With the NCAA championship basketball game streaming from my laptop in the background, Northwoods Bismuth whelped her litter of eight puppies by Northwoods Grits on Monday, April 3. In less time than the game took, Bismuth easily delivered four males and four females. All are tri-color.
The litter is now almost three weeks old. They have grown from tiny creatures to vigorous, plump, easily distinguishable puppies. They crawl out of the nest to relieve themselves but still spend most of their time either nursing or sleeping in an ever-changing pile.
Bismuth was whelped in 2014—the year Jerry and I chose the elements as our puppy naming theme. It was a very good year! Among others whelped that we still own are Carbon, Nickel and Platinum while two other outstanding dogs, Mercury and Gold, were sold.
On a spectacular, late afternoon workout, Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) found and pointed six grouse and one woodcock. As Bob Wehle might have said, “This is my brag dog!”
Wild bird contacts are essential when developing our puppies. I’m exposing them as much as possible to wild birds so their hunting instincts, natural abilities, style and poise can be fostered. All are key considerations when selecting future breeding dogs.
Showing impressive style and poise for a 13-week-old puppy, Northwoods Hercules (RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus x Northwoods Carly Simon, 2016) points a single bobwhite in native wiregrass.
As soon as the Georgia quail season ends in late February, dog trainers on most plantations focus on working their puppies. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know several of them and so I spend most mornings in March bracing our young dogs with theirs.
During a morning training run on a beautifully maintained private quail plantation, setter Northwoods Mica (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Nortwoods Carbon, 2016) and pointer Northwoods Blitzen (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) share point.
When back in Minnesota, I can’t wait to get our puppies in the woods on grouse and woodcock. Amazingly, the transition is usually easy for them.
In a scene reminiscent of a Bev Doolittle painting, Northwoods Gabbro (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) sticks a woodcock.
By the time nesting begins and training season ends, I have a good idea of the abilities of each pup. And yeah, it’s a lot of fun, too!
Northwoods Slate (CH Shadow Oak Bo x Northwoods Carbon, 2016) stopped in mid-stride, ear flipped back, when he caught scent of a quail.
In a picturesque setting of broom sedge, Northwoods Chalcedony (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016) points a covey of bobwhite quail.
During the evening of January 9 and lasting into the early morning of the 10th, Northwoods Chablis whelped five puppies—four males and one female. This litter, by Blue Riptide, is her last.
On both top and bottom, this litter represents the origins and core of our setter breeding program. On the top, Riptide is out of Blue Chief, one of our most prepotent sires, while his dam Blue Blossom through CH Blue Streak goes back to our first setter litter in 1995.
Chablis is out of one of our favorite nicks, Blue Shaquille x Houston’s Belle’s Choice. She carries the best of CH Houston’s Belle, CH First Rate, CH Blue Streak and CH Blue Smoke, which again, goes back to our first litter.
Chablis’ puppies are now five weeks old. On a warm, sunny winter day in Georgia, Jerry and I carried them onto the grass and brought along play toys and a bowl of water.
The puppies romped and scampered until they could no more and then curled up for naps.
Five of the eight puppies out of Northwoods Carly Simon by RU-CH Erin’s Promethus are now with their new families. Three males flew to Minnesota, another male flew to Virginia and one female puppy landed in Wisconsin.
That leaves three with Jerry and me. We kept two puppies for ourselves and the male chosen by the owner of Prometheus, John Mathys, will live with us until spring.
The reports so far are very good. Not much is more fun or more heartwarming than pupppies but they do require attention, care and diligence, especially at the beginning.
Ben and Maureen sent photos, too.
Just so you know, we really love this puppy!!! He is a bit of work but tons of fun. We have ice fished 5 days and he seems to like it as much as I do.
~ Maureen & Ben, Minnesota
This little man has taken Richmond by storm. Eeryone loves him, especially us. As you’re well aware, he’s a feisty one. We love that (although not sure my 9-year-old Lab would agree). Thanks so much.
~ Beth & Vance, Virginia
We just wanted to send you a note that we are so in love with our puppy already. He is such a good boy and is so fun to be around! He is learning very quickly and we are so impressed. Our other older dog is thrilled to have a playmate and they have been enjoying each other’s company.
~ Annie & Dan, Minnesota
He is doing great!! Very few accidents in the house!! We go for walks, just short ones. Everybody absolutely loves him where ever we take him!!
~ Teresa & Kevin, Minnesota
Happiness is a warm puppy
~ Charles M. Schulz
Simply and clearly, Schulz conveyed his sentiment and, as usual, it was faultless.
And now, at six weeks of age, the eight puppies out of Northwoods Carly Simon by RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus are extremely huggable.
There’s nothing better than a bird dog puppy at Christmas.
The litter out of Northwoods Carly Simon by Erin’s Prometheus is now four weeks old. Suddenly, they seem so grown up.
And with good reason. Jerry and I think some of the biggest changes occur between two and four weeks. At first, puppies are totally dependent on their dam for everything—food, elimination, protection and grooming. Their only senses are smell and touch. They spend their entire time nestled together, nursing or sleeping.
From those tiny, practically interchangeable creatures, individual puppies emerge. They gain two more senses—sight and hearing—and teeth appear. We begin feeding them dog food softened with warm water. Paws first, they dive in and gobble it up until muzzles and front legs are covered.
Puppies have no fear at this age. Socialization increases with both Carly and their littermates but this is also when Jerry and I spend time with them so they become accustomed to people.
A major change is their mobility. Little legs are gaining enough strength to support their rear ends and they waste no time testing them out. They leave their heated nest and stagger around the dog house to eliminate and investigate. We then removed the barrier between their house and kennel run and they quickly scrambled out the door.
We also think much of the success of a litter depends on the nature of the dam. Carly is amazingly patient and gentle. I’ll never forget one quiet afternoon when Carly was stretched out on her side. A big male puppy crawled over the pile of his littermates towards Carly’s head. When he got as far as he wanted, he crawled up and fell asleep sprawled across her neck. Carly didn’t budge.
Although there is some biological basis to the timing of when a dam whelps, Jerry and I haven’t figured it out. In fact, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for us and our dams. We take their temperatures; we watch their appetites; we listen for scratching and other signs of nest preparation. And in our 21 years of breeding and subsequent crowding around whelping nests, dams have whelped at all hours of the day and night…sometimes even stretching across 24 hours.
So we were grateful to Northwoods Carly Simon on the morning of Saturday, November 26. She began at about 7:00 and in a couple spurts and then a final female, she was done and resting by 12:30 p.m.
Carly whelped eight puppies. Two are tri-color females and six are males. Of the males, two are tri-color and four are black-and-white. Although this is Carly’s fourth litter, it’s her first by RU-CH Erin’s Prometheus.
One might think after countless litters and many bleary-eyed vigils that Jerry and I are now blasé about whelping puppies. Not at all. We still consider the whole thing miraculous. We’re still amazed at the sight of a tiny sac, resembling a bubble when it first appears, and we’re still in awe when the dam’s instincts kick in and we watch her careful, thorough ministrations to her newborn.
Nick Larson could hardly wait to get his three-month-old setter puppy, Hartley (Northwoods Grits x Houston’s Belle’s Choice, 2014), into the woods.
Developing a puppy into an experienced grouse dog begins with the all-important first season. The dog is at an impressionable age and lessons learned will set the foundation for future success.
To begin, this fall is all about fun. There should be no pressure on dog or hunter. Instead, it’s a time for exposure and gaining experience. Too, let this season be for the puppy. You’ll have many years and shots at plenty of birds over the course of your dog’s life.
Here are some tips to get most out of this autumn.
Hunt as much as possible. The goal for this first year is simply to let your puppy hunt for and find grouse—and as many as possible. Don’t worry if it doesn’t point many; that will come with repeated exposure, maturity and training.
Most of what a dog needs to know about is learned from the birds themselves. Your puppy will learn where grouse live and what they smell like. It will learn how close it can get before the bird flushes, that it can’t catch the bird and how to follow running birds.
The only caveat? Shoot birds that are pointed but let the rest fly away.
At five months of age, Izzie (CH Westfall’s Black Ice x Northwoods Prancer, 2011) was finding and pointing plenty of birds for owner Jeff Hintz. Photo by Chris Mathan.
Allow your puppy to learn by experience. Let your puppy figure things out at its own rate, by itself and to learn by consequences. As long as a situation isn’t dangerous to the puppy, leave it alone. This is the best way for it to develop good thinking skills. By over-protecting and over-controlling, we’re basically training the puppy not to use its brain.
In other words, keep your mouth shut in the woods. Over-handling—too much calling and whistling or constant encouragement—can distract and confuse the dog.
Be patient. Developing an experienced grouse dog will take several seasons and your puppy has a lot to learn. Expect it to make mistakes — flush birds, chase rabbits and other indiscretions—this first year. Also, consider its mental limitations and relatively short attention span and remember that, at this age, your young dog has far more energy than knowledge.
Be realistic about your young dog’s physical limitations. Don’t overwork it. Several shorter hunts are better than one long outing.
Be careful when hunting over another dog and your puppy. While there can be advantages to bracing your puppy with an older, experienced dog, don’t overdo it. Your puppy needs time alone, too. Don’t let it get intimated by a larger or dominant dog.
Some parts of this post are taken from a piece Betsy and I wrote for the September 15, 2013, issue of Minneapolis-based StarTribune. http://www.startribune.com/a-hunting-dog-s-first-grouse-season-is-vital/223773411/
Callie, on left, and Blitzen share point on a bobwhite that landed in the willows.
Starting puppies on birds is right at the top of our list as a fun part of our work. And it’s something Betsy and I believe in beginning when they are quite young. Puppies at three to four months of age are much easier to start than eight-month-old pups.
When we work puppies on birds, we head out into the pasture to one of our four recall houses. The pups watch as I flush a good number of quail from the house and, then excitedly, they are off. They chase the quail wherever they fly—into the woods, alders or willows.
These bobwhite quail act much as wild birds do and hit the ground running. Puppies learn to use their nose to follow the scent until they come upon the bird. When they find it they might point briefly or just jump in and flush it. Either way they then chase the bird with our high praise echoing in their ears.
Murphy displays remarkable poise, intensity and style on one of his first puppy points.
Betsy and I never flush the birds. Instead we let the puppies point until they move in. From this, puppies learn when they have the bird, and importantly, when they don’t.
A key part of this whole exercise is that we don’t interfere or make any effort to restrain the pups. We do loudly praise the puppies when they flush a bird and will call or sing to direct them a bit. We think it’s crucial, at this time anyway, for puppies to learn—to find the bird, point it and then flush it—all on their own.
All puppies pictured above and below are 12 – 14 weeks old and all are pointers out of Northwoods Vixen by Elhew G Force.
Pearl pointed her first wild birds today. One grouse and two woodcock. I was walking along and looked down at my gps to see where my older dog was and when I looked up, Pearl was on point about 30 feet in front of me with a 12- o’clock tail and a high head. I walked in and flushed a woodcock about 10 feet in front of her. She then proceeded to point a grouse and another woodcock before I decided it was enough for one day and carried her out.
~ Caleb, Minnesota, August 14
Our puppy is doing very well and healthy. We named him Bandit. He is very birdy and outgoing. I’ve started his puppy program and he is already learning the fetch command. He loves getting around the quail pen and tries to break in every chance he gets. LOL
~ Tim, Florida, August 17
Coop is coming along great. He’s had some clipped wing pigeons and I’ve started him with the cap gun—no problems there at all. His prey drive is off the chart. I have him standing still on the bench. Also been working on recall with check cord.
~ Tim, Massachusetts, August 16
Just wanted to say thank you again and let you know our puppy is doing great already. Attached is a photo of our little guy Jack with the puppy. She has been adjusting wonderfully, although we know this is just the beginning 🙂
~ Karrli and Caleb
In some ways, this litter out of Northwoods Vixen by Elhew G Force was unprecedented.
Just the night before, Vixen had slept in the house with no sign of being close to whelping. When she did begin whelping at about noon on May 21, she didn’t stop until 12 hours later when she had safely delivered 11 puppies, our largest litter ever. Most impressively, all puppies were healthy and vigorous and all survived.
The eight weeks the litter is with us fly by and soon it is time for them to go to their new homes.
Tim Moore, owner of G Force, chose a white-and-black male. Next Jerry and I decided on a liver male and an orange female. Then puppy buyers from as close as the Twin Cities and from as far away as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oklahoma made their picks in order until all 11 were with their owners.
The puppy is great. We had absolutely no problems at the hotels or on the very long ride home. We decided on the name Coop. Thank you so much.
~ Tim, Massachusetts
She is doing great. No mistakes in the house. Coming to my mouth whistle. Went fishing with us tonight. Only problem is deciding on a name!!!
~ Brian, Pennsylvania
Huxley is doing great! He is so smart and loves to retrieve his soft new pheasant toy. I’m very impressed. He’s been a pretty good sleeper for the most part as well. A couple accidents, but we are trying to make sure he goes out often. Heidi keeps saying he couldn’t be more perfect. I agree.
~ Brandon, Minnesota
We just picked him up. He’s doing great and my two kids are spoiling him with hugs and a little bit of hot dog.
~ Tim, Florida
One evening, Jerry and I couldn’t resist tossing a dead pigeon around for our two puppies. What fun to see them grab the bird and proudly carry it around the yard.