Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

August 10, 1998

Picking out a puppy

I know a few things about hunting dogs and how to train them, but by no means am I any kind of expert on the subject.

In past experiences, I've found that when it comes to training and being happy and satisfied with a dog, nothing can replace time in the field and help from an older more experienced dog.

My philosophy on dogs has been find a good looking pup, start early, get them well-socialized to people and the things around them, and spend as much time with them as possible. Not so much quality time, but just time, and all kinds of it.

So far, the time I have spent with my new pup, Angus, has been interesting. At 10 weeks old, he's aggressive, gung-ho, and into everything.

Although my wife, Amy, and I question his characteristics once in awhile, at this point, we are happy he's the pup we picked.

For us, the decision to get Angus or even a new dog at all wasn't very easy.

To start with, we have a baby daughter at home, five-month-old Abbigayle. Would it be a good decision to get a puppy now, with Abby being so little, or would it be better to get a pup next year when Abby is over a year old and moving around?

We knew we wanted to have a dog, and that our lab, Tucker, would be turning 10 very soon and wouldn't be around forever. I wanted to get a pup before Tucker went over the hill so he could help in the training process.

The dog had to be a hunter and a kennel dog - a lab or lab/mix that would have the potential to be good both in the field and with the family. Most labs fit that bill.

Regarding Abby, we took some advice from another dog owner and family man and decided to get the dog now so it would be somewhat trained and relaxed by the time Abby is running around the yard.

We figured a pup and a one-year or 18-month-old Abby running around the yard together wouldn't be a good mix.

Regarding Tucker, age, too much travel, and too many hunting trips are starting to catch up to him. We expect him to be able to hunt this season and hopefully next, but any more than that would be hoping for too much.

If I wanted my new pup to be able to learn from Tucker while in the field duck or pheasant hunting, I had to get him now so that opportunity would be there.

When Tucker was young, my old dog, Bear, took care of most of the training while in the field. I'm hoping Tucker will do the same for Angus.

With Abby and Tucker in mind, we made the decision to get a pup this summer.

Before we even began the search, Amy had the name "Angus" picked out.

The fist dog we looked at was a beautiful yellow lab pup that belonged to a friend of mine. The pup looked great and I was sure the dog would be a good hunter.

The price was also reasonable at $250. We were inches away from getting that pup.

But Amy was set on a black one and, I guess, so was I. The name Angus just didn't match with a yellow lab.

From that point on, the pup would have to be big and black.

The yellow pup went back home and was soon snatched up by an avid waterfowl hunter in Winsted.

The search went on: classified ads, calls to friends at several kennels. Prices ranged from about a minimum of $250 to a max of about $800 - $250 seemed like a lot and $800 was definitely out of the question.

I paid nothing for my first dog and only $25 for Tucker. In my opinion, lots of time spent in the field makes a good dog, not money.

I've done a lot of hunting over many years and on more than one occasion I've seen a kid and his farm dog, who hunt a lot, have a lot more fun than a guy and his $800 professionally trained dog who hunt only twice a year.

Besides, I wanted a dog that had the ability and desire to hunt and be good with kids, not win field trial championships.

I have nothing against good, well-bred dogs that people are willing to spend a chunk of money on. I just won't spend that kind of money on a dog. If I did, I wouldn't have enough left to go hunting.

As the search continued, I remembered my old dog Bear, a lab/spaniel mix. He had his faults, but was always healthy - no hip, feet, ear, or internal problems.

Then I would think about Tucker, a purebred lab who has been plagued by what I would call breeding problems common to labs.

Vet bills have been a bit high at times, treating foot and ear problems, and food allergies. A good hunter and family dog, but high maintenance.

With that in mind, along came Angus, three-quarter lab and one quarter spaniel. The biggest all black dog out of a litter from a farm near Winsted.

He had nine siblings, five yellow and four other black with white marks on the chest. He looked all lab, was big, black and came at a very affordable price (shots and a vet check).

The minute I saw him, it was a match.

Next week, I'll give you the scoop on Angus in week three at home.

Outdoor notes

  • The fishing on our area lakes has been picking up a bit. Sunfish are hitting on Howard and Ida and some dandy northern pike are coming off Big Swan. The northern pike action should pick up very soon on several lakes in our area.
  • The DNR reported that Lake Minnewaska near Glenwood has become infested with Eurasian water milfoil. Milfoil is now present in 85 Minnesota lakes.
  • The 1998 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook will be out and available at area license vendors very soon.
  • The application deadline for 1998 antlerless deer permits is Sept. 10.
  • Pheasant numbers across the midwest are expected to be above last year. Survey numbers and more information on pheasant population will be available very soon.
  • Practice with your firearm before the season starts. The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club is a great place to sharpen your shotgunning eye and skills. The club is open every Wednesday evening through early September for practice and league trap shooting.
  • Look for wood ticks on your dog.
  • The Game Fair in Anoka ends on Sunday.
  • Finalize details on fall hunting trips now.

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