annual pig roast that they offer free to the entire community of Elloree. He sat across from me and pulled a photo out of his pocket. It was a slightly red-faced lady who had just gotten her first South Carolina deer. He teased me again about shooting off the antler. That was the last time I saw my new friend. When I showed up to hunt with the club this year, he was no longer in the kitchen. The fellow taking names said he had died a few months before. I could not help crying. Every time we lose a person as wonderful as that, a piece of our hunting tradition dies as well.

I missed out on S.B.'s invitation to membership due to my prejudices against dog hunts. Ladies are no longer free, but I plan to save my money for next year, as the five hunts per season allowed for visitors is not enough for me. These folks are no less sportsmen just because they use dogs. They put safety first.  They have a heart for conservation, and a respect for the deer. Their hunting is by no means a "sure thing.” Those deer can go just about anywhere undetected, slipping past driver and stander alike. I will be proud to be a member of the Community Hunting Club......if they will have me!
© November 2006