Let’s Read: Problem Gun Dogs

In 1992, 179 pages of brave words conspired to escape the shackles of reality. Their plan did not work. As they were pulled back from the beyond, they were fused with a dog trainer’s diary of the same size to occupy a single book in a maddening, impossible arrangement of phrases and ideas. I can think of no other reason Problem Gun Dogs could exist.

The book jacket claims Bill Tarrant “has won practically every award given by the Dog Writer’s Association of America.” This sounded impressive, so I Googled their organization and found it does exist and they charge a $20 submission fee to award-seeking dog writers. Even assuming Bill won every time he submitted something, this accreditation cost him over four hundred dollars. As the saying goes, there is definitely glory in acclaimed dog writing, but all the actual money is in unacclaimed dog writing.

It’s tough to know where to start when talking about Problem Gun Dogs since there are definitely chapters and sections, but Bill Tarrant speaks in a mad combination of country dialect and gun dog jargon. He’s prone to long digressions about dogs he once knew and loved, how they fucked, the bitches they whipped, and I’m just now realizing I should have established Bill has never said a single thing without making it weird. When Bill asks a waitress for more milk, he definitely says, “Could you froth another pump of breast juice into this old dog hollerin’ hole of mine, toots? And extra creamy on the drip, thank you.” For instance, here is how he discusses the social hierarchy of a pack of hunting hounds:

We all know you’re not going to get through a book about female dogs without calling a few of them ordinary bitches. “Bitches” isn’t hurtful when a dog trainer uses it as a clinical term, kind of like when a doctor calls you an Eskimo. But why did Bill bring up how his sexual urges mirror that of dogs? Until I know more about you, that doesn’t help me understand dogs at all, Bill. Do they watch their wives with strangers, Bill? Is the humiliation a part of it, or is that something they’re afraid to let themselves think about too much? Bill, in the hypothetical, I’m an amateur pheasant hunter who bought your book because I keep accidentally shooting my dogs. So why did you bring up how the bitches make love like me, Bill? Should I… Bill, s-should this boner be here or not?

If I seem addled, it’s because I’ve just read Problem Gun Dogs. Here, let me help you get in the same state of mind.

The jargon is impenetrable and the instructions are unclear, and when Bill tries to explain something conversationally references his own life experiences which maybe aren’t as universal as he thinks. For instance, you know when your dog lays down and you need to pump it? Think of it like in grade school when you received your ritual beatings. Just put your expanded hand on its flank, then pump and pump until he balloons. Simple, right? And while you’re here answering questions for me, is it illegal to publish instructions on how to jerk off an English Setter? Because I… that has to be what I just typed, right?

There are a lot of awkward phrasing choices in Problem Gun Dogs Bill didn’t have to make. When science invents a way for horny dogs to write erotic fiction, you and I will be disgusted and confused. Bill Tarrant will be filing a plagiarism lawsuit. For instance, in his section on Endurance, a common word no one needs an explanation for, there are no dog fitness tips, but hundreds of words about how dog and hunter want, no desperately need, the thrusting and pumping– they’ve got to take it all, take every last inch on those wet, moonlit nights.

Let’s move on to something less strange like how to select the perfect duck dog:

The main problem you’re going to run into with the genitals and tits of your hunting companion is that they take a lot of abuse if they bash into things. It’s the kind of tip that’s so obvious one has to wonder why the author even added a Teats and Testicles section, much less why he kept it after the entirety of it ended up being, “them long balls are gonna take a real bruisin’ and beatin’ from the hardships of my kind of pumping.”

The book does have some illustrations, but like the elongated titties on a Pointer, they are rarely related to what Bill is or should be talking about. This one, for example, is a random picture of a dog watching its owner get ready to just fucking obliterate a pheasant. I mean, at this range, he’s bringing home a sandwich bag of cordite feather soup. If they want to get a full meal out of this bird they’re going to have to spoon it out of the dog’s bath water. I’m not an expert, though; this is only the 17th book on horny dog hunting I’ve read. And if I’m being honest, I barely know what Bill is talking about most of the time.

Can you understand that? Or this?

It is only 48 pages into the book and Bill already assumes we speak fluent Moonshined Gun Dog. This looks like a speech written to try to get a sign language interpreter fired. Which dog writing award did this win? Least Sense Anyone Has Fucking Ever Made (Non Stroke Division)? What’s Bill going to write about next? Maybe how he hates when uncredentialed strangers knock on his door and ask his wife if they can train dogs on his farm? Maybe a weird poem about that? Oh no, Bill! Bill, no! I was kidding!

D-did my cursed joke somehow cause this? This shit is crazy! This man stopped his book to showcase a two page poem about ungrateful strangers, again with no credentials, who are going to want to tromp your forest and stalk your pond with their dogs. What are you going to say? No? Yes, but I’m going to write poetry about this later?

This can’t possibly happen to Bill often enough he had to turn to poetry. This is a cowardly way of telling one specific duck hunter to fuck off. When local bait shop owner, Butch Goodwin, bought this book to support his friend Bill’s dog writing career he saw this poem and said, “What the fuck? This passive aggressive little bitch. If he didn’t want me pond stalkin’ on his land, he could have just sa– oh, here’s another section on dog tits!”

It’s hard to tell if Bill is full of shit or if he simply leads a uniquely insane and sad life, but here he is casually dropping the fact that his dogs are always running away and at least one of them left him and didn’t come back for years. And he thinks this is a trend! He thinks the future is one where more and more dogs will mysteriously vanish for long periods of time! I wish I could tell you more, but this is all the information he gives. Bill, what do I do with this bolting knowledge? Should I stop shooting birds to protect the future of dog and owner companionship? If I see your dog backpacking through Europe should I call to tell you she’s okay? Do you need the number of a fence guy?

Let’s get serious for a second. We should talk about Bite.

When you’re buying a hunting dog, try to find one whose upper jaw lines up with her lower jaw. If they don’t, she will… hold on, this can’t be right. Tear her babies apart during childbirth? He can’t possibly mea– no, he mentions it a second time. He definitely thinks the main trait to look for in a dog’s mouth is “least likely to rupture puppy bellies.” W-why do so many strange things keep happening to your dogs, Bill?

I wanted to show this somber picture of professional trainer Tom Lovett’s dogs taking some time to honor him and his dead grouse because this next story is very sad. It’s about Bill’s dead dog, but neither of the ones from the book’s dedication (Pooder and Renegade Pepe) or the countless who are missing and presumed bolted (unknown). And it’s not a story about shared love or bird conquest. It’s a story about how you don’t know what you’ve got until it incredibly, impossibly drops dead eating its evening meal like it’s been shot in the brain.

“There are a lot of dead dog stories,” says Bill after irreverently describing the impact of his dead terrier on the carpet. He died alone after a lifetime of rejection, which brings me to a point I’ve been struggling to bring up– this book contains a lot of creative ways to make a dog feel pain.

Bill admires professional trainer Delmar Smith’s ability to bash a dog in the face with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker prying the fingernails off a missing tourist. But even when you do it with the style and finesse of professional trainer Delmar Smith, whipping a dog with a rope knot is sort of barbaric. Come on, Bill. There’s got to be a more sophisticated way to torture a bi– wait, no! Bill, I wasn’t being serious! Oh no, I’ve made another terrible mistake!

Oh good, here’s something unpleasant you can do without rodeo training. You simply tie a nerve cord to your dog’s clove hitch above the carpal joint and it should cause the searing pain you need it to feel so you can properly murder a duck. What’s next, Bill? Are you going to chain a bunch of these dogs together by their nerve endings and abandon them? Oh fuck, why do I keep doing this? Bill, I didn’t know I had this terrible power! Past Bill, please stop putting my dark ideas into your book!

So I don’t know how this happened, but my careless jokes have somehow manifested themselves in the history of this dog author and his long line of missing and deceased pets. These bitches are furious, in screaming nerve pain, abandoned by the master they honored, and I’m worried I did it. Because what’s more likely– someone willingly admitting they did this in a book, or a comedy sorcerer putting an evil time curse on me?

Let me see if I can somehow reverse this. Electric shocks are bad. Electric shocks are a thing you don’t do to problem gun dogs.

Okay, I think it’s working! The pet weapons seem to have been downgraded to a single flyswatter, and Bill is strongly against the electric torture of problem gun dogs. Like very against it. In fact, Bill thinks electricity is ruining outdoor sporting. I think I might have overcorrected. Did Bill just call men who use fish detectors brain-dead Mother Nature rapists? Oh my God, I need to figure out how to calibrate these awful powers. Let’s try to get back to an acceptable level of madness. How about, I don’t know, we put a pigeon in a paper bag until it goes to sleep? And then we clip its toenails until the bird is bloodless? Yes, bloodless! Then we freeze it and place the wretched thing on a magic table! We shall call this sacred rite the Introduction to the Bird!

I mean, that’s nonsense. Impossible nonsense that could never be anything for any reason. Surely this will prove I never had these absurd powers to begin with. I mean, can you imagine thinking I could send ironic darkness back in time and have it manifest itself as a sincere dog torture manual? Ha ha ha ha…

Oh no, it’s real. It’s all real! What else have I done? What unspeakable horrors am I responsible for!? Will I, in this very moment, cause How to Good-bye Depression If you constrict anus 100 times every day. Malarkey? or Effective way? to have existed by saying Problem Gun Dogs is crazier than an ass kegel manual written in broken English? How do I stop it!?

16 replies on “Let’s Read: Problem Gun Dogs”

“Consarnit, these dag gum machines are the work of sissies and wizards too cowardly to pluck fish out of the river with their very large, virile man-teeth! Nature rapists, I tells ya!” says the guy more than happy to torture his trusting animal companions into doing all the heavy lifting for him. I have to imagine that any tech above and including a typewriter was too triggering for him, so he wrote this book by screaming at his wife until her tears landed in just the right patterns on the page to form enough words to send out to that nancy city-boy publisher who ain’t never worked a day in his life!

Dear Mssrs. Baby, Brockway, and Mme. Bugg: if I wasn’t currently unemployed, I would argue that I am underpaying for all of this. Also, I know from history that you are a connoisseur of the bizarre Seanbaby, but this seems like such an obscurity that it would fly under even your impeccable radar.

Thank you.

It’s an interesting curve, dog ownership. Go from zero to one dog, you become exponentially more friendly and lovable in the eyes of others. But when guys breed and train dozens if not hundreds of dogs, they become creepy biological engineer cenobite rangers who tie exposed nerves together and train dogs to fear the bird they fetch through occult table ritual

Please don’t say that. After reading this, I’m not sure that’s something the author hasn’t said about a part of a prize bitch’s anatomy, and said so in an uncomfortably loving way at that.


I find it difficult to believe that this book was written AFTER the invention of the home computer. I figured the technology he was complaining about is steam engines and cotton gin.

Reasonably speaking, that is why this is Upsetting Day. We ARE trying to find humor in the horror, if only because… Well, otherwise, it’s JUST sad.

Ever heard of a spit dog? They were bred to turn cooking spits. Their front and back legs were different lengths. They’re extinct now. Pretty much every time humanity decides an animal is useful, we torture it to train it to do what we want it for.

And I guarantee you we used to do it to each other too, in the days of ubiquitous slavery. You can’t make a good hunting dog without breaking him of a lot of bad habits and training new ones into him, and the same goes for a ‘good’ a human slave. They would have to be ‘broken’ of the idea that they are in any way your equal.

But! We’ve (almost entirely) moved beyond that as a species. Slavery is officially Not Okay in most of the world. And people are starting to think of animals as having innate value and rights as well. I’m confident in another hundred years or so this type of animal training will be punishable by law.

Deceptive title. Not a lick of information on how to properly train your dog on the proper use of fire arms.

Yet when I imagine all this happening to that smug sniggering mutt in Duck Hunt, I don’t feel so bad…

Damnit, Seanbaby. I was all set to make a joke about “Professional trainer Tom Lovett takes a day off and hunts five gun dogs…” and then you went and broke my heart with the rest of this book.

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