We had a bit of a long day today, but had a pretty successful training experience up in Berkley, MA, up at Hill & Hollow. (They don't have their own website, but Walter Cruz has some pics on his site. Walter, incidentally, is one of the gentlemen of the pointing dog world and a regular fixture at hunt tests in the northeast.) For those in southeast MA, Hill & Hollow is a great place to train -- there are a variety of fields, the birds are relatively inexpensive, and Ann Marie raises some great-flying quail.
We had planned to drive up last night after work, stay with Jen + Dennis, and then head the 20 or so minutes down to Hill & Hollow today. But between getting delayed on the subway, feeling exhausted, and a good-sized storm, I decided to get up slightly earlier this morning and do all the driving in a single day. The plan was to run Momo & Sally together so that they could both get practice honoring their bracemate -- and for Momo to keep practicing his steady-to-fall.
I had of course also brought Mr. 200mph and Jen + Dennis had also brought their four-month-old, Tucker. Tucker is still very much a pup, but Jen + Dennis have already started working him on obedience and basic fieldwork... and it shows. While his little pudgy puppy butt occasionally gets distracted, he was looking great... like Sally, he's maybe not the most intense dog you'll ever see, but he seems to have a pretty calm temperament and handle nicely. (We gather that Sally's pup, Raven, that Jen + Dennis are also keeping may come to rival Mr. Enthusiasm for intensity.) This is a great pic of Tucker pointing a quail while Dennis and Tyler, their oldest son, move in to steady and staunch him up. Tucker is Tyler's project, or vice versa, time will tell. In any case, Tyler was learning as much as Tucker -- and both were doing a nice job.
In the interests of showing some nice pics of Mr. 200mph, here's one from his high-speed run of the day. For a wicked fast dog, he handles really nicely -- and while he still occasionally does goofy stuff like try to snap at a bird, he is generally very staunch and now very close to being steady-to-fall. He snapped into this point and held it nicely while I took pictures and we figured out what to do. Unfortunately it was a bird that we'd had to hand-catch before and so I knew it wouldn't fly -- and so it was a question of trying to get him to stay put while I hand-grabbed it again, tossed it, fired the blank pistol, and then tried to command him to stay (and not chase it down again). He's a stud who really processes each run (and the corrections you give him) pretty well as he does it. And his excitement is contagious.
The highlight though was watching Momo and Sally work together. We tried to simulate a hunt test by making them walk a backcourse -- and then making each dog honor the other through the retrieve (assuming that Roy Orbison and Ray Charles, aka Dennis + Andrew, could actually shoot the birds [safely]). Momo has really only had a little training practice honoring Kyler -- and so while he knows Sally and has been warmed into honoring Jozsi on his walks in the park, this was going to be the first time that I tried to just let him do it himself without hollering a 'whoa' command to him. Both dogs did well. There were a couple of occasions when the two dogs were running fairly close together when we weren't entirely sure if Sally was honoring Momo or had picked up her own scent trail -- but she certainly never stole a point and it certainly looked as though as soon as Momo froze up, she immediately stopped. In any case, and in addition to a couple of close honors like this one, she also threw a couple of honors at a good 30yds. After the first couple of runs, when I just 'toned' his e-collar as soon as he could see Sally on point, Momo seemed to grasp it. And threw some nice patient honors as a result. He is still a little 'creepy' and also broke on his final steady-to-fall -- but that's what the next six months of training are for!
Depending on whether there are any scratches at the Pointer Associates field trial, we may run Jozsi in his first real trial on Saturday up at Flaherty. If there aren't, we will head up to Stewart on Thursday to hunt and will then head up to ForestKing on Saturday evening before heading to the VCCNE 3rd Annual Pheasant Hunt on Sunday.
In other training-related news, SmartDogs has a couple of potentially interesting books for us to look out for. And Anna has had a few breakthroughs with the troubled Ziggy.