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New Dog Joins the Fox Family
Our lab Bailey is nearing ten years old which means nothing only that like me she has gotten older. Her passion to hunt has never waned but while the spirit is strong the flesh is slowly diminishing. Earlier this year our small house dog passed away and it was amazing how much it bothered Bailey. So we started thinking about acquiring another dog. But just thinking about it raised many question such as what kind of dog are you looking for. Certainly we wanted another hunting dog but what kind and for that matter a pup or an older dog. Getting older myself meant that the dog would be reaching its prime about the time I would be in my early seventies. Over my lifetime, I have had several breeds of dogs with Labrador Retrievers making up the bulk of dogs we have owned, but there have also been a Brittany Spaniel mix and an English Springer Spaniel, and a Golden Retriever. It all comes down to whatever your favorite breed is as well as what you see yourself using the dog for. There is no right or wrong answer it’s just like whatever your favorite make of truck is and trust me I’ve seen almost every make of truck alongside the road with its hood up over the years. There are some breeds that can multi task such as hunt upland birds as well as retrieve water fowl.
There is nothing quite like a puppy and it’s hard to skip past that early stage on a dog’s life, but there can also be some aggravating times as well where if you don’t handle them correctly you can really mess a dog up. Thinking about the time frame as well as how many things I have had destroyed by a puppy and those teeth I considered skipping that puppy stage and look for a “finished” or “started” dog. I know that it is a very old saying but I believe that the phrase “time is money” began with dog trainers. I understand that because they have put a lot of themselves into training a dog that is to become a key element in your hunt. When I looked on the internet as to the cost of a “finished” dog most ran between five and sixty five hundred dollars. You could however find a dog that had earned several obedience degrees and that would cost you into the twenty thousand dollars neighborhood which is a pretty exclusive neighborhood. A “started” dog was about half the cost of a “finished” dog. A finished dog is ready to hunt such as retrieving to your hand and have a soft mouth. More than likely it will be a couple years old and have a hunting season or two under their belt. They will retrieve on both land and water. They have probably been trained on an e-collar and you can probably cast them with hand signals and control them with a whistle. A “started” dog is retrieving to your hand has had some basic obedience taught such as sit, stay, and hunt. They will have retrieved birds as well as finding birds. They will also have had live birds shot over them and can retrieve on both land and water.
As I said earlier labs have made up the bulk of my hunting dogs and I love the breed. Bailey is an incredible dog although I would call her a meat dog in that there is nothing flashy, she loves doing it and there are no whistles or e-collars. However, she is one of the family and has dog pillows scattered throughout the house. As a matter of fact, while I am writing this story she is laying on a pillow perhaps a couple feet from me. She is very good for me in doing what I ask of her which is bringing back ducks and geese within a given distance which is probably fifty yards at most. She has this mental block in that she will only go so far out and then come back. I cannot explain it, but it’s never really been an issue.
When we started looking at “started” labs most kennels were sold out but you could put you name on a list that meant it would be next spring when your pup would be born and then they would start working on your dog and in time you could have the dog. One of the first things I really found out was that most kennels were not very update with their website postings and a lot of the dogs that were on the pages were sold as far back as 2016. However, I would rather have a kennel that was more dog savvy than computer savvy. Just for the heck of it I checked out English Springer Spaniels to see what was out there. They are a very versatile breed and can do it all although most would agree that their coat doesn’t protect them as well as a lab’s coat during extreme cold weather. I had been checking through the upper Midwest such as South and North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with much the same results that I had when looking for a “started” lab. Then I ran across Blue River Kennel in Alexandria, Minnesota. The kennel is owned by Ken Hansen and after a few email conversations he told me he had a two year old Springer named Winkle. The very worst thing or the very best thing we have created is the internet depending on your opinion of it, but I was able to get a video of Winkle hunting last winter and watched him hunt and retrieve a pheasant. The bird had ran on him and he had to track it down. He also had a very soft mouth (a fast and hard rule with Ken as he said, “I won’t have a bird cruncher on the place”) Ken has over thirty years of experience with English Springer Spaniels. He has a proven track record of excellence and his dogs are field bred dogs from some field champions and national field champions in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He also works hard to ensure that his dogs are family members as well or as he put it, “your dog may spend one day a week hunting and the rest of the week watching TV with the family.” On Tuesday of last week we drove to pick up Winkle as well as watch him in action. It was impressive. We also got to meet Winkle’s parents Shauna and Hardy. That is not their full names but that’s what they are called as their full names would require a longer article. In fact I felt a little peasant like when I saw Winkle’s linage when compared to my own. Last year for my birthday my daughter bought me an ancestor. com DNA kit. When it came back it said I was from England for the most part and I was more than likely over 75% human and might be able to learn menial house chores. In his first two full days with us, Winkle has been more than impressive in making retrieves and looking for lost bumpers. I will add that whatever he does he does like a house on fire and has an over abundance of desire. No doubt you will be reading more about Winkle this fall