Are we sad when puppies go?

Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis female puppy gives her new owner a kiss.

A common question Jerry and I hear when a family picks up their eight-week-old puppy is:  “Aren’t you sad to see your puppies go?”

It seems such an innocent question but, as with many things, the real answer is complex.

First of all, it’s our business. Even though we train dogs, guide hunters and sell gear, a key component of Northwoods Bird Dogs is breeding dogs, whelping litters and selling puppies.

The reason we’re in this business, though, is because we love dogs and sometimes it is difficult when puppy dispersal time comes around. For whatever reason, a certain puppy will become a favorite of Jerry’s or I’ll fall hard for the littlest male or the perkiest female. In fact, I still remember very special puppies from years ago…puppies we named Lily, Linus, Moxie, Cotton, Pete, Peanut, Zeus and Jingles.

Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chardonnay female puppy takes a nap on her new owner.

Ultimately, the whole thing becomes a win-win-win situation:  Jerry and I make a living, the new owners gain a treasured pet/hunting companion and the puppy has a great life.

To borrow from Ina Garten, how gratifying is that?

P.S. I’m happy to report that puppies from our three litters this year seem to be relishing their new lives. Many thanks to the Gudenkauf, Blomberg and Rader families for sharing these photos.

Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz female puppy loves rides in her family’s boat.

Prairie 2012: how sweet it is

Great things can be accomplished by prairie training in summer.
~ Jack Harper, Bird Dogs and Field Trials, 1983

There is no better place to evaluate a bird dog than on the prairies. In this vast open countryside, every move the dog makes can be followed and analyzed. You see how the dog uses the wind and what objectives it chooses to hunt. Often the temperatures are warm and the ground is hard so you learn how the dog copes with stress and how much desire and heart it possesses. Plus, an inefficient gait, unattractive carriage or poor ground application can’t be hidden.

This summer as usual, my good friend and training partner, Frank LaNasa, and I head out to a camp we’ve had in North Dakota for 13 years.  We spend long weekends working our small strings of dogs from horseback. Our days are lengthy ones that start at 4:30 in the morning and end after dark but we love it.

Northwoods Lager points in the foreground while Frank handles his dog Northwoods Nirvana.

Running side by side with some of the very best dogs is an excellent way to observe and learn. Frank’s string is as good a yardstick as can be found. His five includes two female pointer champions, CH Homemade and CH Lil’ Miss Sunshine, a pointer male True Confidence and setters Houston’s Blackjack and Northwoods Nirvana.

Northwoods Parmigiano.

Our string consists of five setters—Northwoods Highclass Kate (owned by Barry Frieler), Northwoods Lager (Jim Bires), Northwoods Parmigiano (Paul Hauge), Northwoods Grits (Bob Senkler) and Snyder’s Liz (Steve Snyder)—and Betsy and I own the lone pointer, Northwoods Vixen.

A more spectacular place to train dogs can’t be found. And if the dog work doesn’t attract your attention, the vistas surely will.

Northwoods Highclass Kate.

Highlights of our new website

Blue Silk, CH First Rate x CH Blue Streak, 12 years of age. Photo by Chris Mathan.

Jerry and I are delighted with our new website. Chris Mathan of The Sportsman’s Cabinet did a superb job not only of managing the nearly year-long project but also designing each minute detail and shooting all the photographs. In our opinion, she is one of the top web designers in the country.

A prime motivation for this big undertaking was software-related. Our old site ran on a clunky, outdated platform with limited customer service. Too, we needed the ability to easily and quickly update all our pages without a major undertaking. Chris and her team moved everything to new content management software called WordPress.

Besides Chris’ beautiful photographs and evocative graphics, here are the highlights:
•    Page names are clearer and navigation is smoother.
•    Complete information included about Current & Past Dogs.
•    Very cool slide shows on Home, Puppies, Training, Guided Hunts & Kennel pages.
•    Easily accessible information is incorporated, including a new page called Training Guides under Training.
•    Incorporation of more down-loadable documents including pedigrees and Training Programs.

A few of my favorite parts:
•    The lead photo on the Current & Past Dogs is a row of collars as we store them in the kennel.
•    A photo of May, our black Labrador, on the Contact Us page…finally!
•    Dan Stadin’s well-deserved page of his own under About.
•    Photo of Jerry and CH Houston’s Belle at the breakaway of the Pennsylvania Grouse Championship.
•    Reading the copy (again…even though I wrote it) and seeing the photos of some of our beloved old dogs like Dancer, Dasher, Little and JR on Current & Past Dogs.

We’ve still got a few things to clean up but so far we couldn’t be happier. Please let us know any comments—good and bad—about the site. Thank you!

Raising puppies at Northwoods Bird Dogs

Seeing little puppies on point is definitely exciting but that cute stance is just the beginning. Developing puppies into a top-notch hunting dogs or finished field trial performers will take years. The paramount time for that development is during the first few months of life.

Our goal is to raise happy, healthy, well-balanced puppies. Over the years, Jerry and I have developed a program that works. At a minimum, we feel puppies need:

•  mental and physical stimulation
•  exercises and introductory training to develop their natural instincts
•  exposure to different situations, people and dogs

We also provide structure, stability and consistent rules. Equally important, though, we want them to enjoy life and have fun.

Detailed below are some of our puppy development and training ideas.

Time in the exercise pens

Ample time in our exercise pens allows the puppies to play and to rest at their choosing. We believe this freedom develops a physically sound dog with a calm, well-adjusted mental disposition. They also learn the invaluable lesson of how to interact with other dogs.

Barrel work

We put our puppies on a barrel where they learn to stand still with confidence. They love this exercise because they have our full attention and receive lots of praise through touching.

2013 training puppy setter royce retrieves pigeon


We encourage puppies to retrieve because they’re at a stage when they really want to please. Starting with a retrieving dummy we progress to freshly killed birds. A few retrieves two or three times a week is plenty and we always praise them lavishly when they bring the dummy or bird back.

Time on a stakeout chain

Especially when puppies are young and getting used to wearing a collar, we clip them to stakeout chain. They learn to give in and to be comfortable with restraint. They all struggle at first—some more than others—but all eventually do relent and relax.


Gang run

We gang run puppies from foot at eight weeks and later introduce them to group runs from four-wheeler as the next level in physical exercise. During these runs we also teach them to turn on a whistle, run to the front and handle to our voice.

Swimming and finding water

On our gang runs we swing by ponds. Not only do the puppies learn to swim (they follow May, our Labrador retriever) but they learn to cool off and drink. This method teaches them independence to find water on their own.

Some Simple Commands

We introduce preliminary commands such as HERE, KENNEL, and call their NAME using pieces of wieners as rewards. This encourages puppies to obey simple commands and create a positive association with people.

Northwoods Birds Dogs    53370 Duxbury Road, Sandstone, Minnesota 55072
Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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©2018 Northwoods Bird Dogs  |  Website: The Sportsman’s Cabinet