Firelight Bird Dogs

Firelight Bird Dogs

Friday, October 23, 2020

Puppy Boundaries

 Puppies.  Who doesn't love puppies? Yet many people dread the puppy phase of their dog's life.  When I read and hear about people whose puppies are terrors in the house, biting hands with their sharp teeth, chewing on woodwork and furniture, jumping on people, bolting out the door when someone comes in I can understand why they don't love puppies.  It doesn't have to be that way.

Start with the genetics of the puppy. Chose a breeding that offers the "livability" that you want for yourself. Actually witness adult dogs from the breeder living in a similar environment.  If your bird dog is going to double as a house pet I strongly recommend you spend some time in a home where one or more of that breeding lives.  Each of us has very different home situations, energies and stimuli and what one person considers good and acceptable may not be for you or me. 

Once that well chosen puppy is home it is still up to you to "civilize" it, that is, shape it into the dog that you imagined living with in the first place. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of setting boundaries with puppies starting the day that you bring them home.  Limits. Restrictions and understandings.  For example, from the beginning, my own dogs learn the following: No, you do not go through any door or gate unless I tell you to. No, you do not jump on people or nip hands. No, you do not get up on the sofa. No, you do not scratch the door when you want out. No, do not put your paws on the counter. You will spend quiet time in your crate or kennel. You will respect fences and not try to escape. You will sleep in until I get up.  

These are all very reasonable expectations that I set for my own dogs: each home will have it's own. I joke that my dogs are miscreants because I do not teach many of the usual pet commands such as sit or lie down. But from puppyhood my Firelight crew is taught my limits and boundaries which is how I can have a half-dozen bird dogs that double as house pets yet maintain a fairly normal looking home. Boundaries make for a more pleasant pet experience as well as help with building the foundation for the desired partnership in the field.  

My most recent miscreant pupil, Firelight Cool Hand Luke


Cheers
Lynn Dee Galey
Firelight Setters, Michigan


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Choices Can Be A Gamble

 

When breeding my first ES decades ago I traveled to a very reputable breeder whose stud dogs were highly respected in the bird dog world. He let two brothers out into the exercise yard for me to choose between. Both were nicely built, good looking dogs.  The first one briefly greeted us and then went off across the yard  to do dog things. The second dog came over to me, held his head high and looked right at me.  He then floated across the yard with high head and tail catching the breeze of the day, looking like a million bucks. The bite on the second dog was off a bit so the owner said that he and others had usually chosen to breed to the first. But to me the decision was an easy one since I have always sought eye catching style.  I gambled on the bite and in all of these years I have had only one puppy with a bad bite but a whole bunch with that proud tail waving high in the breeze and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Firelight Storm and Firelight Tweed  

  

Cheers, Happy Hunting and High Tails,

Lynn Dee


Monday, October 5, 2020

Size Matters

 

The old timers said that if you have to bend down to pet a gun dog's head then it is a Spaniel.  A Setter's head is where your hand rests when hanging down at your side.  If you have to raise your hand to pet the head then it's a Dane.

 

Believe it or not, the size of a bird dog is one of the topics that can turn a discussion ugly.  To that, and to the endless volleys of "best breed" arguments, I say that is why there are chocolate and vanilla and lots of flavors in between:  pick what you like and don't worry about other people.   It's enough for me to just focus on my own dogs as far as size and base my breeding goals on personal taste, what experience has taught me works, and what the avid hunters who buy my pups say that they are seeking. But make no mistake - size does matter.  

 Let’s define “size” in a gun dog.  We usually hear just the weight of the dog for size comparisons, but I believe that height is also important. Why? Because together they give you a more accurate picture of how the dog is built.   That build determines so much about gait, stamina, and durability.

 As example, I have three dogs who are each 22" at the withers yet their weights are 50, 54 and 63 lbs. The 50 and 54 lb dogs are females and although the same height, the one weighing 50 lbs has the shorter coupled, more compact body that I prefer.   That compact, short coupled body is more ergonomic because the topline remains level and tight during movement and therefore is more efficient with no body roll or extra motion that wastes energy. This translates into more bottom to hunt faster and longer without fatigue and quicker recovery for day after day of hard hunting.

 The 63 lb dog is a nice short coupled male with good bone and masculine musculature that adds up to the higher weight than the females of the same height. But I have another male who at 65 lbs is only 2 lbs more yet is a full 2" taller with a longer and leaner build.  Again, the weight alone does not accurately portray dogs. 

 Hunters shopping for a Setter are often understandably puzzled when they see Setters listed as ranging from 35 lbs to 80 lbs.   My females are running 48 to 54 lbs. and are 21 – 22” tall at the withers.  My target for males is 60 lbs, but I see a little more range with most of mine weighing 55 – 65 lbs and 22 – 24” at the withers.  In a sense, in my Firelights, I am looking for the “middle dog” in the size range of modern Setters:  a dog with enough size that there is no doubt that it is a Setter but moderate enough in size to be animated, attractive, and athletic on the move while maintaining excellent stamina and healthy durability for a lifetime. 

Female,21" 48 lbs. Hunted til 13, lived to almost 16. 


   

   Male,22" 63 lb. Powerful and compact. 
   


Cheers and Happy Hunting all,

Lynn Dee

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Select for dogs that....

The Canine Athlete: Fourwinds Duck Dogs     Kristina C. Mott, DVM, CVA, CCRT

"Select for dogs that eat."

This was a tip I learned at a sled dog conference a few years back. From a man with PhD in physiology, assistant prof at a veterinary school local to him, and successful sprint team racer.  

Dogs need to eat. Nutrition, fuel, recovery. We travel. A lot (not in 2020!). The dogs will often sleep on the truck or crated. Hotels, campers, new houses or rental cabins. Variety and adventure. 

I can't pull my dog out to hunt or compete and have them nutritionally empty after 2 or 3 days of travel. I need them top notch. 


Yes!!  I am borrowing and sharing the above piece because it is important. Good breeders need to keep the whole dog in mind when they select which dogs to breed. And buyers should be just as selective. No matter how talented or pretty or nice a dog is, dogs should be able to do their jobs and live with their owners without inordinate care and intervention.  


Select for dogs that eat.
Select for dogs that can rest and recharge in the truck between hunts.
Select for dogs that do not seem to always be getting injured on hunts.
Select for dogs who do not need frequent vet care for eye issues after hunts.
Select for dogs whose feet and nails stay strong and healthy.
Select for long life spans.
Select for dogs who can reproduce without AI or cesarean section.
Select for dogs who are good companions so they do not get banished to life in a pen.


- Lynn Dee Galey, Firelight Setters






Friday, June 19, 2020

Dragonfly Wings

Living in the grouse woods means bugs. Some are good, they are what grouse chicks need to eat. The trout fishermen excitedly talk about which hatch is active on the river. But the mosquitoes are pretty bad here right now and they show up in a scourge when I go out in the evening to water my flowers. But then, so do my heroes, the dragonflies. What is amazing is that the dragonflies will take mosquitoes right off of my arm and I feel their wings ever so lightly brush my skin as they do. The dragonflies also fly close to my hair and I can hear the soft whirr of their double wings as they do acrobatics and feast on the nuisance skeeters as they circle my head. Being touched by dragonfly wings. Pretty darn cool.

No photo description available.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Firelight Winter

Our hunting season ended several days ago when I pulled out of Kansas for the long drive back to the little north house in Michigan.  The first leg of the drive took me through the county where I used to live and hunt and it was hard to drive past those golden, grassy covers without pulling in to run a couple of dogs. But it was time.  Perhaps next year we can make Kansas a longer stay but it was time to head north. To head home.


The fresh cold air and snow are welcoming to me. The utter silence of snow falling is a thing of beauty. I love that my little backwoods road is not plowed or sanded, a road grader comes by every few days to blade the snow but it remains white and pristine and soft for walking. Temps are nose diving tonight as colder air moves in.  Life for the next few weeks will revolve around tending the woodstove that is my heat and the pack of dogs that are my company. Reading. Writing. Cooking. Naps. Walks. A Firelight winter.







Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Bob is Calling Us

The pack of dogs is hovering tightly around me right now because they just saw me packing luggage.  Which in itself is enough to excite this road-loving pack but even better is that some of what went into the duffle bag was hunting pants. Perhaps it speaks better of their noses than my laundry skills that even though the pants are fresh out of the laundry, the dogs immediately recognize them even though they are simple tan denim jeans.  I have yet to get hooked into the tech clothing that many upland hunters swear by, I guess that's another story.


But this week's story is that Firelight is headed to Kansas. Nope, we are not moving again, just for 3-4 weeks of hunting.  Winter set in early here in northern Michigan with 11 degrees as the high today and a few fresh inches of snow on top of the icy crust that was already there.  So we will leave the grouse to their conifer roosts: we will see them in the spring.  But in Kansas it is high season for that Prince of game birds, Bobwhite quail, and they are calling us.  And we won't turn down any cackling invites from pheasant roosters either. 


This trip is a bit different for me in that it is the first time that I have embarked on an extended hunting trip without benefit of having a travel trailer and I'm feeling a bit like I just took the training wheels off of my transportation.  I didn't quite realize how spoiled I was with the RV because I could load up everything and even had a kitchen sink and whenever I wanted I could retreat into the familiar trailer, crank up the heat and open the 'frig for a snack.  I am instead renting a house out in Kansas for our stay, we will see how that works but knowing that I will always travel to hunt, at the moment I am thinking that another RV is in my future.

Despite the zombie-long drive to the prairie, the angst of packing for the wide variety of possible weather conditions, feed and care for 7 dogs, and the cost, oh geez the cost, of all of this, I am excited and the thought of not going has never been entertained.  Because it is what I do.  My passion for bird dogs was lit 50 years ago with the gift of my first setter pup and the flame burns brighter today than ever.  And over those years I have learned that if you want to have good, really good, bird dogs, then you have to put the time and effort into them. The 30 or so days that we hunted grouse here in MI has been good and all of the dogs had a decent amount of ground time, but I believe that a really good bird dog needs to show what they've got on multiple species of birds and habitat.  The adult dogs have all already proven themselves to me in years past, that's how they have earned their spot here, so with them it will be all fun.  But this year I have the thrill of a youngster to prove who so far has been the equivalent of "here, watch this" and I can't wait to see what she has to show me.  There is also a little pup who is still very young so gets zero field pressure but she will learn important life skills/road rules such only 2 minutes to potty when we stop so you had better hurry, the world out there is entirely different than our quiet little woods home, and get used to snoozing quietly in your crate until it is your turn.

One week of the trip involves the Ryman Breeders Gathering, a unique annual event that is a highlight of the year.  Hunting with each other and dogs from other breeders, big boisterous dinners, and sharing time with serious hunters who care about these dogs is a fun and learning experience that passes all too quickly.  I know that my crew will miss the woodstove here at home but I firmly believe that they, like me, will happily give it up for time with Bob.
Cheers
Lynn Dee