“Ultimate Expresser of the Breed”(FULL CRY-MAY 1994)(EXCERPTS)
The very best bred tree dog pup in the country will be worthless unless he is properly socialized, exposed to the timber and desired game and raised in a healthy environment. A good bred pup with natural ability and desire, in the right hands, can develop into the ultimate tree dog. However, a sorry bred pup, no matter how much training, will always be worthless.
There are only two types of athletes for example. There are Great Athletes and Good Athletes. There are no sorry athletes because if he is sorry, then his is not an athlete. He is simply someone out for the team that will be cut or culled. There are two types of good athletes. One is the individual with outstanding natural ability but he lacks the desire to work and train hard. The second type of good athlete is the person with average ability but has a burning desire to train hard and be the best he can be. The great athlete possesses all the God-given natural physical ability along with the mental aptitude to train hard. He is willing to dedicate his life to his sport. This great athlete is in the dog world, your “Ultimate Expresser of the Breed”.
So “where in the world” do I get my hands on one of these great pups that will be the future ultimate tree dog? Well, I have a litter of ten here at the house right now and I will let them go for only a thousand buck each! Ha! Ha! Seriously, whatever breed you like, you need to get a pup from a good family of tree dogs to increase your odds. I know a lot of mixed breeds make good squirrel dogs and such, but why start out with the odds stacked against you.
I am no breeder and know very little about genetics but I would put my money on a pup from a linebred family of many generations of tree dogs. I remember what a prominent bird dog breeder once said, “The chances of getting a great bird dog from an outcross breeding is about the same chance you would have in catching a lightning bolt in a coke bottle”. Most breeders tend to agree.
Well you have done your homework and selected your future World Champion. What Now?
Everyone has his own ideas about raising and training a pup. I can only tell you what has worked for me. I start my pups on squirrels and I like to start them without the help of and older dog. When pups are big enough to get around (three to four months old), I start walking them in the woods behind my house every morning or evening or sometimes both. I call this “happy time” for pups. I do not expect anything from them at this time. I walk at a slow pace and allow the pups to explore and generally get woods broke. They also learn to look for me ad course me through the woods. This is all I want them to do at first.
After a couple of weeks, the pups should be bold and interested in anything that moves and possible start showing interest in squirrel tracks and start checking trees. When this happens, I set out two live traps baited with corn. The first squirrel I catch, the pups will either bark at it in the cage or completely ignore it. If you have two pups and one barks, the other will usually bark with him. No matter if the pups bark or not, I release the squirrel right where I caught it. The pups will usually run him to the tree but probably not bark the first time or two. He will, or should, get real excited and run back to the trap, check all around and usually stop and look at you as if to say, “Hey! Where did that thing go?” I do not encourage the pup to tree if he shows no interest in the tree and cannot figure out what happened to the squirrel.
This is where I start to evaluate the pup’s natural ability to look up. Some pups will look up, check the tree and tree bark the first time; others never look up or show interest in the tree. If he shows no interest in the tree after five or six times of this, I start to get concerned. No, I am not saying to get rid of a five or six month old pup because he is not treeing. Pups mature at different ages but I believe if a pup is bred right, he should indicate his natural ability to tree between five and eight months of age. At least the ones I have ever kept did.
Back to training. After about two weeks of daily walks and releasing four or five squirrels, those pups will break their necks trying to get out of the yard and race to the trap to see what they caught. At this point, the pups will bark like crazy at the squirrel. I then hold the pups and release the squirrel. Most pups should now chase the squirrel up the tree and tree bark some. Now I will shake vines and get the squirrel to timber so the pup can see it and really get fired up.
Once the pups see me headed for the second trap, they will break into a dead run to the next trap. It’s amazing how fast they learn where the traps are located. When the pups learn this little game and will bark treed, I remove the traps and place corn around the base of a tree close to where the trap was located. When I release the pups, they leave on a dead run to check the trap. There is no trap, but there is a squirrel eating the corn. Before the pup knows what happened, he will run the squirrel up the tree and bark treed. The instant the pup trees, I shoot the squirrel out to him. The pup has just treed his first squirrel! Wasn’t that easy! And he is only six months old!
This situation does not happen every time you go to the woods so you have to go a lot just to get the right set up one time. If the pup does not bark treed, I do not shoot the squirrel. I will tie the pup and shake vines to get the squirrel to move and encourage the pup to bark.
Friends, if you will tie your pup every time he trees, you will have less problems with him leaving the tree. Young pups have s short attention span and if you have to spend any time at the tree the pup might lose interest and leave to find another one or just “piddle around”.
Next, I put corn at the base of four or five trees spaced through out the woods. Soon the pups learn where the feeders are located and will hustle to each one in search of Mr. Bushy tail. After pups are treeing good on feeders, I stop putting corn out and hunt pups in different directions. A good pup should be hunting and treeing hot squirrels at this stage of training.
Now it is time to take pup to some strange woods. Don’t get discouraged when you turn pup loose and he acts scared and will not hunt. Just reassure him and make a round through the woods. After he trees his first squirrel, he will begin to gain confidence and go hunting. Keep the pup in the woods and you are well on your way to having a squirrel dog. This is where the breeding will surface to determine just how good Mr. World Beater will be.
A word of warning! If you hunt your young prospect with an older dog too much, you can create a me-too dog. He will look great with another dog but by himself-worthless. Also, a pup trained alone will be more independent and have less tendencies to pull to another dog.
I do not like to whip a pup for running trash until after he starts treeing. If you noticed, I start pups in a controlled situation where they are in contact with tree game from the start. If you just take off through the wood “ a whooping and a hollering” a gamy pup will run whatever he comes across. When a pup starts trashing before he starts treeing, you have got a problem.
There are a lot of other training tips but this should get you started. If you want the Ultimate Tree Dog and the ultimate satisfaction of training him yourself, then you must dedicate and humble yourself to the task at hand. There are a lot of fine, knowledgeable folks in our tree dog fraternity that will be more than willing to help you.
I know I need all the help I can get and I am not to proud to ask because I want to own “The Ultimate Expresser of the Breed”.
Thanks for reading!