Outdoors Column: Making of a Hunting Dog

For a few hundred years, poodles were bred as hunters, primarily used for retrieving waterfowl. It has only been during the last century or so that their job has changed to family pet and couch potato. A standard poodle is a very active dog that does make a good family pet and watch dog. I was wondering if they still had the instinct for hunting for which they were originally bred.


Our grandson, Zane, stopped by last weekend on his way to go squirrel hunting. He wondered if I would like for him to take Billie hunting, just to see how he would work. I thought it would be interesting and told him, I would even clean him up after the hunt if he got dirty. Even if he becomes a great hunter, his primary occupation is to sit on the couch and look pretty. He would, more than likely, come back with a few burrs and some mud.




One of Billie’s favorite games is “go fetch”. He will retrieve anything thrown for him and continue to do this until a person’s arm can no longer throw. It does not matter if it is a ball, a stick, or even a snowball. He loves to have something to go get and proudly bring it back. I thought retrieving a squirrel would not be too much of a change. He would just be bringing a squirrel back instead of a ball.


It was not long before Zane and Billie returned. The report was positive. When Zane shot, Billie looked where the gun was pointed and saw the squirrel fall. He ran over, picked it up, and brought it back to Zane. He did not really want to give it up, but soon let go to accept the praise heaped upon him for his job well done. The only problem was, Billie was loaded with cockleburs, stick-tights, leaves, twigs, and bits of rose bush. It took the better part of an hour for my wife and I, working together, to get the dog cleaned up.


The next day, my wife took Billie out of the yard to let him run around while she worked in the garden. He stayed nearby, smelling everything and running around, exploring places his electronic collar will not allow him to go. When she was not paying attention to him, Billie took off and decided to go squirrel hunting by himself. He was only gone a few minutes, but when he came back, his fluffy soft hair was a mat of stick-tights and cockleburs. She spent over an hour cleaning him up again.


We have come to the conclusion, we can have a pretty dog or a hunting dog, but we can not have a pretty hunting dog. I think he has the potential to be a good hunter, but the effort required to get all the burrs out of his coat do not make it worth it. He can be a couch dog and watch dog, but his retrieving efforts are going to be limited to his ball or a stick. His hunting days may be over.