"WE ARE TRAINING TREE DOGS AND NOT TRAINING DOGS TO TREE!"
ULTIMATE EXPRESSER OF THE BREED
I received a lot of calls and letters of appreciation and thanks for the article I wrote on training tips in the May(94) issue of good old Full Cry. I did not realize that so many people were in search of training information.
When I started fooling with tree dogs, I read every article in Full Cry trying to pick up a training tip here and there. I tried to talk to and listen to everybody I could that owned or knew anything about training a tree dog. Believe me I have heard everything to getting down on your hands and knees and barking like a dog to try and teach a pup to tree.
I went through several dogs trying every training tip I heard to only wind up with nothing. Then one day I was visiting with a fine old gentleman who had fooled with tree dogs for many years. He said something that hit me like a “ton of bricks”. He said “Son, I don’t know about all those fancy training methods but maybe you ain’t tried the right dog yet”.
Right then and there I realized that the reason I wound up with nothing was because I started out with nothing. You have all heard the old sayings “You can’t get something for nothing; you can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear and you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken dung”.
All the dogs I had tried were just “give-me” dogs because I always heard that any old dog would make a squirrel dog. I know some do, in fact, one of the best squirrel dogs I have owned to date was a mixed up dog. But friends, times have changed. Most of us now live in cities with small, fenced-in back yards. Our dogs are not able to run loose and learn to hunt on their own. We have to keep our dogs on a chain or in a small kennel. The only time they see the woods are when we load them up and take them there. They are fat and slick and don’t have to hunt and catch their next meal. Most dogs today eat better than some humans. In fact, some of these dog food commercials on TV kind of make me hungry(Ha!)
The point that I am trying to make is “start with a well bred tree dog pup”. All the training tips in the world are not going to help you if you don’t have a tree dog. TREE DOGS ARE BORN NOT MADE! We are only there to guide them and help them to develop. Remember the athletes I spoke of in the (February) article. They spend many years training and practicing too hopefully, one day; become a professional in their chosen sport. Likewise we must also spend a lot of quality time with our tree dogs to help them develop to their full potential and, hopefully, develop into the Ultimate Tree Dog.
So when I talk about training methods, I am also talking about “TRAINING TREE DOGS AND NOT TRAINING DOGS TO TREE”. Stop!.... Read the last sentence again. Did a light go on in your head! Hopefully, it did!
This statement may be a shock to some of you. You probably thought that training meant trying to train a pup to tree. But if you have a well bred tree dog pup, he should tree naturally. The training methods I mentioned are only used to bring out the pup’s natural ability in a systematic manner at an early age. Personally I would not spend any time with a pup trying to teach it to tree. If you want to do that, then the local pound can supply you with all the squirrel and coon dog prospects you will ever need.
You might say that I bought my pup from Big Name Joe and the pup is out of his Gr Nt Ch ….Super Stud so I know my pup has to be a tree dog. I say “bull”! Just because a dog wins a hunt or two does not make him an instant super stud dog and it does not mean you “pride and joy” will be a tree dog. It drives me crazy when a dog wins a big hunt and the next week he is advertised as some kind of super stud dog with astronomical stud fees. I have seen ads that should be in the funny paper section: “You can breed old Super Stud to a billy goat and I guarantee the pups will tree”.
One more thing while I am on my “high horse”. It simply amazes me how someone can pick up the telephone and make a long distance call clear across the country and by a pup “sight unseen” from a complete stranger for a high price, not including the cost of shipping, when he can buy the same type from his neighbor down the street for half the price. For some strange reason a lot of folks believe the further away the pup, the better he is.
I am not trying to make anyone mad or start something. I just want people to be aware, especially the new comers, that there is a lot of “garbage” out there and you have to spend some time and effort when selecting a tree dog pup. Even then there is a good chance you won’t get a good pup.
But when you do get the right pup with all the natural ability a tree dog should have, then training is easy. There are probably as many training methods out there as there are dog’s owners, and you know what? They will all work to some degree with a natural tree dog. However, no amount of training will work with a sorry pup.
Therefore, the best training tip I could share with you is to be sure you start with a pup with natural ability. Do not fall in love with your pup. If he does not have what it takes, cull(eliminate) him and get another pup. If the next pup does not work out, cull him and repeat the process. Believe me, unless you are very lucky, you will have to do this several times.
No, I don’t want to hear that you just cannot part with old loveable pup; the whole family loves him, it would break the kid’s heart and my wife would divorce me. If you are serious about owning a tree dog, then you must be willing to do what it takes to own one. If you are a hard hunter, you will not tolerate a sorry dog very long no matter how loveable he is.
Moreover, I do not believe in the “maybe” dog. You have all heard of this dog; “maybe” you own one. The classified section of most any hunting dog magazines (except Full Cry) are full of them. Statements like: Maybe he just needs more hunting; maybe one more season; maybe he need more game shot out to him; I have too many good young dogs to hunt; so on and so on! Friends, a tree dog is a tree dog. He either has it or he does not. There is no in-between. If I cannot tell if a dog is a tree dog or not, I know I don’t want him!
Folks, I said all this to try and clear the air about how I feel on training a tree dog. Most of the people that called or wrote letters were mostly concerned with specific training methods and even though they are important, I feel that the type of pup you start with is most important.
I don’t feel like I am any kind of dog trainer but I am very serious about our tree dog fraternity. We should try and help each other as much as possible.
Some of my friends accuse me of being too serious with my dogs. I simply enjoy watching a good tree dog do his thing. I want every tree dog pup I own to be the best he can be. That is my responsibility. It is too hard to get the right pup and when I do, I am surely not going to waste his God-given talent. He might just turn out to be the “Ultimate Expresser of the breed”.
Thanks for reading,