Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Parker Heinlein
Outdoors Columnist 

Considering a change


October 14, 2020

I’ve never used electronic collars on my dogs. A whistle always sufficed. But as I begin training what may well be my last bird dog, I’m considering a change.

All my friends use electronic collars, and I can’t help but notice that their dogs are a bit more under control than mine.

It didn’t used to bother me. I always put more emphasis on enthusiasm for the hunt than any strict protocol. I bend to the dogs’ will as much as they do mine.

Last season, however, there were two occasions when my whistle was far from adequate. Both involved my late dog Ruth. The first happened when she chased a rooster I shot at and missed, racing across a recently frozen pond and then disappearing over some railroad tracks. The second occasion I couldn’t whistle her back she was hot on the heels of a coyote.

She eventually returned, but not after causing me some anxious moments of worry.

Ruth died of cancer last winter and I’ve been hunting behind only Ace this fall. A nine-year-old male, Ace has always responded well to the whistle, although he works so closely I rarely use it. His hearing is beginning to fail after all the shots fired over him so it doesn’t matter much anyway. Fortunately, he keeps close tabs on me.

The puppy, Dot, is as yet an unknown quantity. Not quite three months old, she’s fearless, knows her name and comes when called if it suits her. She’s full of energy and reminds us of recently departed Jem, who hunted on his own terms for a dozen years. All I had to do was keep up.

I’m too old for that now.

Dot and I are going to explore the world of canine electronics.

I fantasize about the control an electronic collar will bring, but I’m enough of a realist to know the challenge will lie with me, not Dot.

Modern technology passed me by decades ago. While I have all the gadgets – cell phone, GPS, fish-finder – I’m proficient with none. I suspect an electronic dog collar will be the same. I’ll read the directions, watch the videos, and ultimately turn to my younger, smarter friends for help.

I’ll still carry the whistle, though. It’s more my speed. I just have to keep up.

Parker Heinlein is at [email protected]


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