Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Dog Days

Shoot season is three weeks away, so I've turned my attention to our dog team. Some of the girls have been working all through the summer, chasing wandering pheasants home to their roosting pens. Here's a little video so you can see what they do each morning before breakfast:

The dogs run through margins of cover crop and over large stubble fields, where the pheasants like to wander and sun themselves. The dogs rouse any pheasants they scent and force them to fly home. I drive in my truck to keep up with the dogs, and because I'm lazy. I praise the dogs, even though they can't hear me. They are such good dogs.

Of the four dogs out that morning, two of them are so old that I have to lift them in and out of the truck, and I still expect them to work. It's like hitching your grandmother to a plough and telling her to go clear an acre. Dulcie and Dakota are both 12(ish). They still love their work, but I keep a close eye on them, ready to bench them at the first sign of a limp or stagger.

I had hoped by now that Tinker would be doing the summer bird-chasing work, but she hasn't got the temperament. Tinker loses her mind when the birds fly, and she cannot be steadied. I've never known a dog embody absolutely every fault a gun dog can possess: lack of concentration, running in, giving tongue (yipping and barking while hunting), hard-mouthed (crushes any game she finds) - the list is endless. But she's got the perfect temperament as a pet: loving, great with kids and other dogs, playful, retrieves toys.

Our friends Matt and Julie, who re-homed Hazel and Jazz when they retired as gun dogs, happily agreed to give Tinker a home too. Tinker now lives in their house, and takes daily walks on the beach (a pheasant-free zone!) Julie sends photo updates -

Watching the waves roll in...

Hazel, Tinker, Jazz in their dri-bags, post swim

Tinker is happy, because she can't fail at being a pet.

It still leaves a big gap in our gun dog line-up. Molly should be working now but, with her knee op, she is on a limited winter work schedule. Gertie's training is coming along well but she's not a year old yet, and still needs time to mature.

So, we got another puppy.

A yellow Labrador. She was born on the 4th of July so her full kennel name is Hadley Yankee Doodle. I've been naming my labs after towns from my home state of Massachusetts, so I have a theme to help me chose names. After three spaniel pups in a row, I am looking forward to training a more laid-back breed. As the saying goes: Labs are born half-trained, and spaniels die half-trained.

It doesn't solve our immediate dog shortage this year - I will have to rely on Spud and Quincy for picking up though the winter. I'm just hoping that it will stave off future dog shortages. Gertie should be able to do a whole winter's work in a year's time and Hadley will be coming on behind her. Some keepers train a new dog every 18 months to keep up with the demands of their job. We only do half the days we used to in Dorset, so maybe we can cope with only 9 dogs in our kennel: 3 retirees, 1 semi-retired, 2 working, and 3 in training.

They are all good, good dogs.


Janice Bendixen said...

Hadley is adorable! I fear I may end up loving her as much as I do Pip. It's that Lab smile... They get me every time. Now I'll be singing "Hadley Yankee Doodle Hadleeeeey ... " all the day in my head. That's certainly not a bad thing. Best of luck with the motley kennel crew this season and keep those puppy photos coming! (Oh, and any others, too, BTW.) Thanks Jen for starting me off with sweet puppy smiles.

Anonymous said...

I loved the vid of you singing out to the girls.
Oh yes they heard you.
What a great semi retirement for them.

Teri said...

That looks like my springer's idea of heaven! We are trying to make up for his lack of training. He was 10 months old when we got him, now 2 years old. When he gets into a barking fit, I tell him "bad dogs stay home". He shuts up!

Hazel said...

Glad to see Tinker has found such a lovely home, and good to see Hazel again ;)

Sally S said...

Miss your posts--I'm mostly a lurker, but I really do enjoy your blog. So different from my suburban life.