I have become part of the multisport group, Team Blazeman. My goal is not just one single event but a year of marathons, duathlons, eco-tris and triathlon in an effort to raise awareness and funds for this dreaded disease.
I think all of us completely under-utilize and under value the great gifts we have been given by God of our mind and body. I think endurance sports exemplify what we can truly do with these gifts. Every year I am brought to tears watching the stories from the Hawaii Ironman. I follow the great athletes of the Tour de France, and I try to challenge myself every day to never waste these gifts, but I am guilty of being wasteful.
We HAVE to win this battle. There is an answer, an earlier diagnosis
Learn more here: Blazeman Foundation for ALS
To contribute online visit my contribution page at:
If you are uncomfortable contributing online drop me an email at
Despite 20 million people dying from ALS since 1869, there hasn’t
After we reach our first milestone of $1,000 I will
After our initial goal is reached, for each $100 additional contribution
Please make my life miserably busy with training and website work
Okay, after a couple of month hiatus I think Gundogdoc should be back online with current content. I know I’ve made those claims before, and while I’m not consistent you’ll have to admit I do keep coming back. This year dog training dominated my free time and we have been swamped at the clinic. Tomorrow we have a new veterinarian joining our staff, and I hope that will mean more free time to devote to the site again.
This year has been different for me because thankfully the dogs have not taken a back seat and their training is coming along wonderfully. Lily and Belle will be running at their respective Master levels come fall. Lily continues to amaze me with her ability to learn and her drive:
We have added some updates to the site today and they should just be the tip of the iceberg. They include:
A Music Video Review from last year HERE
A New Ask the Vet HERE.
In the weeks to come stay tuned for a photo gallery from the HRC Spring Grand. I was fortunate to be able to conduct bitch checks all but one morning and spent three of the five days chasing the dogs and handlers with my camera. In addition I have two audio podcast interviews that need edited and posted. As a teaser one will include a giveaway of one of the most exciting new e-collars on the market.
I’ll start this post by apologizing for the lack of content for the last two months. With that out of the way I’ll share the story of where we’ve been and why.
I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of training with Lily. Exactly a year ago I attended a cocker field trial in Minnesota and immediately knew this was a dog game I would be playing. From the beginning I took a different approach to Lily’s training than any dog I have had in the past. She received no bird work early in life, I worked obedience until we both were sick of it and I’ve utilized only positive training methods. This meant attempting to train to a finished level with no collars, and other than a brief 1-2 week period of utilizing the check cord, I didn’t even have a strap collar on during training.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression I’m anti-collar. Heck I have about a dozen of them, but I wanted to see how far I could take a dog without one. I cannot take any credit for this novel approach. When I decided on a spaniel I scoured the literature on British methods and learned as much as I could from these techniques. The biggest influence on this decision, though, was the time I’ve spent with Lily’s breeder Paul McGagh of Glencoe Kennels. I have spent a lot of time with dog people from all over the country, and I don’t mean this as a slight to any of them, but the times I’ve spent with Paul have been some of the most amazing dog training lessons I have ever witnessed. Paul truly has a gift when it comes with his relationships with these amazing animals and it was seeing this first hand that made me want to alter my approach with this dog.
Lily’s training has been a very positive experience and I feel it has forced me to learn, as a handler, more about the canine thought process. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a number of these training sessions would end with me contemplating adding the collar to the mix in order to smooth out the process. And to be completely honest I can’t say we won’t go down that path eventually.
My plan had been to run her first trial the weekend of April 25 in North Dakota. The week leading up to the trial found us still struggling with steadiness to flush and so I elected to scratch her from the trial in favor of three days of training, with the hopes she would be ready for the Minnesota trial the following weekend. This proved to be a very wise decision as the switch went off for the little dog and outside of the rare break on a low-flushing bird she was bringing it all together like a champ. The Wednesday night before the trial we had a near perfect training session and Thursday I ran her birdless simply to work on control in the field.
Friday I loaded up the truck and headed to Minnesota to watch the first day of the trial in hopes of gaining some insight before our big run on Saturday. The day was filled with incredible dogs. A huge number of dogs were carried over during each series in the open. There was a puppy stake on Friday, smaller than Saturday’s, but with many of the dogs running both days I was able to see some of the competition. After the first two puppies had run I turned to one of the other spectators to inquire about these dogs’ runs and more specifically, what would have kept them from not getting called back in the open…his reply, “Oh, nothing, they would have done fine in the open.” This made me sick about Saturday. When I had first signed Lily up for these trials I thought puppy actually meant puppy; however, in spaniel trials it meant dogs that were under two years old. At 10 months old Lily was truly still a puppy, but the realization sunk in that she would be playing a big dog’s game.
Saturday morning’s alarm sounded much too early and I knew judgement day, literally, was upon us. The puppy stake is usually run after the first two series of the open. Two days of wind and somewhat dry conditions resulted in a number of dogs being dropped during the open, but regardless it felt like it was dragging on forever. Finally the last brace was ran and the trial broke for lunch. We were now about a half-hour from making our debut on the trial scene.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous. It had been suggested by a number of people to take some Immodium with me, and while I didn’t have to resort to that I was pretty worked up. I watched the first couple of dogs run and then decided to get her out of the kennel. We were the last dog to run and so I thought having her out on lead for a while may help settle down her nerves…that proved to not be the case. The longer we waited the more anxious she got. I was beginning to think I had made my first blunder.
It was looking like we were going to start midway through the course and so we walked towards the line as the handler before us sent his dog into the field. His pup put up a bird early and it was dropped, followed by a nice retrieve. Blunder number two had just occurred as Lily intently marked the fall since she was so close to the shot. We followed the action up the course waiting our turn. After the pup’s second bird content the judges decided to head back to the beginning of the course for our run rather than to pick it up where the previous dog ended. By this time Lily was a wild banshee at the end of her leash and raring to go and I was going over every conceivable worst-case scenerio in my head.
After some brief instructions the judges allowed me to take the course. I hupped Lily, stroked her head a few times, told her she was a good dog, removed the leash and we were on our way. Immediately she headed for the area of the fall from the previous dog. I was worried we were in trouble as I could not whistle her out of the area. Blunder number three, in hindsight I should have just left well enough alone, allowed her to hunt it out and swallowed my whistle. As it was I’m sure I got dinged for some whistle refusals and lack of cooperation. After what seemed like an eternity she gave up on finding the bird and started hunting like the dog I’d come to know.
The first bird contact went like textbook with a retrieve to hand. The second bird gave us a run for our money. She put it up and immediately hupped. The bird caught the stiff wind and came right back at the judges and me, hovering over us for a few seconds before landing about two yards in front of me with Lily about 20 yards further beyond. The judge asked me to release her and the pup came charging at me like she was shot out of a canon. She hit the bird, rolled it on the ground before it took flight and she once again hupped, was steady to shot and made the retrieve. I handed the bird to the judge and leashed Lily up. Just like that our first trial run was over In my constant negative view of the world I spent the walk back to the truck dwelling on the first minute of the run as she hunted for a non-existent retrieve. I kept thinking, if only I had kept her away from the line longer, if only I had left her in the truck, if only I….if, if, if.
As I walked back with my head down everyone I met on the walk had nothing but compliments to give on Lily’s run. They were impressed with her style, her steadiness and of course her looks. Every time I brought up the start of the run it was dismissed as her just being a puppy and an insignificant part of the performance. The first few times I heard this I thought it was just people being nice to the rookie; however, the more I heard it the more I thought maybe we had a chance. As I shook off the negative thoughts clouding my judgement I had to admit that I could not have been happier with her bird performance that day.
With a mountain of work waiting for me at home I decided to skip out on the last series of the open as well as Sunday’s amateur. The four-hour drive home gave me ample time to reflect on the events of the day, and I knew I had been stricken by yet another addiction to add to my list. Regardless of the judges decision this cocker trial thing had gotten in my blood.
Later in the evening, after the truck was unpacked and the steaks were on the grill my phone rang with news that Lily had taken second. I couldn’t believe it. The little dog had come through. All the hours of researching breeders, the training books and videos and the endless hours of training had all come together.
For those of you who know me also know that I have a competitive side and I may have been known to note in the heat of battle that second place is the first loser. I like to think that in this case Lily had a first place performance that was downgraded by an incompetent handler, that, and had I won right out of the gate I may not have had the incentive to come back for more. Ok, maybe I’m making a little much out of a puppy trial, but we all have to start somewhere.
For a photo gallery look at the first two days of the trial check out the pictures HERE.
In typical Gundogdoc fashion I had hoped to bring a stream of consistent new content, only to have my real responsibilities take over, causing the website to take a back seat. I’m still planning on making regular updates; however, I think they will be more sporadic over the month rather than weekly.
I don’t want to give the impression that it’s been all work and no play around here. Earlier this year I mentioned that I was going to take up decoy carving, which I did. The new hobby is not progressing as quickly as I had planned, but I am hoping to have a few decoys to hunt over this fall. Here is my first attempt, from start to finish, on a mallard:
I had grand plans to chase the snow geese this spring, and the snowline to the north and conditions around here were setting up to make that seem like a productive proposition. Unfortunately just as the birds were starting to show up, Mother Nature delivered one last burst of subzero weather, which send the geese back south. When they finally had the weather to allow them to move north they just kept going, beyond the areas I typically hunt.
All was not lost, as I kept the vacation time and used it to train Lily and Belle for five straight days. Andy Schoeberl of High Caliber Labradors recently relocated to the area and we’ve been helping each other out with the dogs. Lily has been progessing unbelievably well, and as a result I haven’t been carrying the camera when working my dogs…it’s been another story when the Labs are in the field though:
If all goes as planned, and the weather cooperates, we’ll be back out this week and hopefully with pictures of my girls. Until then stay tuned to the site, as I’ll try to get back on track before the end of the month.
Mother Nature hasn’t quite decided whether it is still winter or the start of spring. We started yesterday with around 3-4 inches of snow and by evening the temps were near 50. While the weather sorts things out the snow geese have decided to start their migration through the state. It is just the leading edge, but with cabin fever firmly in place I loaded Lily up last Friday and headed out to attempt a pass shoot after work.
I’ll admit I was impressed by the little dog’s ability to sit still:
Thankfully we had to walk about a half-mile to the spot which allowed her to burn off some energy. Having had no experience with “watching” birds she was a little confused as to why we were just standing there in the tall grass. Occasionally she would excuse herself from Hup and start exploring. After a couple of quick toots on the whistle though she’d return and resume her post.
We were on a hill overlooking a small lake that was holding a few birds out on the ice. My hope was that those birds would draw some of the birds in the area in and afford us a couple of opportunities. After about forty-five minutes something startled the birds on the ice and they began to circle over the lake, gradually widening their path as they contemplated sitting back down or heading out.
As the birds circled wider I was pretty certain I was going to get a shot. They were going to be a bit high, but well within gun range. I had not shot the 12 gauge around Lily yet so I decided to fire twice and see how things went. When the birds were in range I fired, and promptly missed. I quickly looked down to my left and no Lily. My heart sank a bit as I worried I had startled her.
Immediately I caught movement to my right. There was Lily with the front part of her body down and her butt up in the air, tail wagging like she had caught something in the grass? She looked ready to pounce so I released her with a “Lily” and she dove into the grass and quickly returned with an empty shell. She was so incredibly proud as she wiggled with excitement. I graciously took the shell and because she was so excited released her again with “Lily” and she swung around and grabbed shell number two. Not exactly what I had in mind for her first double, but I wasn’t going to disappoint the happy little dog.
Needless to say we have a bit of waterfowling work to do with the hopes of her understanding that we’re out there for birds. I relayed the story to a good friend whose comment was that she was just being a “green” dog worried about the environment. Nonetheless the adventure has begun as I transition Lily from the training field to the real world. She is at a crucial point for me to reinforce steadiness. Far and away she is the calmest, most steady dog I’ve ever had but a couple of unrestrained instances like last week and I can see how that would quickly come undone. I’m hoping this is the first of many spring reports with the little white “goose” dog:
As a hunter and lover of wildlife I’ve never been wildly passionate about gun rights as an important component to protecting my pursuits. I know to many that may be considered blasphemy, but at the end of the day for me it has never been about the gun. Certainly the gun is a vital part of what I enjoy, but in the end I don’t think the loss of my gun rights will be the limiting factor in my continuing to be able to enjoy my outdoor pursuits.
In my mind our focus has to be on conservation, plain and simple. We lose an alarming amount of wildlife habitat in the name of economic growth and modern farming. Some of the statistics are mind-boggling really. My home state of Iowa has lost 98% of its prairie potholes. What would the Iowa landscape and quality of life be like if just a fraction of those acres were returned? That is just one state; what if we returned, just small amounts, of lost habitat in every state?
I’ll often hear the argument that hunters are conservationists simply to raise more birds to shoot, or in the case of wetlands, ducks. Anyone who has spent time in the marsh knows the matter is not that simple. Wetlands are the lifeblood of the environment. In addition to many recreational opportunities they help to control flooding and erosion, serve as a reservoir for water, and most important play a vital role in cleansing the water. While performing all of those tasks, they also provide habitat for literally thousands of species of plants, fish and animals.
In veterinary practice we see a lot of sick patients. Many of these patients, as part of the disease process, are dehydrated. A hallmark of medical care for nearly all illness is fluid therapy. Sometimes we never accurately diagnose the cause of an illness but simply by placing an IV catheter and administering fluids the patient will get better. To put it simply, and somewhat esoteric, by restoring the water balance we correct the problem. Throughout man’s history water has served as arguably one of the most important literary and religious symbols we have. Why is that? Because without it we cease to exist.
My intention is not to start a discussion about Global Warming, Climate Change or Religious Symbology. That being said I think we would all agree that our planet is not as healthy as it should be. We certainly do not have the wild places we once had, nor the crucial habitats that serve to balance our planet’s health. Unfortunately our patient’s condition continues to worsen and these changes are being accelerated by dramatic changes to the Farm Bill and Clean Water Act.
Enter the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s petition drive “We Are Wetlands.” The group initiated the petition drive in April of last year with the goal of 80,000 names (one for each acre of natural wetlands that our country loses each year). The group has collected over 50,000 signatures, which is impressive, but still short of the goal. Please visit their site and add your name to the growing list and send a message to Congress about the importance of our wild places. Our patient needs fluid therapy and that has to start with the preservation and restoration of our wetlands.
I had promised a bunch of updates starting in February, and I delivered…barely. In addition to the updates that I posted earlier in the week I just added a bunch of new ones today:
New Book Review: Alex & Me by Irene Pepperberg.
In the last year or two I have read a couple of books that explore the
world of animal intelligence, and I recently finished one of the best
reads I’ve found on the subject. Some of you may be familiar with the
life of Alex the African Grey Parrot. He was an exceptionally
intelligent bird that was the subject of numerous articles, news
segments and a television show. At the most basic level Alex was the
30-year research project of Dr. Pepperberg. Very early in the book you
realize there was certainly much more to this pair than that of
researcher and subject. READ MORE
New Case of the Month: Better than a Stick in the Eye? I’m guessing this GSP thought most things were better than a stick in the eye after we removed it. READ AND SEE MORE
New Featured Link: Wolfe’s Sporting Collectibles
I’m a sucker for anything sporting history related. The reason my first
dog was a Chesapeake was because of their tie to waterfowling history.
Our house is adorned with sporting art and memorabilia. Dennis Wolfe’s site is an unbelievalbe source of sporting collectibles. For someone with my “addiction” to this lifestyle, such a site should be illegal. To borrow from the homepage: This is a site designed for like minds who enjoy and Collect Antique Hunting & Fishing Collectibles. I hope you will find some things of interest so get comfortable in your chair and take a look around. Visit the site HERE
New Ask the Vet: When a front leg lameness is difficult to identify what’s next? Read More HERE
With so many dog foods, supplements and energy products on the market,
there is a lot of confusion from dog owners about what foods and
products they should be using in their hunting dogs. The scenario is
further confused when you throw into the equation the fact that we do
so many different activities with our dogs: the dog chasing western
prairie birds will have different needs than a dog hunting timber
mallards down south, the grouse dog of the northeast or the pheasant
hunting dogs of the Midwest. The truth of the matter is that there
isn’t one formula that works for all dogs. Instead it is important to
be able to understand your dog’s needs, what is available for your dog
and how the products may work in your situation….In this latest article I try to unravel the mysteries that seem to surround what we should put in our dogs’ bodies.
It will come as no surprise that fall is my favorite time of year. Much of what I enjoy occurs during the fall, and I spend the rest of the year longing for, planning for and training for the next fall to come around. That being said, spring places a close second in my rankings of the seasons. As I get older I certainly have started to dread winter more and more, but no matter how rough the winter is, I don’t think I could live in a part of the country that doesn’t experience it. Without winter’s extreme temperatures, and the frozen, snow-covered environment it creates, spring would not seem so glorious. This last weekend the wind chills once again were below zero, yet today’s forecast high is 52. These first sunny, almost warm, days of spring are nearly magical with their effect on the people and animals in this part of the country. Of course we will be slammed back into reality on Thursday when the wind switches back to the north, the temperatures plummet and snow returns to the forecast…but it will be days like today that give us hope that better times are indeed just around the corner.
There truly is something eternally rejuvenating as winter eases its grip on the earth and spring slowly inches closer and closer. One of the spectacles that I greatly enjoy during this transition are the magnificent sites of migrating waterfowl. This year I hope to once again be in the field capturing images as the birds head north to their breeding grounds. In anticipation of this event, I’ve uploaded a gallery of images from previous years’ waterfowl migration:
CLICK HERE to view.
Well, after making promises that this month would be the month that I kicked off a more regular schedule I’ve clearly dropped the ball. I was on the road for continuing education for two weeks with spotty internet access and spent last week feeling like my head was going to explode with a late-winter respiratory infection.
I have most of my planned content completed and will be posting new stuff almost daily this week to make up for the lack of updates for the rest of the month. Stay tuned to the main page as the updates are posted.
Last night I added a new video to the video podcast series. One of the simplest tasks an owner can do at home is to trim their dog’s nail; however, I would say that a vast majority of people are intimidated by that task. In this newest installment I hope to take away some of the fear and make you more comfortable managing the nails at home.
A couple of notes on the video. It does require Quicktime in order to view it, and there is a link on the video page to download the latest version. Also, it is again a very large file and so if you plan to view it from your browser I would recommend hitting pause and allow the video to load for a couple of minutes to allow seamless playing. The video is available in the iTunes store as a free download, and if you have the iTunes software this may be the easiest way to handle the video.