Fish and Fetch
For 15 minutes my American pointer, Doc, sat on the creek bank in the shade and watched while I angled for panfish around the submerged roots of a downed sycamore. Having caught three good-sized goggle-eye and one warmouth, I decided it was Doc's turn for activity. As I unclipped one of the retrieving dummies from my belt loop, Doc perked his ears and looked at me with anticipation.
"Mark!" I commanded as I pitched the dummy across the creek and into a tangle of weeds and brush. "Fetch!"
At the command, Doc raced to the water and splashed through the shallows. He swam hard when his feet no longer touched bottom. Emerging from the water on the opposite bank, he quartered over to the area where the dummy fell.
"Good boy!" I praised when Doc turned to the water with dummy in mouth. After Doc swam to my side of the creek, I commanded him to heel and sit. He complied, and then accompanied me at heel to the next fishing hole.
Mixing creek fishing with gun-dog training is a sweet way to mix the pleasures of summer and fall. Here's why.
Beats the Heat
Summer's swelter often makes gun-dog training miserable for both dog and trainer. You can avoid the heat by training early in the morning and working your dog at and in a pond or lake. Morning lows of 60s and 70s and waters cooled overnight provide workable temperatures for dog training. However, on days when summer temperatures reach into the 90s, surface waters in many impoundments quickly climb into the 80s and are insufficient to keep a dog cool. After a few retrieves in a warm pond on a hot day, most gun dogs are exhausted.
Creeks, flanked and shaded by trees, maintain cooler water throughout the heat of summer and offer opportunities to train gun dogs during any time of day. The cool water and shade of most creeks allow a trainer to work his gun dog whenever it's convenient.
Some individual gun dogs require little training. Gifted with superior genes, these dogs, with little more than time spent hunting, naturally hunt as they are expected to, and they hunt well. Such dogs, though, are rare. Most dogs require careful training to become helpful hunting companions.
All training, from basic obedience to advanced hunting skills, requires a dog to first associate responses to commands.