Out of Bounds

Of Dogs and Governors

Taking the dog out to a gravel pit and shooting it is never the correct way to handle an unmanageable dog

By Rob Breeding

I’m not an expert dog trainer. I might not even be a good dog trainer, though if so, my inadequacies have been masked by the exceptional natural talent of the three bird dogs I’ve partnered with.

Wherever I land on the dog trainer spectrum, however, there are a few things I know.

  • Other than the rare psychotic canine, most behavioral problems can be traced back to mistakes by the dog’s human.
  • Most of these problems can be fixed if the human is persistent and caring enough to work through the animal’s struggles. By 3 or 4, most dogs will have worked out their kinks, anyway.
  • In those rare instances the problems can’t be fixed, the correct response is to re-home the dog in a situation that works for pup and human alike.

Oh, and one more thing. Taking the dog out to a gravel pit and shooting it in the face is never the correct way to handle an unmanageable dog. That sounds more like some dystopian, “Of Mice and Men” influenced depravity and a test of the human capacity to be a decent human.

Kristi Noem has failed that test, catastrophically. And she put it in writing.

I don’t know what the future holds for Noem, the governor of South Dakota, and until the contents of her tell-all biography were leaked, a rising star in the Republican Party. The public’s tolerance for the untoward behavior of elected officials has come a long way since the White House Press Corps kept quiet about President John F. Kennedy’s infidelities both before and after being elected president. Something tells me this is going to cut a little harder for Noem. 

Americans may have resigned themselves to looking the other way when we learn our favorite politician has failed to live up to their marital vows — Noem has been fending off her own scandals in this department as well — but shooting your dog, because it killed some chickens and at 14 months, hadn’t yet sorted out how to be fully trained, mature bird dog?

I don’t think she’s going to get a pass on this one.

Instead, you find someone responsible who has a place for the dog, but no chickens. Or you contact one of the organizations created to handle problem dogs of particular breeds. Especially hunting or other breeds that are naturally high energy.

I know of such organizations for my breed: English setters. When I’ve been at a place where I’m considering a new dog, I usually take a look, just in case. I’ve never seriously considered adopting one of these setters, but only because most of these dogs come with warnings that they are frightened by gunfire and are not suitable for hunting.

Hunting is a prerequisite for canine admission into my family unit, at least at this stage of my life. But maybe later, when I reach the point where I’m remembering hunting more than I’m hunting, I’ll be able to re-home some of those wild setters who didn’t quite fit in with their initial human family. 

For now, however, leaving a young and energetic, albeit misfiring, hunting dog behind on just about every open day in the fall would be too difficult on dog and human alike.

As for Noem, this week she trotted out the predictable political damage-control campaign. She’s now arguing that shooting her dog was necessary, not to protect chickens, but her children. She says the dog, a German wirehaired pointer named Cricket, was a biter. She forgot about this “inconsequential” detail when she wrote her book, however.

So if I’ve got this straight, Noem’s a dog killer who is also forgetful about taking action to protect her children. But her memory can be jogged when she’s facing criticism that threatens to end her political career.

Yeah, right. 

Consider early retirement, Gov. Noem. It looks like the time is right.