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Retrievers will retrieve; it's their job

To be a proper hunter and outdoorsman, it is required to have a dog. Any dog that looks as though he has some outdoors function will do, but it is even better if the dog can actually hunt or retrieve.

In my younger years, I had a fine looking German shorthair pointer. He not only looked the part, he loved to hunt and retrieve birds. On any bird hunt, he could be counted on to bring back every bird shot by anyone in the party. This is a good thing except for the fact he brought everyone's birds back to me. If we had a successful run on pheasants through a cornfield with mile long rows, I could be carrying an extra 30-40 pounds by the time we got to the end.

He also had the annoying habit of retrieving chickens if it had been several weeks since he had had the opportunity to fetch a pheasant. Summer, being the off season for pheasant hunting, was hard on the dog as well as the chickens. My father, who owned the chickens, was not at all amused. A chicken can only be retrieved so many times before they become stressed beyond the point of recovery.

A good friend of mine had the same problem with the same breed of dog just a few years ago. A dog has a hard time discerning the difference between a pheasant and a chicken. My friend did not have any chickens, but his neighbor did. The dog had to go a half a mile away to retrieve his bird, but just as trained, he brought them back. Needless to say, the neighbor saw no more humor in this than did my father a few years before.

I currently have a Lab and a standard poodle. Everybody needs a Lab as they will retrieve everything hunted or just laying around the yard. Sticks, balls and dead animals off the road are all retrieved and placed neatly on the patio. If a person does not want everything in the neighborhood retrieved to the patio they should not buy a dog called a Labrador retriever. No matter what you do, they will retrieve. It is great when you are hunting, but not always so great when someone hits a skunk on the highway.

I knew what I was getting into with the Lab. I was totally blindsided by the poodle. I thought standard poodles were prissy dogs that lay on the couch looking pretty. They have an air about them; someone should bring them food on a silver platter. Nothing could be further from the truth. They prefer to hunt, kill and eat their food raw, looking good while they do it.

They are also extremely smart hunters. Our poodle will help the Lab get on the trail of a rabbit or a squirrel and circle ahead of it, leaving him to chase the animal toward her. When she catches it, the Lab gets the tail and feet when she is done eating. I know this happens more than I would like to think because the poodle comes to the house full and satisfied while the Lab retrieves a squirrel or rabbit tail to be placed on the patio while looking gaunt and hungry.

All outdoorsmen need a good dog to share the hunt or to have a good excuse to get outside for a while. We must also remember; the dogs we have are bred to do a job. We can not be surprised or angry at the animal that has been bred for centuries to hunt or retrieve when they do it, even when not told to do so.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.