Updated: Feb 8, 2021
Hunting is quintessential Idaho. Most dads take their sons out on cold autumn excursions, hoping for a prized elk. One Idaho family did things a bit differently. Audrey remembers going out with her mom and dad, hunting for upland game birds, like chucker, from the age of seven, dragging the dog along. Always a hunting family, they wanted it to be ingrained in Audrey. Hunting was a way of life, even for a seven-year-old girl.
As Audrey grew up, and her family dynamic changed, her new stepdad, Jeff, kept the hunting tradition alive. By this point, her love of dogs had taken hold. As she matured, she developed an interest in training them. When she was 16, Audrey’s mom got a retriever, one specifically bred for hunting. The words of the breeder have stuck with her, “If you put in the work, you’ll get a good hunting dog.” Seems simple enough…
Together with Jeff, they began the training process. Using a flirt pole and a bird wing, the 10-week old puppy was being taught to retrieve. The first successful retrieve lit a fire of excitement in Audrey and she was hooked. She began her quest of researching training techniques, and mom’s puppy, Ember, reaped the benefits.
Audrey had always known she wanted to work with dogs, there was never another option. Her first job was at Camp Bow Wow, a boarding facility. This job taught her about reading a dog's body language and problem-solving bad behavior and difficult dogs. “The dog is teaching you, as much as you are teaching the dog.”
When she learned of a job as a dog trainer, she knew it was meant to be, and she completed her apprenticeship with Save the Mailmen, a local dog training facility. While they focus on obedience training, her boss David is encouraging her to create a hunting training curriculum, with five-year-old Ember as the test subject.
Audrey and her family now primarily hunt for ducks. The typical day begins incredibly early and cold. The December morning starts with a 4 a.m. drive out to their location and setting up decoys. Before the break of dawn is the sweet spot for their hopeful prize. Ducks will be looking for a place to land and feed, and the hunters will be laying and waiting. The uncomfortable positions and cold are soon forgotten when Jeff makes his duck call. Hearing the familiar sound and seeing the decoys, encourages the flock to come in for a landing. The sound of their wings moving the air is when the shots are taken.
The perfectly trained dog will wait for the fetch command before bolting to retrieve it. But realistically, as soon as they hear the clap of the shotgun, they are dashing to do what they were trained to do, retrieve. Hunters strive to train their dogs to use a soft mouth to pick up the bird. This prevents them from destroying the animal. Training a hunting dog is a process, one that never ends. Experienced hunters will often enlist help from their other dogs. They will use their older, calmer, and wiser dogs to teach the excited and gun-shy pups.
Dogs are one of the only species, other than humans, that understand direction, making them ideal partners. Even chimpanzees lack this understanding. Typically it can take two to three years for a hunting dog to be fully trained, but it also depends on the dedication and commitment of the handler. It is not a small undertaking. A well trained dog, in any capacity, whether hunting, herding, or even protection, is an expression of commitment and effort. The breeder from Audrey’s teen years was exactly right, “If you put in the work, you’ll get a good hunting dog.”
For more information on dog training contact Audrey Porter at 208-501-9378 or email her at AudreyJane1999@gmail.com