How many times have we been thinking about hunting, took one look at our hunting dog, and realized that she was thinking the same thing? It may seem coincidental until you stop to realize that our canine hunting partners really are almost human in their reactions to everyday life. As hunters and outdoorsmen, we may be a little less than objective in the way that we look at our hunting dogs since they are such an integral part of our lives. However, the honest truth is that every dog lover probably knows what I'm talking about here. That unmistakable feeling your dog is smarter and more human that he or she seems to be.
Now, maybe you can argue the rigorous and specific training regimens that we all follow when it comes to our canine hunting partners help us bond in a more human-like fashion with them than the traditional dog owner. So, is it simply a matter of us teaching our dogs act so human, or is it something different? Since we all like to feel that our own dog is the best hunter out there, let's look at some of the obvious and not so obvious things that our dogs do that make us feel like they are a part of the human family.
They Know (Exactly) What We're Thinking
Ever feel like your dog can read minds? If you're like me, you take your hunting dog with you pretty much wherever you go: short trips to the store, the dump, and your buddy's house. One of the most fun things you can do with your dog, shed antler hunting, is also one of the few things we can do outside of the actual hunting season to keep them happy, healthy, and active. With that said, at any time during the hunting season, the very second you decide to step outside for some sort of outdoor recreational activity, your hunting dog has already sensed it, gotten up, and just about knocked you over trying to beat you to the door. It can happen any time of the year, but there always seems to be a little more gusto those actions when it's time to do some wing shooting or shed hunting doesn't it? How do they know what we're thinking before we even say it? The world may never know.
As much as we feel like they know what we are thinking, just glancing at them for a quick second can elicit a response in your hunting dog just like that look you give your husband or wife when they walk out of the fitting room dressed to the nines in a brand-new outfit. Honestly, one of the best training lessons I was ever given was to get my dog constantly looking at me or for me to give them direction and guidance. That may be because trained dogs learn to focus more on the person's face, and not where the person is looking, but once they established that looking at us leads to action, they never forget. As humans we know our faces convey a complex set of emotions and meanings to other people when we interact with them, even non-verbally. However, after years of training and hunting with them, I get the feeling a well-trained hunting dog can learn to pick up on and act on these subtle cues too.
When They Know Better Than You
Sometimes it seems like our hunting dogs are much smarter and more cunning than we give them credit for. We humans like to think we're smarter than the dogs, but sometimes that nose of theirs knows best. As an example, I've tried to call my pointer off a point more times than I would like to admit due to the feeling that the bird has run and was no longer near. But sometimes my dog gets stubborn and sticks like glue to the point. Then after trying again (a little more thoroughly) to get a flush, it happens, and she gets a (dare I say, smug?) look on her face during the retrieve. "I told you so!" I've also had this happen on retrieves that seemed like a lost cause, only to have her bust brush until she came up with the bird, particularly ducks deep in the cattails. I learned very early on I should probably just shut up and let her hunt!
They Act Like a Kid
We're not just talking when they are puppies either. All the best hunting dogs seem to be extremely playful and rambunctious, sometimes to a fault. They always seem to know what we're up to, especially when we are eating, and it doesn't end there. When we leave them unsupervised, they sometimes get into things, usually making a mess, they crave constant attention, and they're always looking for our approval in some way There's no doubt that they want to get out there and hunt, but the truth is that whenever mommy or daddy are nearby there is no other creature on Earth that gives us so much love and loyalty. In many ways, they remind us of a small human child desperately trying to get his or her parent's attention. "Mom, dad, check this out!"
We Have Complete Conversations With Them
I'm not sure if this makes them more human, or us less, but we all talk to our dogs like they are our next of kin. When it comes to hunting hounds, even more so since they are a big part of our success. But what is it that we are saying to them and is it working? It's said that dogs can understand some 250 words and gestures, and when they hear commands like "fetch" and bring it right to your hand you will feel that a dog can be completely human. Even when we're sure they don't understand what we're saying, it's not uncommon for us to lay out our hopes, dreams, and even fears to our four-legged hunting buddies. They usually sit there and listen to it all, even if they cannot possibly comprehend it. Hunting dogs are the ultimate therapist. They never get tired of what we have to say, and they never judge us for anything either.
The Love of Our Lives
Short of our children, spouses, or life partners we have more love for our pets than we do for some of the human beings that we meet in this world. A finished gun dog is not only a pleasure to hunt with, but it is a privilege as well. Those of us fortunate enough to have had this experience in their lives will tell you that they are not just some living tool we use to have better success, but a full partner in the hunt. One that should at least get half of all the credit. Sure, basic obedience is a part of every dog owner's vocabulary and should never be discounted, but when they begin to make their own decisions, (and you let them) and they become successful doing it, you'll start talking to them and treating them like your best human hunting buddy.
NEXT: 6 BEST DUCK HUNTING DOGS