Many years ago, I joined Toastmaster’s International in order to improve my skills and gain confidence as a speaker and communicator. My very first assignment was to introduce myself to the group at our weekly meeting. As I have always suffered from a broad range of interests, skills and experiences, putting together a cohesive introduction of myself proved a bit challenging. With some assistance from my wife, however, I realized that my identity stems from my core passion in life: dogs. I love everything about them, and they have inspired me throughout my life, you might say that dogs are my muse. I have created bronze sculptures of dogs; I train dogs; I hunt with dogs; I live with dogs; I write and I talk about dogs. All things dog are all that I am.
That being said, I like all breeds and types of dogs. I have owned pointers, setters, Brittanies, German shorthaired pointers, German wirehaired pointers, spaniels and retrievers. For many years we owned and bred English setters. Some of my most beloved dogs have been rescue dogs who have proven to be resilient and talented and passionate. Although the majority of my dogs have been my bird hunting companions, they have always shared my life and my sofa.
What I and many others have discovered is that even dogs with papers may often have a murky lineage. What I have found as this pertains to hunting dogs is that this translates into a broad range of traits within the same breed. For example, if I make a statement about German shorthaired pointers, what exactly am I referring to? Well, first there are the old school shorthairs that hunt fairly close and tight. Their coat is dark and grizzled, and their build is stocky. They use ground scent and are methodical in their hunting and often very good in water. These old school shorthairs are straightforward when it comes to training. They look at you, asking, “What is it you want me to do?”
On the other hand, there are field trial shorthairs who were crossed with pointers in order to win field trials against old school shorthairs. These dogs train like pointers with a screw loose and have a the focus of a hummingbird. They do have an advantage, however, in winning field trials due to their propensity for speed. The varieties of traits that can be found under the umbrella of German shorthaired pointers is discussed in more detail during this week’s podcast featuring David Gowdey, author of The German Shorthaired Pointer: A Hunter’s Guide to the Selection, Care, Training & Handling of America’s most Popular Pointing Dog.
This brings me to the story of Gus, a small dog with Big Dog Energy. He was brought to me for training years ago by a couple who had registration papers attesting to his breeding as a German shorthaired pointer. As Gus had grown from puppyhood to adulthood, they had noticed a strange phenomenon in that he was certainly growing longer, but not taller, only standing a foot high at the shoulders. It became evident that Gus’s father must have been a dachshund. Although they had wanted a traditional hunting dog to take into the field with them, they decided to stick with Gus because he was their boy and they loved him.
He trained out as a courageous character. He liked to get quail and dove, but he didn’t have the genetics that would allow him to point. Nicole affectionately referred to him as the “moot point” because even if we could have trained him to point, his owners would not have been able to see him above the grass. I liked Gus. I imagined that he had the same character and demeanor as his daddy, who, after all, had the moxie to get his momma pregnant in the first place. Gus would swagger through the dog yard, but it was hard to get around the fact that he held his head high as he walked underneath every other dog in the yard. Years later, shortly after Gus had passed, I received a delightful poem from his parents who shared their joy at owning a perfectly respectable hunting dog who did everything expected of him and more.
The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in a piece of paper, especially those attesting to a dog’s lineage. Dogs are gifts that bring joy and wonder, surprise and delight to our lives. It shouldn’t matter what it says on a piece of paper. As we have discussed before in these pages and in podcasts, it is important to consider your lifestyle and needs before getting a dog. How much time can you devote to him? How much space do you have? What activities would you like to enjoy with your dog? What types of genetics or breeding would you like to develop with training? Do your research and make as good a choice as possible, and then trust that the universe is giving you the dog you need.
Please check out my website freerangedogs.com and contact me for all things dog. I am available for online consultation and in-person training and would love to help you with your dog.
Parts of this blog were excerpted from my book Bond of Passion: Living with and Training your Hunting Dog by Web Parton.