Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Retriever dogs are perfect for hunting and lifeBy DICK PINNEY December 16. 2017 5:38PM
Retriever dogs have been a huge part of my life since my teenage years - too long ago for me to reveal. They served me and my family well as pets and helped the Dickster find those game birds and waterfowl that were shot over tough cover, and they swam for birds when we were hunting over water.
My first retriever was more or less a Labrador retriever. His pedigree was or never has been confirmed but we did know that his ability to "put the meat on the table" was first-rate.
We named him "Satch," the nickname of a well-known singer, and the name fit him well as he'd howl and sing a sad song if you kept him controlled after downing a game bird or waterfowl. He'd strain at his choke chain collar to the point of strangling himself to get at that downed bird so, needless to say, we wasted no time when releasing him to fetch!
Funny thing: He was so possessed with retrieving the birds, he handled them as if they were some kind of valuable china. There was not a feather out of place from his work and he'd deliver the bird with pride.
Needless to say, it was imperative to get him released from his collar ASAP to prevent him damaging his neck or worse!
It's hard to punish a dog that is so intent on doing what he's supposed to do, so we quit trying after a couple of sessions that left both Satch and the Dickster almost in tears.
So we just put up with a no-fail retriever even though he wouldn't handle. Satch made up for that stubbornness by his ability to mark, and his great nose and eyes. We can't remember a downed bird that he couldn't find or retrieve!
But sometimes he was a bit reluctant to give up the bird. He often had to show it off to all in the hunting party and get their praise before coming back to me and reluctantly giving it up.
The good news and the lessons learned came when we finally put the last shovel of dirt over Satch's grave. He had taught me how not to train a retriever but also how not to dampen the enthusiasm of a dog that was born to fetch!
Satch was hard to keep under control at home. Fenced-in dog yards didn't work as he'd either break them down or tunnel under! Put him on a chain and you couldn't stand the whining and barking. We found the best way to handle that, when we wanted to leave him home, was to bring him into the house and not let him see me leave.
If he saw me putting my gun and gear into my vehicle, all hell would break loose when I left home without him! So we'd put him in the cellar or a room where he couldn't see us leave and then have Jane let him out in his dog yard.
But you just couldn't beat him out in the field. Not for his ability for taking commands but at his stubbornness for not giving up until he'd find and lay the then-lifeless bird at my feet.
He never chewed them up. Just kind of anesthetized it with a quick crunch to the skull.
The funny thing with Satch was, although he definitely had some Labrador Retriever genes, he never displayed the patience and control that most Labs had. And he refused to make some long-distance water retrieves, usually causing us to toss stones out to where the bird lay in the water but when he was close enough to spot or smell the downed bird there was no problem. He'd charge them like a warrior and deliver them to me with no feathers missing!
Not knowing any difference, we accepted his good and bad traits and loved that dog like a brother! He was the motivation for us to always have a Lab-partner for all of our waterfowling days.
Most good things almost always come to an end. Today we don't have a Lab in our family and that was not my choice. Don't ever tell me that a house cat makes up for that!
Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some.
Dick Pinney 's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.