Don’t send your gun dog to retrieve a live, unshot bird

Never send your gun dog to retrieve a live, unshot bird.  Never.  Never, ever.  Never, never, never, never.  Let’s repeat this a 100 times and pinky-swear to keep each other honest.

So, why did I violate this most important rule last weekend?  Why did I send my Vizsla to retrieve a bird that had been shot at and missed?  Thing is, I know better!  Must have been a brain-fart.  As I tapped my Vizslas’ head to send her for the fetch it was like I was suddenly underwater…in slow motion.  As I pulled my hand away and watched her (my very good, very “broke” gun dog) bolt out to retrieve, I was overcome by a gut-wrenching feeling.  I knew what would come next: as soon as she would attempt a retrieve, the unshot bird would flush.  This is exactly what happened.  And my very good gun dog just stood–a beautiful “stop to flush”–just as she’s been taught.

But wait…

The look of confusion slowly rolled across her face.  I could hear the wheels turning–“What should I do?  I was sent to retrieve…but I’ve been taught to stop when a bird takes flight.”  A split second later, she glanced my way, looking for direction.  Though the wheels in her head were still turning.  She’s a very smart bird dog and she loves to please.

“Good whoa”, I called gently.  “Good girl…good whoa”.  The knot in my stomach slowly came undone.  “How about that?”, I thought proudly.  “I have one helluva a good bird dog–she’s better than me!”  My very good Vizsla stood as I walked over, praised her gently, fired a blank pistol, and heeled her away to take her mind off of that particular bird.  We walked for a minute as I helped her “reset” her brain (though, it seems mine was the brain that needed resetting), then I sent her in the opposite direction to hunt another bird.  She was more than happy to oblige!

Written by Mel Reveles and Aaron Davis of We are proud to be founding members of the Rocky Mountain Vizsla Club–“The Specialty Vizsla Club of Colorado”, and members of the Vizsla Club of America. We are also members of the American Kennel Club’s Breeder of Merit Program.

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