By Jason Herbert

Finally! After completing construction on my dream home, a modest ranch we built with help on my family’s 60 acre farm, I was able to start looking for the puppy I’ve always wanted. Blessed with four active children, my wife and I agreed early on that we wanted our children to be raised in the country. Part of country living is having a big guard dog on hand to bark when visitors pull in. As an avid outdoorsman and dog lover, I’ve been around dogs my whole life, although I have never put much time into formally training one for hunting. We already have a sweet Golden Retriever, but he is gun shy and would rather lick a stranger than bark at them. So upon moving in, my quest for a big, strong, smart hunting companion began.

Deer hunting is my number one priority, with turkey and waterfowl a close second. If I were shooting for the stars, I would choose a family dog that can find deer antlers, retrieve ducks and geese, and track wounded deer. Also, in the back of my mind, I hope to teach the dog how to find morel mushrooms each spring. My search narrowed to a Labrador Retriever or a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Needing approval from the boss for this project, my wife said she would support my venture if we were to get a lab. So… our quest for a lab began!

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Other people may want a different breed of hunting dog. Some upland bird hunters swear by German Short-hairs. Rabbit hunters like Jack Russell Terriers or Beagles. Coon, bear, or mountain lion hunters may want some sort of blood hound? Do research to figure out what breed of dog will be right for you.

God has a plan for everything, and I happened to have a day off work for a Dr. Appt. As I was passing time in the waiting room, I got on Facebook with my phone and noticed someone nearby who had posted a picture of thirteen purebred lab puppies that his female had the night before. If I didn’t have the day off, I would have never seen the post.

Fast forward three weeks and I had one of the soft, chocolate bundles of fur in my hands. We immediately bonded, and I was sold. The price was fair, both parents were on site and looked very healthy and big, and it simply felt right.

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There are several things to look for when choosing a hunting dog. To me the first and foremost thing to research is genetics, starting by “interviewing” the parents. I liked how big Molly’s mom and dad were, and how intimidating her mom’s bark was. He dad also barked loud, but I could tell soon after petting his nose that he was a big sweetie. But Molly’s mom… that was a different story. She was intimidating, and very protective. She did not like me handling her puppies, and I respected that. She also was exhausted because she had 13 pups, and they all survived! Other people feel very strongly about purchasing a certified puppy with hip and eye insurance. Molly did not come with either, other than the good words of her breeder that her lineage was healthy. Skeptical still, I plan to have her thoroughly checked out at two years old before I think about breeding her, it is the responsible thing to do. In the meantime, we’re going to have all sorts of fun and adventures!

We brought home Molly Mae of Herbert Farms at seven weeks. Most people like to wait until puppies are eight weeks old, but circumstances prevented us from waiting any longer. I was also ready to welcome her into our “pack,” so we didn’t mind getting her a week early. I have read that some hunters prefer getting their puppy at seven weeks, right when the dog starts looking to others for leadership.

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With guidance from professional trainer Jeremy Moore at Dog Bone Hunting, and a few other friends, I’m going to give first time dog training my best shot. These first few days we are focusing on making Molly feel welcome in our home, acclimating her to our other pets, potty training and crate training. I’m using one of Jeremy’s tricks and working on “sit” with her before feeding time, while I have Molly’s full attention. She is adapting quickly and has become one of the family over night.

My philosophy of training Molly is pretty simple, I want to encourage good habits, and discourage bad ones. I also want to build a positive relationship with her so that she wants to make me happy. Stay tuned, I’m going to continue writing about Molly and our adventures, as well as our success and mistakes.