We had another beautiful day of training up at TMT today with the snow still relatively light and ice-free. We are genuinely blessed to have access to Tom's property when he's closed to run the two monsters, put out some training birds, and maybe get lucky and round up something that a previous set of clients has missed.
As usual, I put the Mominator down first to let him stretch his legs -- doubting that we'd find anything that previous guests and the hawk population had left behind. He'd been out the car for 2 mins before he froze up. And I'm looking and looking. And realize that for one of the very few times, he's actually false-pointing a hotspot that had housed a bird relatively recently (complete with a few small feathers and some fairly fresh blood; the cold and the small depression the bird had been in were clearly holding some pretty dense scent.). And so after I release him, he is like a dog-possessed. Now Momo is always hunting, but it would be unusual for him to ever score a '10' on a hunt test for his hunting drive. But he was clearly now on a '9'. We trogged up a hill and I found him standing tall on a rooster pheasant in a brushpile which, once it saw me, bolted on foot. Sadly, we never found it again. But the Mominator was most definitely in the mood. But we came back around to the truck and I started to load the blank-pistol and assemble various bits-and-bobs before getting Mr. Enthusiasm out for his sprintfest. And I see this, 10 yards from the truck... Mominator all stretched out pointing a chukar. So I grabbed my gun again and Momo was steady-to-fall and brought the bird right back to hand. Awesome. Actually his biggest hurdle in bringing it back directly to hand is that his butt is wiggling so much with excitement that his head moves, too.
After last week's experiment with pigeon poles and (broken) fishing line, I had decided to try some flight limiters (string tresses and a 1ft length of rubber house for weight) on the chukar we brought out with hopefully just enough weight to hopefully get them to fly a dozen yards or so. Needless to say, all chukars are not created equal and some flew further than others. None were lost however. I decided to get Jozsi on a check-cord and pinch-collar again instead of jumping back directly into the e-collar and he handled his first two birds great -- and as importantly he seemed to have internalized that once he's cast off again in a different direction, he was not to come back around and try and work the bird he'd just been on. Progress. But one thing I did notice was that when he was brought back to locate one of those two initial birds he'd already worked, even though it had flushed and was now someplace else, he was flagging his points and may even have blinked one of those birds (whereas he'd then go ahead and set up nicely on a third bird he'd never pointed before). And so while I had only 'toned' him once all day, I was feeling like I'd just screwed up my dog from a week ago.
So I put him up, took the limiters off the three birds, resolving to return one to the coop, and put the other two down again for Mominator to run. But I also figured that I should just get Mr. Enthusiasm out and let him run around and at least have his day end enthusiastically -- and if it went well, great. And so off they went... and perhaps, of course, Jozsi found the first bird and stood just fine. The picture is of a poor, slightly torn Momo... I hadn't called 'whoa' for him, but to reassure Jozsi about his point... but he had stopped, caught sight of Jozsi's point behind him, but knew he wasn't supposed to move. (If you can see it in the picture, Jozsi was wearing his roading harness from Christies for the first time just to get used to it before we start asking him to drag some cables.The bird, incidentally, is about 2ft in front of Jozsi's nose; he is actually making a really cool sideways downward glance without moving his head.) I got the bird up, and brought it down, also figuring that if necessary I would let Jozsi go hunt dead and mouth it to keep him psyched. But he saw that bird hit the snow and was off after it.
We then worked the second bird and while I was little nervous that Jozsi had come close to it but not given any indication of scenting it, I was at least a little happier that he hadn't obviously blinked it. Momo ran right up alongside it and came to an immediate frosty-frozen U-turn. This caught Jozsi's attention who then barreled up and managed to catch himself before blowing the bird. To his credit, Momo held solid despite the incoming vizsla-missile. Again, Momo stood still while Jozsi bolted as the bird hit the snow... but overshot it on the way out and Momo got in a speedy retrieve. It was good to end the day seeing evidence that Jozsi was clearly not entirely turned off by gamebirds and that, in fact, a little unintentional fraternal competition might have improved things for both boys.
The thing I realised in the truck on the way home was that I had seen Jozsi's flagging points elsewhere... when we had used birds in launchers. And so I am beginning to believe that he is a smart enough dog with a good enough nose to realise that if a gamebird also smells of fishing line or duct-tape or aluminum something isn't quite right and so it doesn't trigger his rigid point instinct. Now we need to get some training time on quail so he can point a bunch of birds that won't fly super far away.