by Pat Rock
Fall is the best time to introduce a young terrier to the joys of hunting. Even if you aren’t a hunting type of person, the bonding that takes place between dog and owner is beyond price. The absolute best time to introduce a puppy to field work is in the 12-16 week age, but you can start older puppies and adults, too. Ideally, it should be after the first frost, and on days cool enough not to have to worry about encountering snakes. (In the deep south, that might be never! but in higher latitudes there is not so much risk of encountering a poisonous snake in cold weather).
The biggest advantage of taking a pup in that 12-16 week age bracket is that they are interested in exploring, but have enough caution about unfamiliar places that you have a really prime opportunity to teach a recall. If you stand quietly and let the pup get a ways away from you so you are not readily visible, they can think they are “lost” and when you draw attention to yourself and call, the pup is usually delighted not to be “lost” and will run right to you. Lots of praise and petting and then they are off exploring again. They quickly learn that you are not going to take them away from the fun, as every time they come to you, you cheerfully send them out again. This is the mind-set you want—come back every time you are called; there will be love and cookies, and encouragement to go back to having fun. Lakelands are anything but stupid. If at home you only call them to bring them in the house, or put them away because you are leaving, their nimble brains quickly decide “What’s in it for ME?” You don’t want them to translate “Here” or “Come” with “Game Over.”
If you don’t have access to a wooded area large enough to safely have your dog off lead, consider a ramble through fields. Even some of the dog show venues have adjacent natural areas that the dogs enjoy exploring. Use a long check cord that the dog can drag. You will have the safety of having control of the dog, and the dog will feel free to run. I’m a firm believer that a dog needs to gallop in order to develop the muscles that he needs to trot freely. If you are worried about coat, slap some Mane And Tail or other conditioner on the furnishing before you go out to prevent damage to the coat. When I was hunting English Cockers, many of the field people who also showed would spray PAM on the coats before going afield. A tramp through the woods is good exercise for you, too. Try it; I know your dog will like it and you might, too. Check out the Fall Earthdog Tests, too. Many are located on lovely farms, and I know your Lakeland will find them intriguing.