Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Coming Into His Own

I was putting together some footage of a GoPro video this morning and was watching my boy, Cutter do his thing and I have to say, he's pretty awesome. It's difficult because he was replacing my lab that had died from cancer at only nine years old, who was amazing at some things and truly my best friend but I've realized over the last four years that Cutter will not be Chase and it's ok to admit that Cutter is way better at some things than Chase ever was. I think it's fair to say that with both, their deficiencies have more to do with my failings than theirs but I'm learning too.

Mike Kuhnert and I headed out yesterday for our first hunt of the year together. It was definitely good to catch up with him. We both brought our dogs and I was interested to see how Cutter would react to having someone to compete with. You just never know how they will react to another dog being around; especially in the tight quarters of a blind.

They both played and chased each other around on the way out. They seemed to get along well and I wasn't really too worried about it. We got set up and brought both dogs into the blind and "assigned" them seats. Once in the blind it was on and Cutter was all business.

I brought Cutter home in January of 2012. He picked up the whole "fetch" thing right away, which definitely impressed me. It also probably made my expectations a little too high and probably caused me to push him a little too hard too soon. The fall of 2012, before he was even a year old, I took him hunting and found out he was gun-shy. The reality is, he had been around .22's and firecrackers so I thought he was good so I brought him with me to the gun range to sight in my .30-.06, which was way too much for him. It was my fault he was gun-shy.

I'll be honest, my heart sank and I even told my girlfriend I didn't have any use for a dog that was gun-shy. She told me she'd take him if we couldn't fix that in him but there's only enough room for so many dogs in our lives so if he didn't get over it, he was probably going to be given up for adoption. I know it sounds a little harsh but that's the reality of trying to groom a dog for hunting.

I took some advice from a few guys that are way more experience than I am at training dogs and put together a plan to try to work the guy-shyness out of him. By December, he got to the point where he associated the shot with falling birds and if you've seen the videos, you know that a shotgun blast no longer is a bad thing to him but more of an alarm setting off the instinct he was bred for. I will say, I haven't done a very good job of reigning him in and holding him back before taking off after the shot but no dog is perfect and neither am I.

Yesterday was a pretty big step towards my revelation for just how good Cutter is. With Annie, (Mike's yellow lab,) being new to the game, Cutter was unflappable. As ducks and geese came in, he sat still and waited for his time even with Annie breaking sometimes too soon. And when Mike dropped two geese with one being a cripple, Cutter went after the cripple and showed the tenacity he's developed now, not allowing that goose to get the best of him. (Annie did well to get her first retrieve as well, even on such a big bird.)

Cutter is impressive and in spite of all the mistakes and the shortcomings I've brought to the table, he is well on his way to becoming a pretty amazing duck dog. (I wish he'd stay off the bed though.) I hope you look forward to watching more and reading more about him because we are hitting it again today. It should be good.

Keep 'em where they live...

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