by Grayson Schaffer | on August 28th, 2009 | in Features, Things Dog People Wear
Readers of Outside should know by now that Seattle clothing maker Eddie Bauer is in the middle of a major push to reclaim its heritage. Last winter saw the release of technical winter wear like backcountry ski jackets and ultra-light down insulation. Now comes the field line, a full spectrum of upland wear from strap vests to field shirts to brush pants. We had the whole catalog in our office the other day, and I couldn’t help but pick out a few goodies to put right to work. One thing I like about this stuff: it fits, unlike most hunting brands, which are sized three times larger than the average human.
The Heritage Field Shirts are made from brushed cotton that looks like wool—only without the scratching and overheating. For early fall hunts in the mountains, it’s the perfect weight. And I can wear it right into the office after dawn patrol without a change.
The Removeable Gamebag Strap Vest updates some of the classic game vest features by adding water bottle holders and zip-off game pouch for shorter walks and easy de-feathering. The whole idea of a strap vest is a little outdated in the age of silkified nylon packs, but this one does a nice job of not getting in the way. The straps are totally adjustable, which keeps the pockets in easy reach. This baby holds just enough for what you need—a few extra shells and maybe a Clif Bar or two.
OK, so I think someone might have noticed if the $700 Three Season Harris Tweed Sport Jacket had gone missing. The jacket is paired with a trim-cut down vest that features leather piping for durability and, of course, looks. Note to self: Track down Harris Tweed for bird hunt in Scotland—or the Texas panhandle, just for effect.
by Mike Stewart | on May 6th, 2009 | in The Wildrose Way
The world of the versatile sporting dog is where we live daily at our facility. Dogs capable of pricking waterfowl by morning, hunting upland birds in the afternoon, then possess the temperament to make a great family member that evening. Today, many sportsmen hunt a variety of game in various locations across the country. These enthusiasts also wish to have a companion for other outside pursuits and travel. The one dog fits all objective is a tall order to fill for any animal, but there are breeds of sporting dogs and some select trainers producing just this type dog.
One of my clients, Joe Auteri, says of his lab Flynn, “He goes with my wife, Maria, when she drops off the kids at school riding in a red convertible VW bug. With Flynn on the front seats, she says she gets more comments about the dog than she does about her prized car.”
Auteri says Flynn travels each year with his buddies to the Colorado River to hunt duck and fly fish. “He’s a fantastic hunter, family dog, and patient in temperament.” He hunts duck with enthusiasm and accompanies him on a float fishing trips, a true, versatile sporting companion.
There are five main categories of sporting dogs to consider, each with varying attributes: pointers, retrievers, flushers, treers and trackers. First, to understand versatility, keep in mind instinctive traits as opposed to skills trained in. No single breed will perfectly match all the necessary skills one might wish for in versatility. Pointers may lack a bit at retrieving ability. Certainly spaniels , traditionally bred to flush birds, may be compromised as a pointer. Select breeds based upon your primary desired utilization and keep expectations for other skills reasonable.
Next, match the energy level of the dog to yours and your lifestyle. Performance-bred, competitive retrievers may prove to be a handful on a duck hunt or a hike. A dog from show lines can be an attractive specimen but lack the natural gamefinding abilities and trainability for field pursuits. Pointers and hound breeds are independent in nature and may not be enjoyable on a hike or a float trip.
In selection, think:
• Desirable skills needed
• Energy level and lifestyle considerations
• Reasonable expectations
The Versatile Breeds:
• Retrievers: Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, Nova Scotia Towler
• Pointers: German Shorthair Pointer, Hungarian Vizla, Brittany Spaniel, Wiemarener
• Spaniels: Field-Bred English Cocker, English Springer Spaniel, Boykin Spaniel
by Grayson Schaffer | on April 25th, 2009 | in Features
Mike’s wife, Cathy, sent out a link to a Phoenix news story on a boy with type I diabetes, who’s school is raising money to train him a diabetic alert dog from a Wildrose pup. Oddly enough, some of the best service dogs are also the best hunting dogs and vice versa. When I went in for my first dog/handler interview with Jill from ADW, she asked what sort of line Danger was from. When I told her he was from a hunting line, she was quick to clarify: Hunting or field trialing?
The distinction is as important to service dog trainers as it is to hunting dog trainers. Labs have only been around as a breed–used primarily for waterfowl retrieving and hauling fishing nets–for about 130 years. Service dog programs weren’t formalized until the 1990 passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (though they’d been used before that). Most service dogs are trained out of hunting litters for the simple reason that the desired characteristics are the same: Calmness, temperment, intelligence, a good nose, and loyalty to the handler.
But in the last 50 years or so, breeding goals have diverged. In the U.K, breeders prefer a slightly smaller (maybe 65 pounds) animal and value calmness and temperment above raw athletic power and retrieving drive. Maybe it’s the old British stereotype, but they just prefer a dog that’s more civil. These dogs, whether imported directly from the U.K. as Mike’s Wildrose stock is, or bred for those characteristics here, are known as British or U.K. Labs.
American field trialing dogs are selected more like thoroughbred race horses. Breeders look for strength, speed, retrieving drive, and huge water entries. These 90-plus-pound dogs are the ones you see at the Teva Mountain Games flying 25 feet off the end of the dock or lining 300 yards for a duck they can’t see. They’re something to watch, but they’re hardwired for that explosive energy. Don’t expect a field trial dog to sleep by your chair while you read a book.
Show Dogs: Would it be impolite to call them dumb, overbred, more prone to hereditary diseases, and otherwise a terrible waste of working dog genetics? I’ve never understood why working dog breeds end up in dog shows. It’s like having a beauty pageant for longshoremen. More astounding is that the Westminster Kennel Club was started by a pair of gun dog enthusiasts.
So the first question you have to ask yourself when you go to get a dog is, What do I want? In a lot of cases, you can find a dog that meets your needs at an animal shelter. In others, you’ll want to go to a breeder. But just know that there’s a lot of variation even within breeds.
by Grayson Schaffer | on April 22nd, 2009 | in Features
Winter has come and gone, and Danger—having taken a few months off to rest, contemplate his fear of water, and eat the cat turds thawing in the yard—is back with something akin to motivation. Yes, the same dog that would rather gnaw on live ammunition than retrieve a dead duck is coming around. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, probably more than one.
Lessons to Draw
- The first is that the expectations of the handler, especially young handlers like me, usually exceeds the maturity level if not the ability of the dog.
- Dogs, like people, change as they move from their puppy years into full-fledged hounds. Things are bound to go wrong while your dog is a teenager. Don’t take it personally and don’t get down on your dog for underperformance or occasional lack of focus during these periods. Just stick to your routine and work through the problems adhering to whatever method you’ve committed to.
- Keep it fun. No, seriously. I read this in just about every training manual I picked up. If you’re making retrieving, working, and training a chore for a young dog, he’s going to prefer self-rewarding behaviors like sprinting across the countryside, nose to the ground. —Grayson
by Grayson Schaffer | on April 8th, 2009 | in DVDs, Media
The Wildrose Way DVD arrived with my chocolate, Danger, as a sort of Labrador owner’s compendium. Mike shares his low-force, operant training methods from basic obedience to advanced retrieves. Having raised a dog and watched the video several times, I’d recommend using it it primarily for the more advanced retriever training like whistle stops, casting, and blinds. The drills like the circle memory, walking baseball, and ladders are excellent tools for slowly raising the bar on your dog’s retrieves. The Wildrose Way covers basic obedience and makes it very clear how important it is, but no DVD alone will get you and your dog up to speed on the subtleties and difficulties of raising a dog that wants to do nothing but perform for you. For that, you need to learn from actual human experts. $35
by Mike Stewart | on March 30th, 2009 | in The Wildrose Way
A civil, well-mannered dog must learn early on to have patience while walking on a loose lead—no pulling, jumping, or ground sniffing. He’ll need to negotiate any obstacles you’ll encounter—logs, ditches, embankments—without hesitation or interference. And he must work with an eye constantly on you for leadership and direction, regardless of distractions. Perfect the on-lead heel and you can move to the ultimate goal: A dog that will heel off lead without constant corrections or reminders. Here’s how to get started.
- Decide whether you want your dog to heel on your right or left side. Then be consistent. No switching sides. Start all of your training drills from this position from now on.
- Start your heeling lesson on pavement, which does two things. First, it gives your dog a straight line to guide him (this is helpful later in retrieving). Second, pavement doesn’t have all of the interesting smells of a field that will break your dog’s concentration. Sniffing equals avoidance. Your dog’s concentration must be on you.
- Use a slip collar that produces popping sound when the lead is snapped quickly. The classic, simple choker-style chain collar works well, but lately I’ve been using these rubberized leads and collars that slide more smoothly and use dot tread to give you a bit more control. Use a pronged pinch collar only on the wildest dogs. (I don’t recommend these to beginning trainers.) Also, forget those chest harnesses and collars with nose loops. They don’t correct pulling and may actually promote it. All you need is a simple slip collar.
- Have your dog sit. Say his name. When he makes eye contact, say “heel,” (once, only) and set off at your pace, not his. It’s much more difficult to get a pup to heel slowly than to pretend he’s heeling by quickening your pace to keep up with him. Go slowly. Don’t keep repeating “heel” as a correction. You’ll only add confusion.
- When your dog tries to walk ahead, lag behind, or wander off, quickly change direction and pop the lead as a correction. That popping sound and sideways jerk mimic the bite of the pack. Changing direction shows him that you’re picking the route and he needs to pay attention to you to avoid correction. Your pup learns to stay in place gradually rather than being pulled into place constantly.
- To start moving to an off-lead heel, drop your lead and let it drag. If you need to regain control, just step on the lead.
An obedient heel, both on- and off-lead, is a must for any dog that’s going to accompany you out in public. Short lessons should begin when your dog is as young as eight weeks old but, no dog is too old to start. Old dogs can surely learn new tricks.
by Grayson Schaffer | on March 30th, 2009 | in Swag the Dog, Training Equipment
Most dogs love chasing stuff: Sticks good; other animals, better! Dokken’s DeadFowl trainers are the go-to for retriever handlers everywhere. (Even if you’re not a hunter, chances are your dog is—unless he’s a vegetarian, like mine.) Dokken’s Fowl float better than a NERF football, and you can inject them with real scent oil, which will really trigger your dog’s retrieving instinct. Available in just about any game bird you can think of.