Dakota quickly made her way into the hearts of the whole family. She made it very difficult not to love her. She herself is a huge lover, quick to hand out kisses and to snuggle on the couch. House breaking and general obedience work was going surprisingly smooth. I was on cloud 9 with my puppy selection. Did I finally get a dog that would be a lover and would work great in the field?
As with any puppy you take them out and show them off. For me this included meeting some individuals that I hunt with and who I reached out to for help with training her. Suddenly all the traits that I considered positive were being called into question. For a lab she is on the smaller size and with having a 95lb male I considered this a blessing. Now her being able to handle the work involved with retrieving downed geese was doubted. Her loving character meant she wouldn’t have what it takes to make it through training. As was asked constantly why I got a female and not a male. I was unaware that female dogs couldn’t retrieve ducks. She isn’t going to have the same drive that a male would. She might hunt but she will never be anything special is what I was taking from the conversations. I started to wonder if I had made another bad choice. However I wanted a hunting companion first and foremost and I knew she had it in her. I had the chance to see a glimpse of it not long after she was home. I found myself in possession of a dove that was injured.(the next few lines may not be for those bird lovers) Pigeons are often used to train retrieving and tracking a wild bird. With the dove outside I left Dakota out to go to the bathroom. She was bouncing around the yard having a good time when she got close enough to the bird that it fluttered through the yard a little. In that instant she flipped a switch and turned into a serious hunting dog. Never working with birds at all she made quick work of catching the dove and without coaxing brought it to me. I knew she had prey drive and a very serious side when it came to hunting.
We were invited to come to a training day for dogs who were going to hunt test. I thought it would be good to see what it was that we were getting into and maybe have a little fun with the pup. I never really thought we would be participating as she was just 13 weeks old and had done no formal retriever training. They had several other various aged puppies there that day. So we were talked into giving it a try. When she lined up for her first retrieve she became a professional who was nothing but serious and focused. She did it like she had done it a 1000 times before. That same day they did some water work and asked if Dakota had retrieved in the water yet. At this point I had tried some small two or three foot tosses into a lake near my house and she didn’t want anything to do with it. It was actually a major concern of mine. I was promised that they would get her retrieving in water that day. The lead trainer went through the hassle of putting waders on so that he could go into the water with her to make it less scary. We were all prepared to help her what we didn’t know was that she had a plan of her own. We lined her all up and threw a bumper out into the water several feet to see what she would do. As the bumper hit the water I released her collar and yelled “Dakota” so she knew it was time to go. She exploded out of her crouch position sprinted towards the water and with a few feet left to the water took a flying leap into the pond. She hit the water and was swimming smoothly towards her mark. After quickly grabbing the bumper she was back to shore where she gave me her prize, shook off and sat back down as to say that was fun lets do it again. I was grinning from ear to ear while the others stood dumbfounded. This was just the first time of many I would watch this playful pup do things that made me look amazing. It was if she knew that this wasn’t just playtime and that she had a job to do. It was if she was Born 2 retrieve.