In January, 2017, my wife, Virginia, and I adopted Dixie, a one-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer. Dixie (the name we gave him) had been given up by his previous owners because “…they wanted a hunting dog and this one was gun-shy”. Since Virginia and I had had a previous experience with getting a dog to overcome gun-shyness, we decided to take a gamble on Dixie, and we adopted him.
I contacted John Mooney of L’Escarbot Kennels in March, 2017, after a brief and unsatisfactory experience with another trainer. John interviewed me over the phone and we made plans to have him meet Dixie. On the first encounter, John commented that Dixie had a “good temperament”, and that he would be willing to work with him on a one-month commitment, starting May 1. I agreed, and took Dixie home for some basic heeling and “whoa” training.
I should point out that John emphasized that introduction to the gun comes late in the training, unlike what the previous trainer had done, especially with a dog that has demonstrated some previous shyness.
John was insistent that I call once a week and get an update on Dixie’s progress. This was not a problem, since I was very anxious for the report, but it impressed me that it was also important to John as well. To him, Dixie was not just another dog. He was an individual, and John wanted me to know that.
With each weekly progress report, the news was more exciting. Before long, I was hearing that “Dixie has a phenomenal nose”, or “Dixie respects me, and we are buddies”, or “Dixie is doing well with shooting”, or “Dixie is getting stronger on the point”. I could not wait for May 30, and my opportunity to see the two of them in action.
It was better than expected. I admit I had some trepidation that Dixie would not remember me right away, but that fear dissipated immediately when we were reunited. He was very excited to see me. However, it was clear that, with John, Dixie was all business.
We went to an open field and just went through some of the paces with no birds. John showed me how he had whistle-trained Dixie to “whoa”, “here”, and to change direction while quartering. It was very apparent that this dog has the potential to be a very good hunter, because, with John’s training, he was behaving just as he should, staying in range, and responding to commands.
Next John set out two birds, with Dixie back in the crate. This was the moment I was waiting for, because of the gun-shyness history. True to what John had told me about his nose, Dixie scented the first bird from about 150 yards out. He pointed it very well (maybe a bit close for John’s liking), and when John flushed and shot the bird, he immediately retrieved it (video will soon be added). The second bird did not want to get up on its own, but Dixie still had it pointed, and he retrieved when John released it and fired on it. This retrieve was even better than the first.
Finally, we took Dixie to the river, where there was a deep pool. John wanted to show me that Dixie, having been bred for waterfowl as well as upland game, would retrieve in the water. The water was chilly, but he did go in, and retrieved the quail for John.
I could not be more pleased with the training that Dixie received from John Mooney. To me, it is like a dream come true to see what has been accomplished in a month. I intend to bring Dixie back for refresher sessions at least twice a month throughout the summer or 2017. In the fall, I plan to go to a game preserve with Dixie, and later I hope to hunt wild pheasants in South Dakota. I will keep John appraised of Dixie’s progress.