This Dog Won’t Hunt!
Or Retrieve or Show!
Imagine for a moment, you receive the following message from one of your puppy families. “This dog won’t hunt, he won’t retrieve, he won’t show, and he embarrasses us. We don’t need him as a pet, should we just put him in rescue?”
What would you do?
I said “No way! That's my dog and I will come and pick him up.”
How Did We Get To This Point?
The puppy was one of two show candidate males from my first Spinone litter. He was beautiful and had a wonderful outgoing personality. His lovely and talented new family consisted of a husband, wife and two beautiful teen-age daughters. They were not new to dogs. They had another breed and had been showing them for several years.
Being true to their word, they entered this boy in several shows, but he was a handful and drooled profusely the entire time. He wouldn’t gate and as much as the judges wanted to ‘put him up’ based on his performance they couldn’t do it.
The family also took him to a couple of AKC hunt test, but he didn’t know what was expected of him and performed poorly.
The final straw came when they took him for his NAVHDA Natural Ability test. He had no idea what was expected of him and simply ran around trying to make friends with other people and dogs. The family was so embarrassed they left before the test was complete. At this point he is turning 16 months old. That is when the decision was made to write to me. To their credit, they recognized they were not able to solve these problems and surrendering the dog was the best thing for him and them.
I met the family in early November of 2002 and through their tears they returned the dog and all his papers to me.
I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was bringing an intact male with raging hormones into my home with intact females. That was never part of my plan. I wasn’t sure how I was going to control the situation but I had to try.
The first night was chaotic. He barked and cried and carried on with a persistence that still makes me shake my head. But each day he improved and it didn’t take long for me to realize I wouldn’t be able to let him go again. I was so thankful to have him back and he was happy to be home. He loved being able to run in the yard. It was a freedom he was not used to. You see, his previous family kept him confined to the house, crate, porch or leash and he didn’t have an outlet for all his juvenile energy. They weren’t mean; they didn’t have a fenced yard and just couldn’t bring themselves to let him run free.
Now I wanted to see what I could do with him. Could I bring him around? Could I get him to show? Could I get him to hunt? I knew he had the natural ability to hunt because I had taken him and the family pheasant hunting when he was about 9 months old and he had done well searching and pointing.
The first thing was attending two conformation classes. With the help of the instructor I started to get a handle on him. I really think the biggest help was his being able to release a lot of his energy in the yard at home. So, one month after bringing him home, I decided to get our feet wet at a show. The boy did well! He took Best of Breed both days. About six weeks later we entered a couple more shows and he did well again. He took Best of Breed on Saturday and Best of Opposite on Sunday and got both of his majors. I must admit I was very proud of him. He could still be a handful but he didn’t drool all the time and he was happy.
In February of 2003 we started attending NAVHDA training days and working in the field. With minimal guidance, his natural ability started to show through. He just needed to know what was expected of him.
By now his behavior had improved dramatically in the house. His true Spinone nature is obvious. That would include his natural sense of humor. He loves the girls and I have worked out the logistics of keeping him away from the girls when they are in heat. It is a little work but he is worth it.
In April 2003 I traveled to Virginia, with all the dogs, for the SCOA specialty.
By now the boy was 20 months old and was entered in the Open class for the Wednesday AKC show. The day was beautiful and my boy showed his best side in the ring. The judge appreciated him and put him first in the Open class. I was so tickled. Then we went back in for Winners Dog and she put him up again. I almost fainted! I was so proud of him. He had grown from a drooling mess to a finished AKC Champion in five shows. It was pure frosting, but he was awarded Best of Winners too. I almost had to use the cargo door on the van to have a door big enough to get my head through!
The real gravy came in the field. The dog that wouldn’t hunt qualified in two AKC hunt tests and now has two legs on his Junior Hunter. Now we just need to find a test where we can finish the other two legs.
The Rest of the Story
My beautiful boy will spend the rest of his life with me. I love him and even though he is sometimes still a handful, he is mostly good as gold. It is his sense of humor that allows him to author advice for wayward Spinone . . . just Ask Orvis! You will see what I mean!
PS: As breeders we are responsible for the dogs we breed from the day they are born until the day they die! We must not shirk this responsibility! Please follow up on your puppies and take them back or find them a new home if the need arises.