Keeping Old Dogs Young

They say you’ll never forget your first one, and I know that will be true. My first bird dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Josey Wales, has always been a dog for anyone’s dreams.

I was a staunch archery hunter when I brought the wriggling puppy home, and I’m still an avid bow hunter. And yet as Josey grew and matured, and his formal training as a hunting dog began, I found it harder and harder to slip out on the dog in my camouflage and boots, as he watched from his crate as though his heart would break.

And so I began to make concessions, since I was getting fairly old, too. In the fall, I would sleep in and go bird hunting in the morning, and save the archery hunting for the afternoons and evenings. I would abandon that schedule during the rut, however.

Freckles, a Brittany, is getting up there. She's a senior citizen in dog years. Her owner, Bob Williams, Lansdale PA, got a Garmin tracking collar so that he can let Freckles run and hunt, without fearing that she will get lost.
Freckles, a Brittany, is getting up there in age. Her owner, Bob Williams, got a Garmin tracking collar so that he can let Freckles run and hunt, without fearing that she will get lost.

And now, with Josey soon to turn 12, I find myself making concessions again, and I don’t regret a second of it. I’m learning to exercise him and use him in different ways, so that his body doesn’t break down and he enjoys his time in the field.

My veterinarian tells me that virtually every dog over the age of 8 has experienced a fairly significant loss of hearing. That can be worse for dogs who have been around shotgun blasts for most of those years.

How do you hunt with a dog that can’t hear? Well, one option is to put a bell or beeper on the dog. I’ve done that, and it works fine – although I think it may irritate the hearing problem Josey already has.

Another option is to buy one of the new GSP-equipped training collars. These are most often used as a training tool, so that the person can tell exactly what the dog is doing. When you have an older dog, you’ll love the feeling of security, because you’ll know exactly what the dog is doing (moving or standing), how far it is away from you, and what direction it is from you.

A third option is to use a collar with the vibration feature. This takes a little training, but my dog picked up on what I wanted really easily. What I wanted to convey is that when he felt the vibration, he knew to look at me or return to me.

I accomplished this with a simple drill. I let my dog trail a 20-foot-long check cord, while wearing the collar. Periodically I would hit the button for the vibration, and simultaneously give the cord a tug to turn his head towards me. It only took a couple sessions before he was doing it.

In the old days, we had to use the stimulation feature on an e-collar, and I had resolved I would not administer a correction for disobedience. When you call a dog with poor hearing, how can you punish a lack of response? The vibration feature lets him know I want his attention.

I picked up an e-collar with a short range and the vibration feature for only about $199. Keeping my old dog in the field for more years? Priceless.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Electronic Collars!




Leave a Reply

Commenting Policy - We encourage open expression of your thoughts and ideas. But there are a few rules:

No abusive comments, threats, or personal attacks. Use clean language. No discussion of illegal activity. Racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful comments are not tolerated. Keep comments on topic. Please don't spam.

While we reserve the right to remove or modify comments at our sole discretion, the Sportsman's Guide does not bear any responsibility for user comments. The views expressed within the comment section do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of The Sportsman's Guide.