Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Dog Good Enough?

Ideas for this column frequently come from readers, Facebook friends and emails. This column is the result of a Facebook posting. A Facebook friend recently posted that his dog wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. What exactly is good enough?

In my opinion, good enough should be determined by the owner of the dog. However, that determination should take into consideration a few factors. One factor is pride. If you invite a friend to hunt with you, are you proud of your dog’s work? Is your dog trained to the level that he’s a pleasure to hunt with? Let’s review the basics for being good enough.

A good enough dog should be obedient. If you call your dog, he should respond immediately. In dog training, it’s referred to as recall. Nothing is more frustrating to both you and a guest than constantly screaming your dog’s name. That becomes tiring for all involved. Another obedience factor is the heel command. If your return to the truck requires walking on a road, you want your dog to stay right next to you…that’s heel. Another command is whoa. You can save your dog’s life or serious injury if they’re obedient to the whoa command. If your dog is heading toward a busy road, you command whoa. If your dog is about to encounter a porcupine, you command whoa.

Let’s discuss the command sit. There are many professional pointing dog trainers who feel sit should not be taught. They feel that when you put pressure on a dog to obey a command, the dog will sit to please you. An example would be if you use whoa when your dog goes on point. If you’ve used pressure in teaching whoa, then the dog might sit to please you. We’ve never encountered the problem with our shorthairs, however, I have seen it happen with setters. If this concerns you, develop the command to mean stand still. Whenever you would normally want your dog to sit, the same result can be obtained by simply having the dog stand still.

Another command a good enough dog should understand is stay. We use that command every day. After we collar up the dogs for their daily run, we command stay. They must stay in their position (either sit or stand still) until released. Stay also applies when you open the car door or open their truck crate door.

We’ve covered obedience for the good enough dog; now let’s cover field work. The discussion about steady to wing and shot has been going on for decades. Where does a good enough dog fit into this discussion. Those who do not want a dog steady to wing and shot feel they want a dog that chases and will put them right on top of a shot bird before it has a chance to run if just wounded. The argument is that a dog that chases will give you a much better recovery rate than a dog that is steady to wing, shot and drop. The proponents of chase are primarily pheasant hunters. Pheasants have a reputation for taking a lot of lead and still running after being shot.

The opponents of chase say it’s dangerous for the dog. Dogs that take lead are usually dogs that are chasing. Your author’s position is that a dog that is good enough should be steady to at least the flush. This eliminates much of the danger. The really good dog is steady to both the flush and shot. In my experience, the breeds that are known for their tracking skills, such as the German shorthaired pointer, will usually recover any shot bird even if the dog remained steady to flush, shot and drop. Bottom line is teaching your dog to remain steady to the flush is good enough. If you really want a dog your friends will rave about, go the extra distance and teach steady to flush, shot and drop.

Let’s not forget the point. You can’t teach pointing…it’s genetic. Any pointing dog with decent genetics will point birds. It may take a little longer for some dogs but they will eventually point birds. That’s good enough.

It all comes down to the owner. If you want a stylish dog that everyone raves about, train for the really good dog. If you’re happy with good enough, then that’s good enough.

Copyright 2022 Paul Fuller

Susan and Paul Fuller host the Bird Dogs Afield TV show. Their website is Contact: