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Training My New Fishing Companion

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  • Training My New Fishing Companion

    Hey Y'all,

    My name is Nathan and I used to post on this site sporadically a while back and have been a long time lurker. I wanted to reach out to this community because I feel like there must be a lot of knowledge here on this subject and also because many people here are very open with sharing experience. Last weekend I picked up my first puppy and have high hopes that he will become a long time fly fishing companion. He is a eight week old Blue Heeler named Tico and he seems to be quite sharp for his age. I was hoping that some people here would be open with advice about what has or has not worked for them as far as training puppies in the past to be great fishing companions. I am primarily a wade fisherman and the streams I frequent often are the Upper McKenzie, the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette, the Metolius, and the Big Wood in Idaho. I also fish for steelhead in unnamed coastal steams in the winter. I am most curious about training the puppy to know when is or is not appropriate times to be in the water, how to keep him safe, etc.

    If you find time to respond I really appreciate it and I hope everyone has great spring fishing!!

  • #2
    Pics or it didn't happen. Seriously, who doesn't like puppy pictures?

    Don't have much to add, since my dogs are barely fit for human company, but I'm sure you'll get some great advice.
    Support the Deschutes River Alliance: Cooler, cleaner H2O for the lower Deschutes River


    • #3
      I'm glad someone started this thread because while I don't have a pup yet, I imagine I soon will. I've fished in the past around dogs that want to chase the fly line into the water, think my bobber, errr, indicator is a chew toy, etc. I also don't know if I should pay someone for training or do it myself -- I've never had a dog before but have been around them all my life. Nothing better than a well-behaved pup!
      Last edited by jmwfish224; 04-19-2017, 02:27 PM. Reason: Poor spelling


      • #4
        Blue Heelers/Australian Cattle dogs are incredibly smart and active dogs, as many here know, my best fishing buddy was a BH pup (Tilly - she made her final river crossing last Thanksgiving). Best thing is to have some good training already in hand before hitting streams with him (come when called / whistled to etc, sit, stay, basic stuff). Tilly started fishing with me on small streams in Virginia when she was about 3 to 4 months - I would recommend small relatively gentle flow streams to begin with (ie, not the upper Mac), so he can learn water, feel of a current, that sort of thing. Dogs tend to have a great sense about these things, and what they can handle, so he will catch on quick. Tilley (and Cody my other pup), love just wading on the edges, but your pup may have a desire to go where you go, so you need to be aware and train him to not come to you in a deep and faster current. I tend to fish in spots where the pups could run off and be free, away from highways/roads, private property. Always keep them under control around other folks campsites. He is going to want to chase stuff, it is in his blood, let him, he needs to run, he needs to work, but he must (and will) return when called/whistled to.

        Hope this is of some use. By the way, is your BH pure bred, and if so, may I ask where you got him?

        Have fun with your pup, no better companion.



        • #5
          Congrats on being a Dog Dad! I'm definitely a better Dad to my non-furry kids because of the dogs I've had in my life.

          I second what Canuck said about just basic commands and smaller waters and being away from the road. Coastal rivers in the mid to upper reaches in winter flows would scare me the most with a pup.

          I've had two dogs in my life. First furry dude (Toughy) just got it. He would lay down at the exact spot I waded in and watch me. He'd sit at my feet and I swear he'd watch the indy or dry fly with me. Second furry dude (Big Head) was a nut. He'd chase anything. He'd roll in anything that smelled. He'd try to get to me no matter how fast the water was. One time he swam through 4-5 ft waves to get to me in the surf. I can't count how many times he disappeared for hours. It's the worst when a dog takes off: First you are pissed. Then you get worried and freak out on the verge of tears. Then when it comes strolling out of the woods you are pissed again! It wasn't until his old age that Big Head became a good fishing dog.

          Take your time and sort of separate the two things at first to minimize frustration. Are you GOING fishing or are your TAKING your pup fishing? They will probably be two separate things at first. Maybe run/swim him like crazy for an hour before you start fishing. Give him a rawhide and wade in just a little slowly increasing the distance. Leaving a familiar blanket or leaving your pack where you want him to hang is a good idea. It gives them sort of a home-base to return to after exploring a bit. Also remember the snake factor on the East side.

          Met sort of sucks in the busy season having your dog off leash unless you are below Lower Bridge. Too many hikers, runners, and families.

          Man I miss Big Head. He passed in January after 13 years of fishing together. Give the furry dude a belly rub for me.


          • #6
            Congrats on the new buddy! I love heelers there super smart and always willing to please. But my heeler was a notorious eater of bad things, so living in Oregon if you take the dog steelheading keep a special eye out for salmon poisoning, if you catch it it treatable but if you are not aware it can be fatal. I leave my Airedale Ruby at the house when I hit the coast. Have fun with your new partner they'll never let you down.


            • #7
              Hey Everyone,

              Thanks for all of the advice. Crawbugger, thanks for pointing our the salmon poisoning. It was something that I was aware of but in all honestly hadn't crossed my mind since I picked up Tico. I think this year I will be foregoing a lot of actual fishing for training time on the water. I know that making sure that Tico can handle himself in the current and navigate the forest and the stream are more important than getting my casts in. In reallity this is more interesting to me at this particular juncture anyhow and may actually improve my fishing as I will be observing streams and working with Tico instead of focusing on fishing. I also plan on visiting some smaller streams earlier on just to get him used to being in and around moving water and hopefully by the time my annual trip to Sun Valley to fish the Big Wood in August rolls around we will have a foundation laid.

              Canuck, my pup is pure bred. He is from a breeder in Penn Valley, California. The are called Wendigo Cattle Dogs. They were excellent to work with and I thought the price was very, very reasonable. I want to rescue my next pup, but something in me wanted a blue heeler for quite some time and I wanted the experience of raising this one from the get go. He's been home for six days now and is beginning to feel quite comfortable here, although that is also leading to the puppy starting to come out in him. Thanks to everyone who has chimed in so far. Here is a picture:


              • PhilR
                PhilR commented
                Editing a comment
                Nice looking pup. Hope you have lots of fun together

              • Canuck from KS
                Canuck from KS commented
                Editing a comment
                He's a beauty. Thanks for the info. Torn between a rescue and a breeder, sort of want to rescue, but the unknown temperament issues concern me. Anyways, have a great time with Tico, and keep him busy, they need to WORK! If you know anyone who has cattle (or sheep), ask if you can let Tico in with them, it is a joy to watch them, even if they don't know what they are doing.