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Nutrition & Training Tips

Sunday, January 1, 2017

How Good is Your Bird Dog?

How good is your pointing grouse dog?  Fair? Good?  Outstanding?  What is the standard you use to judge your dog?  Your author has had the good fortune to watch and shoot over many pointing breed grouse dogs.  Those include English setter, English pointer, German shorthaired pointer, pointing griffon, Brittany and many more.  The training of these dogs has been from minimal to the very best field trial dogs. 

Now let’s back-up perhaps 150 years.  In the 1800s, outdoor and gun dog writers classified the ruffed grouse as unfit for sporting purposes.  The bird’s desire to quickly flush made it unfit for pointing dogs.  Course untrained dogs were used by the market shooters but that was the limit of grouse shooting with dogs.  It wasn’t until some of the more trained dogs from the South made their way North before it was discovered that pointing dogs could be trained to properly handle the elusive ruffed grouse.

Today, as mentioned above, there are many pointing breeds capable of handling the King of Gamebirds.  Now, let’s get back to the opening sentence:  How good is your pointing dog on grouse? Most gun dog owners overrate their dog(s).  They want so badly to have a good grouse dog that they make believe that their dog is good.  I occasionally find myself in that group.  One of my shorthairs will make a mess of a grouse find and I’ll make an excuse for him.  The really good grouse dogs rarely make a mistake…and I truly mean the really good dogs. 

Here’s an example of someone who thought he had a really good dog.  Several years ago, I received an email asking me if I had knowledge of a Brittany kennel in Maine.  The man wanted to buy a Brittany puppy from this kennel.  I called the kennel and asked if their dam was a hunter.  The woman said that they didn’t hunt but I could call a buyer of one of their pups who is an avid upland hunter.  I called the man who bought a pup three years earlier from this kennel.  He said he had the best grouse dog in the State of Maine.  He invited me to come watch his dog work. That was fine because I was traveling his way the following week.  If I recall, it was the second week in September.  The dog owner had a very nice grouse covert that he promised would hold grouse.  And it did.  The dog had three grouse finds in about one hour.  All three grouse were runners and flushed way ahead of the dog and the dog owner.  After each flush, the dog owner would say “Wasn’t that great dog work?”  And, when we finished, he said:  “Have you ever seen anything that good?”   Well, I was very diplomatic and told him he had a “nice” dog and I appreciated his time.  However, that was lousy dog work. 

The bottom line, the absolute standard, for outstanding pointing dog work on ruffed grouse is whether the bird is there when you, the hunter, gets to the dog.  Is the bird within range for a shot?  The number of faraway flushes made in front of the dog has no value to the hunter.   

Having established a standard for outstanding grouse work, how many dogs can actually pin every grouse find and have it there when you, the hunter, arrives?  Very few.  In fact, I’ve only seen one.  Her name was Long Gone Madison, an English setter, and she was considered amongst the top five grouse dogs ever.  I watched her pin nine grouse in one hour.

Now we know what the very best can do.  How about your dog?  If your dog can pin 50% of their grouse finds, then you have a very good grouse dog.  More than 50%, you have a true “brag dog” that can run with the best.  Pinning less than 50% will still give you a good dog, however, if it’s say one in ten, then your dog is simply a weekend hunter and you’re both out just for fun.  And, just being out for a fun day with your best friend is a beautiful thing. 

Paul Fuller is host of the Bird Dogs Afield TV program.  Paul’s website is

Monday, August 1, 2016

Anatomy of A Litter, Part Two

In last month’s column, we reviewed how my wife and I decided to breed our female German shorthaired pointer, the process of artificial insemination and selecting buyers for our litter.  We finished the column explaining that, as litter owners, we had first pick.  I promised that I would reveal, in this column, the puppy we chose to keep.

As mentioned in last month’s column, we loved all eight of our puppies.  Choosing which puppy to keep would be very difficult.  There were no bullies and no wall-flowers in the litter.  All appeared to be bold and ready to learn.  In the end, we chose to keep the runt of the litter.  She was the very first puppy to lick my face.  Also, she was cooperative always in everything we attempted to do…like trimming her nails.  She’s a sweetheart, and we feel she has great potential in the field.  Her litter nickname was Hearts; however, we now call her Cordie. 

At eight and one-half weeks, all the other puppies went to their new owners.  This was a very sad day for the Fuller household.  We said goodbye to pups that we handled and nurtured every day.  As mentioned last month, we found seven buyers we’re very comfortable with.  We hear from four of the buyers two or three times per week; that’s comforting.

Now the fun begins.  We have a fresh student that wants to learn.  However, we don’t want to go too fast.  Cordie needs to have puppy fun or we’ll have a puppy that loses its puppy time and will be difficult in the future. 

At eleven weeks, here is what we’re working on.  We start the day with a run at approximately 6:30 am.  The early hour is due to the warm weather.  Little Cordie is running with our ten-year-old Dillon and Cordie’s mother, Dena.  The run is for about 45 to 60 minutes.  We alternate between woods and fields since we hunt the prairies in the early fall and the woods during October and November.  We avoid paths as much as possible since we want to develop a dog that hunts cover and not take the easy way…paths.  Also, we make sure the puppy has chest protection.  Both of our senior dogs ripped open their chests as puppies while running through the woods.  We want to avoid that issue with Cordie.  Also, during our morning walk, we attempt to walk in a shoelace pattern.  The reason for doing this is to develop a back and forth search pattern that covers the most ground.  Dogs that run in a straight line will find very few birds.  In addition, we put a small Christmas bell on Cordie’s collar.  We want to introduce her to noise while she’s running.  This will help introduce bells and beepers in the future. 

In addition to field work at eleven weeks, we work on neck control…having a lead attached to a collar.  We do this almost daily.  We want a good citizen puppy that is under control at all times.  And, to provide even more training, we’re including the “whoa” command while we work with the lead.

And, of course, we can’t forget water.  The puppies were first exposed to water when we put a water bowl in the weaning box.  They would stumble into the bowl almost every day.  Once we started taking them outdoors, we put a child’s swimming pool in their run.  The entire litter would often be found in the pool.  Early-on, we put two to three inches of water in the pool…today we fill it with six inches of water.

That concludes Anatomy of A Litter through eleven weeks.  We’ll keep you posted in future columns on Cordie’s progress.

Paul Fuller is host of the Bird Dogs Afield TV program.  Paul’s website is

Friday, July 1, 2016

Anatomy of A Litter

My wife, Susan, and I like to have a new puppy come into the family approximately every five years.  That formula ensures that we always have a dog at the top of their game.  At the present time, we have a 10 ½ year old male (Dillon) and a five year old female (Dena).   About one year ago, we began discussing a new puppy and where to find this new puppy.  After much discussion, we decided to simply breed Dena.  She’s an outstanding hunting dog and coupled with a good male, we felt she would produce a litter of top-of-the-line future hunters. 

We chose a male, Top Gun Prince William, from Top Gun Kennels in Iowa.  Susan and I have been familiar with Top Gun Kennels for many years. Their dogs are highly recognized across the country for their field performance.

Now the hard work begins.  Due to the distance, we chose a chilled semen artificial insemination.  We chose Broadview Veterinary Hospital in Rochester, NH to handle the process.  When Dena came into season, she had to go to Broadview to determine exactly the precise time for breeding.  This involved measuring progesterone levels in her blood multiple times.  When the tests showed it was time, then Top Gun Kennel had to take Prince William to a vet in Iowa to capture the semen.  The semen was then sent in a chilled container by overnight delivery.  At Broadview, the semen was then inseminated to Dena.  This process was done twice.  After four weeks, with fingers crossed, Dena was tested for pregnancy by doing an ultra sound.  The test was positive…we had puppies in our future.  However, we had no idea how many. 

At this point, we did a Breeding Announcement which we posted on Facebook.  We also posted a video of Dena’s hunting skills on YouTube.  We quickly had deposits on three puppies.  Considering that we were keeping one, we weren’t sure whether to accept additional deposits.  That concern was eliminated when, on the 62nd day of pregnancy, Dena was x-rayed at Broadview and we were told that she had eight puppies. 

A short paragraph on how we selected the buyers.  German shorthaired pointer puppies are in great demand.  We’ve had over 80 inquiries about buying a puppy from our litter. There were two decisions we made that help sort through all the inquiries.  We decided we would not ship a puppy; our rule was that a buyer had to be within a day’s drive.  We also had a very carefully constructed questionnaire each applicant had to complete and return.  If they weren’t going to train and hunt their pup, they were not considered as a buyer.  This process gave us seven buyers we are very happy with.

On April 6th, Dena delivered her eight beautiful puppies.  All healthy and squirmy.  Each day, for four weeks, Susan and I weighed them and held them for a few minutes.  We wanted to make sure they were consistently gaining weight and that they had human interaction. 

Around the fourth week, Dena was beginning to lose interest in nursing them.  She still did it but not with great enthusiasm.  So, we introduced kibble (soaked in warm water).  There was little hesitation by the puppies…they ate it enthusiastically.  There is one item to consider when introducing puppies to kibble; the mother will no longer clean up all the poop and pee.  Up until that point, the mother keeps the whelping box clean of all puppy poop.  Once she stops, be sure you have a weaning box attached to the whelping box.  The pups will quickly learn to pee and poop in the weaning box.  Of course, that means picking up poop several times a day. 

For us, serious poop detail lasted about ten days.  After ten days, we began putting the pups outside three to four times per day.  That began at about five weeks. Introducing the pups to the outdoors dramatically cut down on poop detail.

On the sixth week, we had a puppy party for everyone who had given us a deposit.  Puppy buyers were given a sheet with each puppies litter nickname and they had to give us their preference.  As litter owners, we have first choice.  As of writing this column, we’re in the seventh week and will be making our decision at the end of this week.  All the puppy buyers are anxious for us to choose.  This is very hard since we love every puppy.  We’ll let you know next month which puppy we choose.

Paul Fuller is host of the Bird Dogs Afield TV program.  Paul’s website is