This is what she looked like when we picked her up. Doesn't she look like the biggest bad ass of the litter?
These are her parents, both canine and human. Daddy dog comes from a long line of tracking dogs so I figured, if nothing else, Sage will have a good nose.
Sage is truly my best friend. She with me on all my outdoor adventures.
And of course, she hunts:
Another very difficult chore was getting Sage used to shooting. Per Steve, I learned that Goldens are much "softer" than Labs due to years of breeding them as house dogs and not working dogs. They are much more timid about new things and have a tendency to rely on their handlers to a much greater degree. I learned this lesson on an early season teal hunt with two buddies, one 10 month old lab, and my little 5 month old Sage. The hunt went like this. We knew a pack of 50 or so teal were enjoying a nice little slough just off the river. The plan was to walk in intentionally spooking the birds with the hope that they would come back. The plan worked. We as we snuck in, the pack of blue-wings picked up almost immediately and began to circle the slough. After a few passes, they eventually dropped low enough for a quality shot and we opened fire. The first volley wasn't so bad. We dropped two ducks, shooting only twice. The lab went bounding for the first bird and, with an extremely proud father watching, my baby went out after the second bird. As the dogs were in the field, however, the second waive of birds came flying over our heads and we cut lose again, this time each emptying our guns. We ended up dropping three more birds but the second round of 9 shots really spooked my little girl. Despite her being in a state of panic from all the shots and not knowing what to do with three more birds on the water, little Sage brought back the first duck of her life after quite a bit of coaxing and praise. I was the proudest father ever, but Sage was not so happy. Back at my side, my little girl let me know how nervous she was from all the loud noises and confusion by jumping up on me, trembling and whimpering with a look of "Dad, get me the f*ck out of here." The lab of course was not phased at all and was running around the field in circles like a little kid that had just chugged 5 Mountain Dews. While very proud of my girl , I was devastated thinking she would never want to be around guns again.
On the way home from the hunt, I had a lengthy discussion with Steve and we discussed the temperment of Goldens versus Labs and how I could teach Sage to associate the blast of the shotgun with a successful retrieve and praise, not fear. The plan going forward was simply to be patient and let Sage dictate the hunt. I was out there for her, not me. I felt like I should have known that from the start.
For the rest of early teal season, when Sage and I went out, we simply watched birds with no shooting. Sage began to learn that "watch 'em" meant birds are in the sky and she'd look up. Here's a shot of Sage intently focused on a pack of teal that buzzed by us several times:
I think all of our recon missions without firing shots really helped Sage settle down in the field. I also think "watch 'em" has really helped Sage focus on the sky when we're hunting. Several times this season, Sage spotted birds before me which led to a successful retrieve. This is Sage saying "pay attention Dad!"