If you like to hunt with performance sporting dogs, like I do, than you understand how important a given dogs temperament can be with regards to its performance. While a good hunter will always consider all aspects of a dogs behavior before picking his hunting companion two of the most important are desire and cooperation. Finding the right balance can make a life time of difference with and your dog.
You’ve probably heard the saying about someone’s glass being half full or half empty. It really comes down to a matter of different perspective on the same type of situation. This saying could be similarly applied to the balance of two very important characteristics in bird dogs. We’re talking about balancing the desire and cooperation in your hunting companion.
As I mentioned, it’s really about different perspectives. For some people, more desire is good, and for others, more cooperation is better. In many cases, you might not even realize which you prefer, but some dogs just seem to fit your style better. It took me several years to figure out why we were culling certain lines of dogs from our kennel and keeping others for our breeding program to meet our hunting needs.
If I were to say that an even balance of these two characteristics would meet the needs of every person that came to our kennel, I would be fooling myself. People hunt different terrains at different levels and with very different goals. It stands to reason that the preferred behavior for their hunting companions would also be different. In some cases, the best result is for us to send someone to another kennel whose genetic selection is a better match for their preferences.
The Case for Desire
It’s essential to have a hunting companion with the natural drive to pursue game. It’s also important to understand, though, that too much of this characteristic can rob from the willingness to cooperate with the owner’s needs. Dogs with too much desire bred into them can’t resist running ahead after a rooster and often end up over the hill producing the bird beyond gun range. These dogs are willing to risk taking a correction because the drive to hunt outweighs the drive to please you.
The Case for Cooperation
Having too much cooperation, on the other hand, can also be a bad thing. Have you ever heard the term boot polisher? We have had dogs in for training or been in the field with dogs that would much rather please their owners than find game. This will drive the serious bird hunting enthusiast crazy and typically result in him looking for a new home for his companion animal. Did you notice I didn’t say “hunting” companion? If the dog won’t hunt, it’s just a companion.
It Depends on What You Want
At the end of the day, the dog has to be well suited to the type of hunting you prefer. Different game in different parts of the country require dogs with different blends or balances of desire and cooperation. Texas quail hunters need more desire to stretch out and independently find game. Northern grouse hunters, on the other hand, need dogs with cooperation to complete a successful day in the woods. Judging your dog as a cup half full or half empty is heavily dependent on the genetic traits that were bred into him. In choosing your next hunting partner, be sure to choose one with the right blend for your overall needs.