Veteran Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) makes it look easy.
Much of Minnesota’s woods are thick and hot now during high summer but whenever I have an opportunity to work dogs on wild birds, I say, “Let’s go!”
Northwoods Carbon (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) found a woodcock on the edge of a grazed cattle pasture.
Just to the south of our kennel are great woodcock covers. Young and old aspen mix with alders and field edges and there is plenty of damp ground. I’ve worked one or two dogs almost every morning. This summer is especially fun as woodcock are abundant and we’ve even encountered a brood or two of pheasants.
Northwoods Jaguar (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013) pointed a woodcock in older aspen with an understory of ferns.
It’s interesting to watch the dogs naturally shorten up in thick vegetation. Our dogs usually range 100 – 150 yards in mid-October but, now in July, they’ve hunted 20 – 40 yards from me.
One-year-old Northwoods Bismuth (Blue Riptide x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2014) pointed the first woodcock she smelled and let me flush it!
Jerry and Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009). Photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet.
Many of our clients have met our neighbor, friend and training helper Jeff Hintz. Besides his devotion to pointers and hunting wild birds, Jeff is very active online. He emails and texts to people all over the globe and has 1,145 Twitter followers. He recently sent me this post from an outdoor blog on the Garmin website. While its focus is dog training, clearly the principles apply to life in general.
Here are some highlights.
“Every day, in every way, our attitude greatly affects how each project, idea, communication, or dog training session will turn out. A calm, compassionate, yet gung-ho and positive attitude can achieve amazing results.
“Having a good attitude is very important when we want to communicate. The way we communicate with people or dogs could be the bottom-line reason things generally go well for us . . . or not.
“Using a calm voice and a steady, consistent demeanor will help our dogs…
“…use our happiest voice, even if it sounds like a gushing teen-aged girl, when we’re letting our dogs know how thrilled we are with something they just did or learned.
“…use our mean voice when it is clearly required…
“The person who allows his attitude to get bent out of shape when bad things occur, or when things don’t go his way is going to bring heaping helpings of unhappiness upon himself. And he certainly will not achieve excellent results with his dogs, goals, or the folks around him. It pays all of us to frequently think about our attitude and resolve to keep it at its best.”
Northwoods Grits, age 4
Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis
photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet
Saturday is the Fourth of July holiday when our nation officially celebrates independence from Great Britain. We observe it in many ways—from parades, festivals and barbeques to fabulous displays of fireworks. While Jerry and I love a good show, we believe firmly that puppies and fireworks don’t mix.
We have heard many tragic stories of young dogs that were badly frightened—or worse—by loud fireworks. Puppies have become so scared that they panic, run away and are lost or hit by a vehicle. Others have chewed out of crates, sometimes breaking teeth and scratching until their paws are bloody.
Even if your young dog has been exposed to gunfire, you still need to be careful. Here are two easy precautions.
• Put a crate in a protected, quiet place and put the puppy in it.
• Provide background noise such as a TV or radio.
If your young dog will be exposed to fireworks, consider these actions.
• Go about things normally during the fireworks. Act as though nothing special is going on.
• Don’t comfort the dog or give it any attention. Don’t look at the dog; don’t talk to it; don’t touch it.
• If your dog wants to be close to you, let it; but again, don’t comfort it. Comfort will most likely reinforce the behavior and make things worse.
In fact, there’s no reason to tempt fate. Consider older dogs, too. Let me amend the caution.
Dogs and fireworks don’t mix.
Photo at top by fortbragg.com.
Photo by Chris Mathan
Is there such a thing as too much exercise for a young dog?
Jerry and I think, yes, there is. So does Turid Rugass, Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist.
“It’s a common misconception that energetic dogs need a lot of activities and exercise, but in general the rule is that too much physical training and activities doesn’t use up excess energy, but creates more of it, leading to stress.”
In addition, the more exercise a dog gets, the more it needs. When the excessive activity level begins at a young age, the pattern can carry into adulthood and the result can be a stressed-out, high-strung, wound-up dog.
That stress can manifest itself in a couple ways in dogs. Some can’t maintain a healthy weight despite the proper amount of food. Poor digestion can lead to intermittent bowel problems.
We allow groups of puppies to spend half of each day in the exercise pens. They sleep as much as they play. Both rest and exertion are necessary for good health, mental stability and physical development.
Fenced-in back yards and invisible electric fences are wonderful options for dog owners. It’s easy to simply open the door and let a dog out. But it’s not healthy to allow it to free run all day.
As with most things in life—whether for people or for dogs—balance is essential.
The past couple months, I’ve been using a PE-900 Pro Educator training collar manufactured by E-Collar Technologies, Inc. I bought a one-dog collar but the PE-900 can be expanded to three dogs and features seven stimulation modes, including momentary and continuous, seven vibrations and four tones.
The cool thing is that these options can be programmed and combined in almost any configuration and can be customized for each dog. There are many other innovations—some quite complicated such as Level Lock and Boost.
For basic training in a defined area, the PE-900 is the best ecollar I’ve used.
My favorite capability is the patented “Instant” stimulation mode. It lets me use one hand to dial the intensity up and down while training compliance to known commands. The small increments of low-level stimulation help the dog make the right choice without causing the stress of hard corrections. This “Instant” mode can be applied for up to 45 seconds.
Another feature I like is the small size of the receivers. At only 2.4 ounces, they can be used on a very small or young dog.
For Whoa training, the PE-900 is perfect for use on the flank. The small bungee allows for a snug fit without inhibiting movement. (Houston’s Cappuccino, CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Chardonnay, 2014)
E-Collar Technologies also improved another issue for me. When training compliance to the Whoa command, I use an e-collar on the dog’s flank. The collar must be snug enough to make contact with the skin but not so tight that it restricts movement. The PE-900 has a biothane buckle collar with an elastic bungee incorporated into the strap which allows a good fit with easy expansion and contraction.
The PE-900’s range is only ½ mile and I wonder if that could be further limited in dense woods or hilly terrain. Too, since I haven’t used the collar under actual hunting conditions I can’t vouch for its durability.
E-Collar Technologies is the brainchild of Greg Van Curen, co-founder and former president of Innotek. Another Innotek alum, Kim Westrick, is in charge of sales and customer service.
For more information on the PE-900 and other e-collars made by E-Collar Technologies, visit their website at www.ecollar.com.
Northwoods Chardonnay (Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2009)
What we think, what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.
~ John Ruskin
It’s amazing and humbling to think about but 20 years ago today, on June 6, 1995, Betsy and I whelped our first litter. We bred a strong, blocky-headed, handsome black-and-white male English setter to a chestnut-and-white female. Even though she wasn’t pretty, she had a powerful combination of bird-finding and pointing instinct.
Finder’s Keeper (RU-CH Pat’s Blazer Banjo x Spring Garden Rose, 1991)
We never thought that 47 litters and 301 puppies later, we would have created a bird dog business that sustains and fulfills us. For not only did we produce lines of setters and pointers of which we are proud but we formed deep friendships with people from all over the country who share our love of fine bird dogs.
A. G. Murray, Jr., is an attorney and serious bobwhite quail hunter. A.G. and his wife Mary Beth drove from their home in Oklahoma to buy a puppy—a male they named Colonel—from that first litter. Last summer, they again travelled to Minnesota to pick out their fourth setter from us.
Our first litter out of Spring Garden Tollway x Finder’s Keeper produced five males and three females. CH Blue Streak is in the upper right looking at the camera and CH Blue Smoke is in the lower center.
The sire Spring Garden Tollway (Charlie) and dam Finder’s Keeper (Sparks) weren’t our first bird dogs. Charlie was preceded by a Brittany spaniel I purchased in 1980 but it was Charlie with his verve and tenacity that got me hooked on field trials. After buying Charlie in 1987, I was determined to find more good grouse dogs and spent the next seven or so years sorting through a dozen or more dogs—buying puppies and started dogs from the best dogs in the country. I hunted over them and then Betsy and I competed with them but not until we bought Sparks in 1993 did we find a match for Charlie.
CH Blue Streak (Spring Garden Tollway x Finder’s Keeper, 1995)
It was a gut feeling and also perhaps a bit of beginner’s luck but that first breeding of Charlie to Sparks succeeded beyond our expectations. It produced two field trial champions, CH Blue Smoke and 4XCH/4XRU-CH Blue Streak and, essentially, laid the foundation of all that followed. Out of Streak, we got Blue Blossom and Blue Silk. Silk produced our two best sires, Blue Shaquille and Northwoods Blue Ox, and out of those males, we have current dams Chablis, Chardonnay and Carly, and Grits, a wonderful male.
Blue Silk (CH First Rate x CH Blue Streak, 1999) and her sons Northwoods Blue Ox (by CH Peace Dale Duke, 2007) and Blue Shaquille (by Houston, 2004)
Blue Chief was whelped in our second setter litter out of Sparks by CH First Rate in 1996. Chief was a dream come true for me—a big, tri-color male with incredible instincts. Betsy and I learned early that Chief was a pre-potent sire and we found an excellent cross in Blue Blossom. In fact we bred Chief to Blossom three times, our first “nick.”
Blue Chief (CH First Rate x Finder’s Keeper, 1996)
Chief’s reputation grew and he became popular as a stud around the country. He sired 32 litters and produced 11 dogs that won 86 field trial placements. His contribution to the breed is still evident in championship-caliber setters such as CH Conecuh Station’s Pressure Test.
Kevin Sipple, a school superintendent in Wisconsin, bought Elle, a Chief x Blossom female in 2006. He brought her to a grouse camp owned by friends and shared with several serious hunters. Kevin has since purchased another female setter from us and now his five hunting partners have bought our setters, bringing the total number of Northwoods dogs in camp to nine.
CH Dance Smartly (CH Northern Dancer x CH Vanidestine’s Rail Lady, 1991)
But Betsy and I don’t breed only English setters; we’ve carefully and selectively bred pointers, too. In 1997, we bred CH Dance Smartly, our liver-and-white female and first field trial champion, to CH Brooks Elhew Ranger. We kept a male named Dasher that Mark Fouts chose for Fallset Fate, his Elhew-bred female. Out of Dasher and Fate we got Prancer who produced Vixen, our current dam.
Bill and Gail Heig own Bowen Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. They offer grouse hunts to a select group of hunters and for more than 20 years, I have spent part of each fall working as a guide. Betsy and I will never forget the honor Bill bestowed on us in 1995 by placing the Minnesota Grouse Championship trophy Dancer had just won on the center of the lodge dining table.
Bill has bought many dogs—both setters and pointers—from us for use in his own guiding string. Over the years, guiding customers of his have become our clients and friends.
Northwoods Vixen (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011)
Another pivotal litter was whelped in 2005. Dr. Paul Hauge is a dentist from Wisconsin who has long been involved in field trials and setters. Not only did Betsy and I campaign his excellent female CH Houston’s Belle but, with Paul, we planned and whelped Belle’s litters.
The sire of that 2005 litter was Gusty Blue, a grandson of our CH Blue Smoke. One of the female puppies was Houston’s Belle’s Choice. She became an exceptional producer, especially when bred to Blue Shaquill—our second “nick.” Choice’s genes, somewhere back in their pedigrees, are in every one of our setters.
Northwoods Grits (Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis, 2011) and his granddam Houston’s Belle’s Choice (Gusty Blue x CH Houston’s Belle, 2005) had a good day in the grouse woods with owner Bob Senkler.
A later breeding of Belle to CH Can’t Go Wrong produced an uncommon litter. Every male that was given a chance to compete in field trials won, including RU-CH Land Cruiser Scout and two champions, CH Ridge Creek Cody and CH Houston’s Blackjack.
Betsy and I bred to both Cody and Blackjack but all three have been used as sires by other kennels around the country including Grouse Ridge Kennels, Skydance Kennels, Waymaker Setters and Erin Kennels and Stables.
Even though we focus on setters and pointers used in the pursuit of ruffed grouse and woodcock, Betsy and I are proud that our dogs are bought by hunters throughout North America and in Hawaii and Japan, too. Dogs have been used by their owners—some of whom are professional guides—to hunt most every type of upland bird whether in the woods, mountains and desert or on the prairie.
Northwoods Prancer (Dashaway x Fallset Fate, 2008)
We are also proud to have produced 13 dogs that have won 23 American Field championships or classics with 16 runner-up placements. These titles have come at local, regional and national events, some with more than 80 dogs entered. Our dogs have won on grouse and woodcock, quail, prairie chicken, pheasant, sharptailed grouse and chukar partridge. They have won stakes in every age category and in walking and horseback trials. Importantly, our dogs have won for both the most experienced handlers and the least.
Our dogs have amassed a nice list of national and regional awards:
• Micheal Seminatore English Setter Cover Dog Award
• William Harnden Foster Award
• Elwin G Smith Setter Shooting Dog Award
• Bill Conlin Setter Shooting Dog Derby Award
• 5X Winner/3X R-U Minnesota/Wisconsin Shooting Dog of the Year
• 4X Winner/3X R-U Minnesota/Wisconsin Derby Dog of the Year
Northwoods Rum Rickey (Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz, 2012) and Northwoods G (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2013)
Our earliest litters had one clear goal—to breed dogs that could win grouse field trials. But when Betsy and I formed Northwoods Bird Dogs in 2002, we refined our focus. Without losing the athleticism, flair, poise and polish required of championship-level performances, we wanted to produce dogs that had it all—smart, natural wild bird dogs with excellent conformation, superior instincts, wonderful dispositions and that were good-looking, too.
Now, 20 years later, Betsy and I are breeding the seventh generation of setters and fifth generation of pointers. What a rewarding, gratifying journey.
Northwoods Rum Rickey, age 3, Blue Shaquille x Snyder’s Liz
Northwoods Chablis, age 6, Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice
photo by Chris Mathan, The Sportsman’s Cabinet
Within the last two weeks, our English setter and pointer puppies headed off to their new homes. Puppy buyers drove to the kennel from Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota and Oklahoma and from various parts of Minnesota. Other puppies flew to new homes in Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
It is 4:26 and Blackhawk has landed. Thank you for this opportunity.
For many of these families, this puppy will be the second they’re bought from us so it was fun for Jerry and me to see the first dog again and to spend time with these friends. Other owners are new to us and we enjoyed getting to know them.
We love her already!! She is doing great and is a good girl. Sleeping in her crate without too much hysterics!! Now if we could just pick a name. Right now I am sitting on the couch with Rose sleeping on my lap and the puppy curled up to Rose. Progress!!
While it is a traumatic day for the puppies, they very quickly adapt. Within hours of getting to their new homes, they were inside cuddling on couches and playing on soft rugs or outside in the backyard.
She arrived in perfect shape and was happy to see me. She is amazingly bright, obviously well socialized, incredibly friendly, non-stop playing and sound sleeping. Neither Carol nor I recall a puppy that seems to have the smarts of a big dog in such a small package. She is a joy! We put her in a crate at night next to the other dogs and she goes right to sleep.
Even though it means little, it’s still fun to see a puppy’s pointing instincts. Northwoods Louis Vuitton, male out of Northwoods Carly Simon by Nothwoods Grits, points a rag on a string at 8.5 weeks of age.
It’s amazing how quickly eight weeks can fly by. It seems like yesterday that Jerry and I were up in the middle of the night, keeping vigil while Northwoods Carly Simon, Northwoods Vixen and Northwoods Chablis whelped their litters.
The Northwoods Grits x Northwoods Carly Simon litter of eight puppies at 7.5 weeks of age.
At first, caring for puppies is a breeze because the dam does all the work. She feeds them, ensures elimination and keeps her puppies and her nest clean. All we do is make sure the dam is healthy and that all puppies nurse and gain weight. It becomes messier and more work when we start weaning the puppies off the dams beginning at about four weeks.
The CH Rock Acre Blackhawk x Northwoods Vixen litter of nine puppies at 6.5 weeks of age.
This year, the trip from our winter home in Georgia back to Minnesota further complicated things but when the puppies were 5 – 6 weeks old and mostly weaned, it was safe for them to travel.
Now is the bittersweet time when puppies must go to their new homes. Many buyers come to the kennel to pick up their puppy. Some puppies arrive at their new homes by airplane when buyers live too far away.
The Northwoods Blue Ox x Northwoods Chablis litter of seven puppies at 6 weeks of age.
Even though we’re always sad when puppies leave our kennel, we know they are embarking on their new lives. Equally gratifying, though, is seeing broad smiles on the faces and hearing joy in the voices of their new owners.