Offer water? Sure, but otherwise, stay away from managing someone else’s dog.
In someone else’s house, you’re supposed to be on your best behavior. But spend enough time in someone else’s blind or grouse cover hunting with their dog, and everybody becomes a critic. Here are four tried-and-true guidelines for minding your manners when it comes to another hunter’s gun dog.
1. Ask first
Sure, offer to help, but let the dog’s owner tell you what to do and when, whether it’s feeding, doctoring or field etiquette. Ask about shooting wild flushes, or shooting over a broken point. A dog that crashes from the blind too soon is another instance where the owner should dictate protocol.
2. Bite your tongue
Keep criticism to yourself. If your dog was the better canine, you’d be hunting behind him. The same goes for commands, which usually have no impact coming from a stranger. Discipline from you has little training value, but can still ruin a friendship.
3. Dodge the retrieve
Most dogs won’t bring a shot bird to you even if you did the shooting. Help a dog retrieve to his owner like he’s supposed to by turning away if he comes toward you with a bird. It eliminates confusion and ensures a solid fetch.
4. No food treats
You may be interfering with your buddy’s training strategy, and a dog might even be allergic to certain snacks. One thing you can almost always do is offer up a “Good dog.” A scratch behind the ear, a stroke on the back, or some water from your canteen are always welcome.
And don’t forget the other obligation of a good guest: At the end of a hunt, ensure another invitation with a bottle of something old from Scotland or Kentucky for your human host. Be a good guest out there, and everyone goes home happy—even the dog.