- Posted by Jared Nelson
Anyone who owns a hunting dog knows that they are bred for this. Genetics and temperament vary drastically from breed to breed. I, personally, am biased towards the German shorthaired pointer. I’ll save the major details as to why for another post but basically they are a loyal workhorse and I have become incredibly sensitive to their external signals in communicating with me.
The choice to hunt GSPs has led to some major lifestyle choices for my family. Arizona quail hunting season is only 4.5 months with only 2 of that being high intensity Mearns season. Considering that these guys are considered very active and are one of the top dog recommendations for marathon runners, we have found some ways to adapt.
I do things quite differently than many guys with large strings of bird dogs. Yes, we do keep a bird dog kennel. But we bring all the dogs in the house every single evening for quality time. My family includes a bunch of bird dogs and they know it. Releasing massive amounts of energy on a daily basis provides the sanity needed to keep this dynamic working. So we run.
Forest service and BLM land surrounds home base which supplies the ideal location to wear these guys down. The dog’s physical and mental fitness gets tested 4-5 times per week in the off season. My ideal spot to run the dogs lies on the top of a volcanic ash field. I have heard stories from the local field trial guys about how they avoided just such locations because the terrain tore up their pup’s feet. I find that to be a bonus for my GSPs. Training their pads while running on ash particles leads to very few pad related injuries. It’s a lifestyle and they adapt well so that when they get out in either the hot desert or cacti country, their feet suffer very minimally.
So it goes like this: my wife or I drive to the ideal running location, dump the dogs and start the follow along process. Following in a car is the only feasible way to keep up – let’s face it, running is not my strong suit. The dogs go far faster than the FS speed limit so sometimes it’s hard to keep the pace. Thank you Garmin GPS. Sometimes they hunt their way and sometimes they just run. Not many game birds make their home in our mountainous section of Arizona so hunting is limited in this exercise.
In total, the dogs run about 1.5 miles. They tell me when to stop. In the spring and fall they can run much farther. When summer hits, they go maybe half the distance. My wife and I love this part of our day because we get to interact with the dogs and watch those graceful lines push the limits. Our FJ Cruiser enables us to transport these bird dogs with a modicum of sanity. When dogs finish, we water them and load back up towards home.
It’s a beautiful thing to get home and see a tired GSP lying on his dog bed. It means peace for dog and owner.