Bird Dogs & Training  |  12/30/2011

Meet My First Bird Dog!

The quest for "Sprig," the author's first pup, was chronicled in Pheasants Forever's "My First Bird Dogs" series.

The serious search for “My First Bird Dog” began at Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest* earlier this year. Initially, I’d zeroed in on an English springer spaniel, but after seeing my first-ever English cocker spaniel up close and personal at National Pheasant Fest, I knew. And just before the holiday break, I picked up “Sprig,” a lemon and white female field-bred English cocker, from Thunderstruck Gundogs in Balaton, Minnesota – my first bird dog!
*Speaking now from personal experience, Pheasants Forever’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic is the must-see event for bird dog owners or soon-to-be owners. While I didn’t purchase a pup on the spot, I gained first-hand info from an exhibiting professional dog trainer and his valuable reference on a quality breeder closer to my home. This year’s show is in Kansas City on February 17, 18 & 19.
An English cocker is the perfect fit for me: A close-working dog – check; adept in the grasslands and wetlands – check; a small breed that’s sized for my small apartment – check; and good looking to boot – check. The breeder, Mark Mercie, said, in his experience, he found females a bit easier to work with, so I heeded his advice. In fact, in the six-month lead up to getting Sprig, Mercie took many questions from Kaily, my significant other, and I on an all-too-regular basis – I can’t overstate how important this was to us. We picked her up at her seven-week mark, and didn’t have to dangle a pheasant wing or practice puppy psychology as she was the only female in the litter.
As I type this, Sprig is sound asleep on my lap. An hour before, she was treating the flesh of my hands as a chew toy. These are the highs and lows of puppy ownership, but she’ll age so quick – my day is her week, seven times faster than me – that doing anything other than simply enjoying this time is silly.
The “My First Bird Dog” series will now shift gears to the training process, with sights set on the pheasant hunting opener in 2012. The thought of this teething, 6-lb. peanut ever flushing and retrieving a pheasant is a near-foreign concept right now, with dog training like a foreign language. My puppy passport has been punched – know any good translators?
Previous “My First Bird Dog” posts:
Introducing “My First Bird Dog”
What I’m Looking For
Gun Dog Experts’ #1 Piece of Advice
Just Show Me the DOGFAX
Why Attend a Hunt Test or Field Trial?
What Was Your First Bird Dog?
Stuck Between Two Litters
Rationalizing the Sticker Shock
Best Bird Dogs for an Apartment
When everyone’s a Dog Expert
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.