Story contributed by broadcast journalism students Madison Scarpino, Amanda Haley and Jack Orloff
NewsWatch reporter Amanda Haley spoke with hunting dog trainers and an Oxford veterinarian about the process of training canines for the upcoming duck hunting season.
When duck hunting season starts Friday in Mississippi, hunters are hoping their dogs will be ready.
Hunting dogs are essential for a successful season and dog training is a big business in the state. Marty Roberts is the founder and owner of Sporting Life Kennels in Oxford. He has been training dogs since he was 17 and says it’s important for hunters to have a strong connection with their canines.
“As far as the companionship of a dog and a man hunting together, it really comes together with the waterfowl hunting. They very much rely on each other and it’s a partnership,” Roberts said.
Roberts breeds, trains and sells dogs to clients all over the world.
“People will spend money on their pets before they spend money on themselves. It’s a pretty recession-proof proof business in that regard,” he said.
Purchasing and training a dog to hunt ducks is a pricey commitment. Puppies sell for a few thousand dollars, on average. The four month long training process adds another significant expense. Many hunters spend about $5,000 within the first year of the dog’s life, not to mention the training.
“We want happy dogs, we want dogs that mind. So we’ll blend positive techniques and negative techniques, but when they come together, it works very well,” Roberts said.
Ole Miss student and trainer at Sporting Life Kennels, John McCay has been working with hunting dogs for the last three years.
“(When) you have happy dogs, they’re going to work good for you. We really keep that in the back of our minds all the time,” McCay said.
Veterinary physician Elizabeth Crump at Paws Animal Hospital believes that the process of training a dog to hunt can be very beneficial for the dog’s overall health, too.
Around 75 dogs per kennel per season are trained for duck hunting in the state of Mississippi. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters harvest over 300 thousand birds per year in the thousands of acres of water habitats the state has to offer.