Saturday, July 26, 2008

Helping a young dog learn bird work...

There's a very good (meaning I agree with it) article on the importance of developing young dogs on wild birds by Jerry Kolter of Northwoods Bird Dogs on the excellent new website Strideaway. Go have a read...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Spay or Neuter decision

There has been much disinformation spread by proponents of spay and neuter as a method of population control, with claimed health benefits. Many vets also recommend the procedure, claiming health benefits without explaining (or necessarily understanding) the negative risk factors. Many adoption agreements require that a pup be altered by the age of six months.

This is a decision that should be left to the owner, and a good vet will understand and explain both the positive and negative aspects of spaying or neutering your dog, rather than proactively recommending it as standard procedure.

The following was forwarded to me by Dr. Charles Hjerpe DVM, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. It does not address the demonstrated behavioral issues that have been seen in neutered or spayed dogs, which should also be considered.


At some point, most of us with an interest in dogs will have to consider whether or not to spay/neuter our pet. Tradition holds that the benefits of doing so at an early age outweigh the risks. Often, tradition holds sway in the decision-making process even after countervailing evidence has accumulated.

Ms. Sanborn has reviewed the veterinary medical literature in an exhaustive and scholarly treatise, attempting to unravel the complexities of the subject. More than 50 peer-reviewed papers were examined to assess the health impacts of spay / neuter in female and male dogs, respectively. One cannot ignore the findings of increased risk from osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, hypothyroidism, and other less frequently occurring diseases associated with neutering male dogs. It would be irresponsible of the veterinary profession and the pet owning community to fail to weigh the relative costs and benefits of neutering on the animal’s health and well-being. The decision for females may be more complex, further emphasizing the need for individualized veterinary medical decisions, not standard operating procedures for all patients.

No sweeping generalizations are implied in this review. Rather, the author asks us to consider all the health and disease information available as individual animals are evaluated. Then, the best decisions should be made accounting for gender, age, breed, and even the specific conditions under which the long-term care, housing and training of the animal will occur.

This important review will help veterinary medical care providers as well as pet owners make informed decisions. Who could ask for more?

Larry S. Katz, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Animal Sciences
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ 08901


Dog owners in America are frequently advised to spay/neuter their dogs for health reasons. A number of health benefits are cited, yet evidence is usually not cited to support the alleged health benefits.

When discussing the health impacts of spay/neuter, health risks are often not mentioned. At times, some risks are mentioned, but the most severe risks usually are not.

This article is an attempt to summarize the long-term health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs that can be found in the veterinary medical literature. This article will not discuss the impact of spay/neuter on population control, or the impact of spay/neuter on behavior.

Nearly all of the health risks and benefits summarized in this article are findings from retrospective epidemiological research studies of dogs, which examine potential associations by looking backwards in time. A few are from prospective research studies, which examine potential associations by looking forward in time.


An objective reading of the veterinary medical literature reveals a complex situation with respect to the long- term health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs. The evidence shows that spay/neuter correlates with both positive AND adverse health effects in dogs. It also suggests how much we really do not yet understand about this subject.

On balance, it appears that no compelling case can be made for neutering most male dogs, especially immature male dogs, in order to prevent future health problems. The number of health problems associated with neutering may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases.

On the positive side, neutering male dogs

• Eliminates the small risk (probably <1%)
• Reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders 
• Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas 
• May possibly reduce the risk of diabetes (data inconclusive) 

On the negative side, neutering male dogs 

• If done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis. 
• Increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6 
• Triples the risk of hypothyroidism 
• Increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment 
• Triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems 
• Quadruples the small risk (<0.6%)
• Doubles the small risk (<1%)
• Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders 
• Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations 

For female dogs, the situation is more complex. The number of health benefits associated with spaying may exceed the associated health problems in some (not all) cases. On balance, whether spaying improves the odds of overall good health or degrades them probably depends on the age of the female dog and the relative risk of various diseases in the different breeds. 

On the positive side, spaying female dogs
• If done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common malignant tumors in female dogs 
• Nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs 
• Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas 
• Removes the very small risk (≤0.5%) from uterine, cervical, and ovarian tumors 

On the negative side, spaying female dogs 

• If done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in larger breeds with a poor prognosis 
• Increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of>5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
• Triples the risk of hypothyroidism
• Increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
• Causes urinary “spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs
• Increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
• Increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs spayed before puberty
• Doubles the small risk (<1%)>
• Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations 

One thing is clear – much of the spay/neuter information that is available to the public is unbalanced and contains claims that are exaggerated or unsupported by evidence. Rather than helping to educate pet owners, much of it has contributed to common misunderstandings about the health risks and benefits associated of spay/neuter in dogs.

The traditional spay/neuter age of six months as well as the modern practice of pediatric spay/neuter appear to predispose dogs to health risks that could otherwise be avoided by waiting until the dog is physically mature, or perhaps in the case of many male dogs, foregoing it altogether unless medically necessary.

The balance of long-term health risks and benefits of spay/neuter will vary from one dog to the next. Breed, age, and gender are variables that must be taken into consideration in conjunction with non-medical factors for each individual dog. Across-the-board recommendations for all pet dogs do not appear to be supportable from findings in the veterinary medical literature.

Pointers in Mexico

Oscar Chavez has posted a video of his FT pointers on YouTube. Nice dogs...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Johnny Crockett

NC 3X CH Johnny Crockett with his trainer/handler W. C. Kirk.

Johnny Crockett was born on July 20th, 1964 in a litter bred by Claud Patterson of Mt. Pleasant, Texas by Wonsover's Crockett Jed X Patterson's Flying Lady. His handler, W.C. Kirk of Bowie, Texas, got "Boy" at about four months of age. He was owned during his Derby year by John S. Fisher of Garland, Texas. Hank Sheely became a owner of the dog early in 1966 . W.C. Kirk, his wife Mary, and Hank Sheely nurtured the development of the young dog.

He was small for a male setter – only about 34 lbs., but with tons of bottom and grit. He is renowned among setter enthusiasts as he was the last setter to win the National Bird Dog Championship, which he won in 1970 under his handler W.C. Kirk for owner Hank Seeley. ”Boy” is the only setter ever to win the Purina Top Field Trial Dog Award, and the only setter to win multiple all-age championships with heats longer than one hour since 1946.

Ed Soph developed and promoted the Crockett dogs in Texas. The line's foundation sire was Kid Crockett, who produced Eugene Crockett, who produced Eugene Crockett II. The Crocketts had a big impact on the setter breed as a whole. The Crockett line was built on Eugene M. linebred dogs with some Mississippi Zev blood added. By all accounts he was a thrilling dog to watch.. a great dog, with a ton of heart.

Editor William F. Brown when writing about Johnny Crockett’s performance at Grand Junction in the 1970 Christmas Issue of the American Field noted:

“It was not an easy assignment dog and handler faced. The going was rigorous, the footing difficult in places, but most worrisome was the fact that birds had been touchy on occasion, inactive a great deal of the time, inclined to tuck themselves away in sheltered places. The first week of running birds had been noted to flush well ahead of the dogs without provocation and fly into inaccessible recesses… Only a dog obsessed with finding birds, determined in his quest, oblivious of punishing cover could hope for success.
“Johnny Crockett soon proved he had the tools. He searched industriously, handled and got some results early...his fox-like gait indicative of the ‘route-goer’ got him through the grueling race. But it was his quail contacts at the very end of his long heat that earned him the title… he wound up with nine contacts and a back of his bracemate...” 

After an examination revealed that he had a malignant brain tumor "Boy" went to Canada to live out his last days in the household of his handler, W. C. Kirk. Johnny Crocket died in Canada on July 24, 1972. He was eight years old.

Before his death, his owner, Hank Seeley, had semen collected and frozen, which produced a litter of pups in 1980 - eight years after his death. His production record shows him to be the sire of 40 field trial winners with 147 wins. Among his descendants are the notable setters CH Crockett's New Horizon, CH See Johnny Run, RU-CH High Definition, and CH Jetsetter, among many others. His influence continues to be felt after more than 35 years. And setter people are waiting for another great dog to win the National.

Johnny Crockett was inducted into the Bird Dog Hall of Fame in 2008.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A nice old gun is made new

Note: Though I posted a bit on this gun earlier this year, I thought to fill in a little more background...

Though I am certainly not a collector of shotguns, I have been interested in some makers' work and am agnostic to country of origin, owning American, English, Scottish, Spanish, German and Italian arms over the years. 

In particular, I have been interested in an American firm - Schoverling, Daly and Gales of New York - importers and sellers of the famous Charles Daly guns early in the last century. Of these guns the most well respected are the guns made for SD&G by H. Lindner of Suhl.  When Clair Kofoed called me and said that a friend had a 'hard used' 20 gauge, 28" Damascus barreled Lindner Daly I was interested, and when I met Clair in Southern Oregon for a chukar hunt, I saw and bought the gun. It was tired, the wood scarred and worn and below the metal in places - not saveable. But the barrels were superb bright inside, poorly blued (Ack!) on the outside, but in excellent condition, the proper thickness for safe shooting. and stamped with H. A. Lindner's easily recognized maker's mark... the initials HAL over crossed pistols on the barrels near the flats.

On my annual trip to the American Custom Gunmaker's and Firearms Engraver's Guild of America exhibit in Reno, I brought the gun along to consult with people who are experts in the resurrection of fine guns. Long story made shorter, I left the gun with Dennis Potter for assessment and repair, bought a decent stick of Turkish walnut from Steve Heilmann, and arranged with Sam Welch, Pete Mazur and Gary Goudy to recut the engraving, refinish the metal, and restock the gun, respectively. Below is the excellent result. Click on photos for an enlarged view

This little gun (about 5-1/2 lbs.) is fun to carry and shoot, and has accounted for a number of doves and quail. It is 'right' for me. I thank Dennis, Sam, Pete, and Gary for their usual excellent work in resurrecting a fine old gun for another 100 plus years of service. 

A bit more on letting a dog relocate on its own...

In an interview on the stunning new Field Trial website, Strideway, winning cover dog trial owner, trainer and handler, Joe McCarl, made the following comment...

"It’s critical to let the dog figure out how to handle game. After all, I can’t smell the bird so how can I tell the dog where to stop? I have had some judges tell me they don’t like a dog self-relocating before the flush. I disagree, I want the dog pinning the bird, not pointing where it was feeding a few minutes ago and suffering an unproductive."

The value of ground time and wild birds... no substitute.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A plea to defeat AB 1634

I swiped this - with the best of intentions - from Steve Bodio's blog. A plea for help to defeat California's proposed mandatory spay and neuter legislation, AB 1634...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I just returned from NW Nevada where I spent five days camping in a remote spot, ungrazed (for about 10 years). It was covered by sage brush, grasses and forbs - full and lush despite the pressure from wild horses and antelope. I flushed many sage grouse, and the country looked well watered and green.

I'll add some pictures soon.