Buy or Borrow: The Hunting Dog

“Money will buy a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of its tail.” —Josh Billings 

To get a dog or not to get a dog: that is the seminal question for any bird hunter. Before you pony up the cash and take the time to train your own, consider this: like other people’s kids, with whom you can have fun and then send home to do their whining, other people’s dogs make great hunting partners. And like parents, most owners of riled-up hunting dogs are only too happy to get a break once in a while. If you think a loaner is in order, great—just make sure to do it right.

Don’t: Borrow a dog that doesn’t know you.
Do: Bond with the beast before taking it out. 

Don’t: Head into the arid autumn hills with insufficient water.
Do: Bring a gallon or more and keep Madison well-hydrated. 

Don’t: Re-train the animal to your idiosyncrasies.
Do: Follow whatever rules and commands the owner uses. 

Don’t: Spend a long day afield with a young pup or arthritic old timer.
Do: Keep it short or choose a pooch in its prime

Don’t: Run the dog ragged.
Do: Go easy until you know what she’s made of. 

Don’t: Return Bridger covered in mud or burrs.
Do: Stop at Bridger Bubbles if things get sloppy. 

Now that you know how, the question is who from. Here are some suggestions: 

  • In-laws: Your sister’s husband has to say yes.
  • Your vet friend: You know the dog is healthy and well-trained.
  • An aging hunter: Odds are, his canine companion is well-rested and eager to get out.

When to Get Your Own

  • You start whistling and calling the dog’s name when he’s not around.
  • You forget to take him home and wake up to the dog snoozing on your bed and seven frantic messages on your phone.
  • You’re pulling poop bags out of every jacket pocket.
  • You post more photos of your friend’s dog than you do of your kids.