Why That Dog Don't Hunt
By Dave Duffey
Every decent gun dog has
his "off" days. "Even su
perlative performer and champion mess up from time to time.
The fact that the top dogs do it less frequently is what sets
them apart from the mill-run sporting dogs who satisfy less fortunate
or less demanding owners.
In some instances there may be justification in a hunter claiming
that his dog will "settle down and start doing the job as
soon as he gets the edge wore off" and such dogs can be
well worth feeding. But there are other dogs, slow as the check-out
line at a Wal-mart store and amiably indifferent to bird scent
or flight who don't belong in the game anymore than an athlete
who doesn't dig it during practice.
But regardless of innate quality, sound training and tolerance
for those "bad days" when nothing goes right, there
is no question that a "fresh" dog will out-hunt a "bushed"
dog, all other things being equal. Obvious as that made be, too
few birds shooters factor in fatigue when they praise a dog or
cuss him out.
A worn out dog won't seek game diligently but that which he does
encounter won't be as keenly scented and (in the case of flushers,
spaniels and retrievers) will elude the pursuer. Pointing breeds
will sloppily stand game rather than point it with intensity
and style or mess up good finds by some careless breach of manners.
Too few sportsmen even think in terms of getting the best work
out of their gun dogs by considering an optimum hunting time.
The time frame a which a good gun dog will be "putting out"
to the greatest and most effective degree before wearing down
so much he starts making mistakes and losing desire is much shorter
than most people realize. In my experience, top performance time
is under two hours at a pop and depending upon individual inheritance
and conditioning it may not exceed an hour. So an hour and a
half is pretty good average to expect a dog to work well at the
upper limit of its ability without a break.
When most sportsmen brag on their dogs, however, their praise
is for dogs that "can go all day, all week" or "hit
a good hunting lick all morning" or "are still going
strong at quittin' time". No consideration is given to a
peak performance period or to spells when the wheels are spinning
slowly while slipping, sliding: not digging in to provide traction.