Gun Dogs, Summertime, and Rodents

Things have been pretty quiet around here for the last few months. We are enjoying a break from puppies for a few months, and life has just been going on as normal!

Normal for us anyway. We have four bird dogs (3.5 maybe). Raising and training gun dogs changes your perception of a normal day.

For example, I finish my morning coffee, slip on my battered flip-flops, and head out to feed the dogs and let them out of their pens for the day. As I walk through the dewy grass, enjoying the warm summer morning, I am greeted by an exuberant Timber. He is prancing about with his tail wagging wildly. In his mouth, he is daintily carrying a dead bird, and he is SO excited to show me.

Mmmm, who doesn’t just love disposing of a dead bird first thing after their morning coffee?

Then later that same week, we repeat this same story, except Timber has a dead mouse.

Then we repeat the story again, and he has a OPPOSUM.

Mind you, each of these creatures was caught by Timber while he was in his pen over night. This dog is a hunting ninja.

What’s very interesting about each of these incidents, is the demonstration of a bird dog’s “soft mouth.” Every time I have found Timber or one of the other dogs carrying a dead bird or rodent, the animal is physically undamaged. Bird dogs have an instinct to catch, hold, and retrieve birds without damaging their feathers. They do not have the instinct to bite or shred. The times that bird dogs do kill their hunted prey, they do it pretty much by playing with them. Which I will illustrate with this story.

We were enjoying a pleasant evening outside, sitting on our lawn chairs when we saw the dogs furiously digging. Then suddenly they all started a mad scramble in random directions. A very unwise mother rabbit had built a nest in our yard. She had managed to raise her babies partway to adulthood before our dogs found them. The dogs unearthed five baby rabbits. One hopped away to safety in our neighbor’s yard, and the other four were each scooped up by one of our dogs. Again, we saw the soft mouths in action. The dogs simply raced around the yard, carrying these live baby rabbits in their mouths. They would drop them in the grass, let them hop a few feet, pounce on them, and then pick them up again. Timber dropped his and rolled on it. Feeling sorry for the rabbits, we chased after the dogs. Unfortunately, two people chasing four dogs isn’t very successful. Of the four baby rabbits, only one was dead by the time we were able to round them up, and I think that was the one Timber rolled on multiple times.

This last summer tale is probably the one that makes me the most proud. 🙂 We bought a batch of pheasant chicks this spring to raise for field training our Irish Setters. We kept them at our place for the first few weeks, and then we moved them to my parent’s place. (Otherwise, our setters would go crazy with a bunch of pheasants around!) When the chicks were almost big enough to move out, a couple escaped their pen when I opened the door to feed them. I was able to catch one of them, but the second one eluded me. He scampered about for several days, hiding in the bushes along the front of the house where the dogs can’t go. Pheasants like to hide in thick brush and bushes, and they can run FAST! They do fly, but they often try to outrun predators before taking to the air.

One afternoon, I found him pecking around the pen where the rest of the pheasants were. I tried to catch him, but he dashed into my tea patch. It was too thick for me to see where he was. Mia was out with me, and she saw the bird run into the tea patch. She flushed him out; and with surprising agility, she caught him! I was amazed! I had never seen Mia do something like that. She held him down with her paws- one paw over his head and the other over his body. When I tried to pick him up, he got away again, running at full speed with his wings flapping. I thought he was gone for good, but Mia raced after him, made a wild pounce, and caught him again! My heart nearly burst with pride.

It was so much fun to see those hunting instincts in my sweet, little Mia. Those inborn instincts to catch and hold are strong and can come out at the most unexpected times, even in dogs that have never been specifically trained to hunt.

That’s just a sampling of the fun and crazy things my dogs are doing this summer. If you have a good story of your hunting (or non-hunting) dog catching sometime crazy, I’d love to hear it!

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