Friday, April 16, 2010

How To Find and Train The Perfect Fishing Dog!

The Ultimate Fishing Pal
It was an early Fall morning in North Park Colorado when I awoke to my alarm clock. It was not your ordinary camping clock but an eager Labrador ready to get out of the tent to get after some Trout splashing on the lake.

For years I’ve had a fishing companion that has never complained, always let’s me fish without having to yell, helps to point out rising trout with a modest bark and never once wanted to leave early due to boredom or plans back home.

Statistics show that one out of three families in the U.S. owns one or more dogs, here in Colorado I think that stat jumps to every other household. If you fish, hunt, or spend much time around water odds are you probably own a Labrador retriever. The Pros of owning a Labrador are that these dogs are non-aggressive, affable, athletic, and loyal. They are great fishing partners, and love water, did I mention they Love water!

Regarding a Labrador's intelligence is well known in the dog community. Keeping your Labrador stimulated early on as a puppy in a training regime and fetch drills can help pay dividends later on once you decide to finally hit the water or field for a relaxing day. Providing games in a mnemonic way that utilize their natural instincts such as a simple game of stick throwing will keep your Labrador happy day in day out and when you loose that fly box on the river you’ll be glad you did.

Obviously Labradors are water dogs...their coats are designed specifically to repel water and insulate them from chilly water. A Lab’s “otter" tail is shaped such to be used as a rudder to steer and help balance them in the water. Therefore, I recommend introducing your Labrador to the water at a young age and if possible Trout to make sure your dog is adaptable to what you’ll be doing every weekend. Keep in mind that there are Labradors that do not like the water so it is not out of the norm.

Every pre planned outing when I’m starting to pack, my dog Zeke is acutely aware of what I may be up to and I have to tell him “you’re going” or otherwise somehow distract him away when doing so. Zeke has developed into a great fly fishing dog, though still a pup at heart, can still manage to refrain from jumping into a massive Caddis hatch on the Madison or mayfly malay on the Frying Pan River. He gets along with every single dog he meets and the only thing that I can think of that keeps him from wagging his tail is the downtime he has between fishing trips. I started taking Zeke fishing when he was only a couple months old and it’s still exciting to see him shake uncontrollably each time he is close to a river in anticipation of my next trout he can say hello to.


Many of my closest fishing buddies take heart to what they name their 4 legged nets early in life and it’s so funny to be on the River and here: “Come here Bear, Sage, Madison, Drake, Winston, Hopper,” all popular Trout fishing dog names.

When I wasn’t fishing every weekend I was ordinarily kayaking, not by choice but due to the persuasion by my Lab. You see Kayaking is the one sport Zeke could go with me and not have any boundaries for swimming or jumping into the water. Most Kayakers have dog’s, something about someone to fetch their lost paddle I guess, and at the Golden Whitewater Park they actually encourage your dogs to get out to swim in the Class III rapids with us.

One of the joys of having a trained Lab, okay half trained Lab, was the ability to walk around areas I lived, like the Cherry Creek district here in Denver off leash with confidence. On one very occasion when Zeke was off-leash next to me walking we passed a restaurant only to have him distracted by a patron on the patio calling him over for quick hello and a taste of some food. The person to my dismay was no other than Jake Plummer, the quarterback for the Denver Bronco’s, talk about someone who loves Labs!

Another reason I am happy I trained Zeke early on are the rewards I see now such as the annual ISE International Sportsmen Show he works at. Only a few handful of Dog’s are allowed to attend and he was definitely the main attraction at our Trout Unlimited booth each year which has helped our fundraising efforts increase by 200% since he’s started. Nothing like a 120lb Labrador with a loving smile and alligator tail to attract half the attendees to our booth for a picture with their child while remaining innocuous amongst a few thousand people.

If you have a dog you know what it is like to have a friend that totally loves you and asks for nothing in return. If you don’t have a dog, you are missing out on one of the great, simple pleasures of life. My Lab truly is a very special friend to me and I couldn’t imagine being out Traveling, fishing or in the field Hunting without him!

Tips for your Dog when out in the field:
• Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise before any lengthy trip or outing and consider the effect of that activity.
• Be aware of how weather conditions affect your dog--heat, cold, rain etc.
• For unexpected situations, pack first aid items for your dog and also a towel.
• Check with your destination to be sure whether dogs are permitted.
• Bring important dog license & ID tags for your dog
• After each trip examine them for any abnormal behavior, cuts and ticks.
• Very important to keep your Lab hydrated after lot’s of activity
• Most important be responsible with your Pet when out near others in the Outdoors and when on the water be mindful of them

Zeke was an incredible Dog that left us a year 1/2 ago for the Rainbow Bridge to chase rising fish high above..he will always be with us on the water.

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Zach said...

I was loving the story until the end. Breaks my heart when a great dog moves on.

Troutdawg said...

Thanks for the comment on the story and yes, it's never easy to loose your favorite fishing Pal, especially one that guided me all these years~

Anonymous said...

Nice write up, sorry about your Pup Zeke