Meet Pritchard. She’s a 12-week-old Boykin spaniel who, if I don’t ruin her in the training process, will be retrieving doves by September and ducks by the fall. Pritchard (she’s named after a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina where I’ve been catching redfish since I was a kid), of course, knows none of this. Right now she cares only for her peanut-butter-flavored bone, a stuffed goose that honks when chewed, and, no matter how hard I try to hide them, my flip-flops. But she SITS, occasionally STAYS, sometimes COMES, and loves chasing a sock full of paper but doesn’t always bring it back.
The Boykin spaniel is the state dog of South Carolina. The breed began in the early 1900s in Camden, S.C., a likely cross between a Chesapeake and a number of spaniel breeds. They were bred to roust turkeys in the swamps and to fit in a small duck boat (males average 40 pounds). They love to swim, have good noses, and are fiercely loyal.
Together, Pritch and I will make up this new blog, Man’s Best Friend. Each week I’ll chronicle our progress from puppy to gun dog. And I’ll also cover all manner of hunting dog topics. That said, I’m no expert when it comes to training pooches. I dabbled with my Labrador as a youth and attended a handful of field trials. But then I moved to New York City to follow my career as an outdoor journalist (including stints at Field & Stream and Salt Water Sportsman), and I just couldn’t torture a dog in a city apartment. After 12 years, I left and now am happily planted in Charleston with my wife and new pup. This go around I’ll partner up with some from professional retriever trainers to see what a newbie–and his dog– can learn from the best. If we’re lucky we’ll hit a few field trials. If not, we’ll still be hunting in the fall.
Let the ride begin. Hope you’ll join us.