Monday, February 23, 2009

weekend update #?

We apologize for the time-out in our normal transmission service. But we have a few updates.

This weekend we were down at the Eastern GSP Club Walking Field Trial at the historic English Setter Club grounds in Medford, NJ. Jozsi has his Amateur Derby points, but I wanted to see if he might be able to run against the pros and squeak out an Open win. Kim + Mike were taking their 6mos old puppy, Rogue, to run in the two puppy stakes and had hoped to run Kyler, but she just went into season -- and Jen + Dennis brought Sally to run in the Open and Amateur Limited Gun Dog stakes, and their monster, Tucker, to run in both puppy stakes as well.

The grounds are really nice... and completely fenced in, so while it is still possible to lose your dog at a trial there, the chances of it getting on to a road and into traffic are pretty slim. Mildly reassuring. There's a nice clubhouse there with what turned out to be an essential, efficient woodstove. Saturday's weather was great: cool, breezy, and dry and sunny. Sunday's weather was grey, blustery, with a midday patch of rain that turned to sleet.

Saturday, for us, was a day for watching braces, learning the course, and cheering on friends. I even managed to rent a horse to watch Sally's brace in
Open Gun Dog... and a slightly ornery horse means no free hands to take pictures, sadly. Sally runs great (and I love her), but dogs that have more experience and have been trialed from horseback will sometimes get the jump on her at the break-away. And she was braced with Greta, a firecracker vizsla bred by Michelle Dowd at Broad Run Vizslas, and handled by Bob Seelye... who immediately set out at a blistering pace and most likely found the first bird (although Sally was nicely honoring when everyone got to them). But, as ever, Sally excels on her bird manners... and while it might have been a close race till the bird-field, Sally stood perfectly for a weird flushing bird and then retrieved her subsequent bird directly to hand... and ended up taking 2nd over all. In Amateur Puppy, Tucker ran a good race getting out there, not playing at all as he is wont to do, and ended up with 4th. While the pic is from Sunday, here's Dennis and Tucker. Kim had a nice run with Rogue, as well -- who instinctively knew she wasn't there to play with the other dog either, but to get out there and hunt.

Sunday came around and braces kept getting pushed back -- and we finally got Mr. Enthusiasm out around 12noon just as the rain started. I couldn't have asked for anything more from him, or at least not reasonably. He made the first find and while he broke when the other dog ran through his bird and flushed it, he came back around and found his bird-manners. He ran huge and made four more finds, two of which he held point for at least one minute while I walked up to him, staying steady-to-shot on all four. He ran so hard that we, literally, ran out of course and had to loop back on ourselves to make up the allotted time. He got a big hug and lots of sweet nothings from me. He rocked. But as the picture with the red ribbon says, and even though they had very nice things to say about Mr. Enthusiasm, the judges saw something in another dog and he took second. Even good dogs get beat.

Tucker had another nice run with Dennis on Sunday, taking another 4th, this time in Open Puppy. Kim, too, had a great run with Rogue who is really looking like she could be a barn-burner, especially once she muscles up and gets some more birds under her nose. A little strangely it seemed, Rogue didn't place -- but these were her first trials, too, and is just barely six months old. This pic is of her breaking away for her Open Puppy stake. She looked awesome. Dennis had another great run with Sally on Sunday, which sadly I missed while trying to thaw out -- and took a very close second in Amateur Limited Gun Dog behind Yogurt, the #1 vizsla in the country in 2008, and a dog that has won more trials than all the stakes that me, Dennis, and Kim combined have even entered. The fact that the judges even told him it was close is a tremendous compliment to both Dennis and the lovely Miss Sally Pants.

Kim + Mike + Jaida, and the entire Team Vizsla -- Northern MA chapter, came to stay after the trial so we could go shoot some birds at TMT on Monday morning on their way home. It was cool and chilly, but the chukar were giving off some nice scent. We put Kyler and Momo down together to see if we could get some honoring practice... which we did, as the picture testifies to, but they were vacuuming the fields like pros. After Cedar's accident this fall, he hasn't had a chance to hunt this season -- and while he still has either a pellet or a bone fragment trying to work itself out that is causing him some pain, he was eager to go chase some chukar. And for giggles we put down Rogue so she got get some more bird time, too. She may not have found quail over the weekend, but she certainly found chukar... and actually got the first point of their brace. And once that bird was shot and went down, she was all eager to get it. The future is promising for that little girl.

I wanted Jozsi to get some exercise, but didn't want him to really find birds so we could keep his mind single-tracked on standing still through the gunshot, so I ran him once we'd cleared the fields of all the 'official' birds. He had also sustained a long shallow cut on one of his pads on Friday and so while he shows no signs of any problems when he's running on soft ground, the cut is now opening up a little and so he's being a little tender-footed at home. So, he's getting his foot cleaned regularly and is on prophylatic cephalexin till the end of the week.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


We had a great afternoon today... good company, good dog behavior, and nice weather. We went up to TMT with a friend from work, who is a heck of a shot, and another friend, who is no slouch either.

I realize that Brisztow Jones is feeling a little neglected, but I've apologized several times to her mother for my lack of clarity. Hopefully, we can find a make-up date sometime in the next six weeks. I will say that the ground was wet and slushy, except when you were wading through the heavy, melting snow. So, all on all, Brisztow, you were probably better off staying at home.

In any case, I put Momo down to go find pheasants. I'll be brief and just say that he's really starting to look like a pro. He seems to be getting a little less creepy on point and is most definitely staying put to be sent for a retrieve. He's a little picky about how he picks up a big bird like a pheasant, but made some awesome retrieves on shot, but not killed birds. One of the things with a force-fetched dog is that it shouldn't have an opportunity not to retrieve a bird once it's been sent... which is to say the dog should never get an impression that it's going to have a choice about a retrieve. But in the case of a bird which has been shot, but is not dead, you are potentially asking the dog to make a retrieve on a bird which might still outrun it. I will never worry about a pheasant outrunning Jozsi, but Momo is not Mr. 200mph. Nevertheless, he made great tackles and retrieves on three birds which had been squarely hit, but were still capable of running. Having a dog that will retrieve cripples is a real bonus... and it's great to see him have that confidence.

As this second picture shows, he also made some stylish points -- and got practice at his stop-to-flush. The pheasants were all pretty active today, and the hen in this picture wild-flushed before Ed and Ron could get in position and headed off to fly another day. We need to get some training time in with another dog or two to make sure his honor is up to scratch, but so far he's looking really good for his try-out for Master Hunter in the spring.

We cleared out two fields of pheasants and, after two hours on the snowy ground, I put Momo up and took out Mr. Enthusiasm. He goes like crazy, despite the snow. We had asked Tom to put chukar down for him because they were more likely to stay put while we got folks in place for the flush. And while he has done great at staying put while I fire a blank pistol, I wanted to get him on his pinch-collar and checkcord today because he really wants to break after the shot on a dropped high-flying bird. He got caught out by a wind-change and a little too much speed on his first bird -- but stopped-to-flush like a pro. For a young dog with that kind of self-discipline, I'm not sure that inadvertently busting your first bird isn't a bad thing.

In any case, this picture is of his second bird -- which is actually hidden on the far side of the rock. And yes, the collar and cord was necessary. I wish I'd had the coordination to flip the e-collar at the same time, but after three cycles of getting caught up on the collar and being repositioned back to his original spot, I am confident he is beginning to get it. Certainly by the third time, as much as he wanted to break, he was resisting me less. His fifth and final bird, sadly, was also a stop-to-flush. But again, he is holding nicely even as relatively nervous birds pop off in front of him... so I am pleased.

So, Brisztow, get your people to call my people.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

yet more training

If folks are sensing a theme, you'd be correct. All I know is that if you have a nice day and relatively easy access to birds, then it's time to get out and take the vizslak training.

I'll keep it brief. Before going up, I had debated whether or not to put the limiters on the chukar we'd use because it seemed to make Jozsi a little less intense when we came back around to a bird we'd worked before. But I figured that I'd use the limiters just once and that way still be able to use the birds for The Mominator. I also took care to store the limiters in the bird-bag (to try and mask their smell with whatever residual bird scent there might be) and once I had found a spot for each bird to go, placed the limiter in first and lightly covered it with the nice, dry snow we had.

Interestingly, while he bumped the first bird and performed a nice stop-to-flush, Jozsi set up nice points on the next two birds and stood still through the entire flush. I had read on a bulletin board about Bill Gibbons (whose Magma Birddogs is permanently on my blog-roll) stressing the importance of the trainer's hands, even literally the sensation of the trainer's hands, when working your dog -- and I have been making a point of running my bare hands down Jozsi's back when he's standing tall, both before and after the flush, to let him know that I love what he's doing. And whether a result of regular training or not wearing gloves, he's been standing more consistently after the flush and letting me collar him up without fuss before sending him on for the next bird.

What was interesting about his run was that I had set up the three birds along a mile or so loop and as we came back down after the third bird, I realised he had gone to find the first bird all over again. And was standing tall behind a snowdrift with the bird in plain sight. So, I flushed it again. I think he's getting it. The picture is from the third bird -- as you can see he's got a nice, high style.

I gathered up all three birds, untethered them, and put them out in a different field for The Mominator. He got close to the first bird which had decided it didn't like where I had put it and was walking around in some trampled corn stalks. I'm not sure if it was my noise humping through the snow, or the bird seeing just how close Momo was coming, but it got up before he had set himself (and about 15' from where he was) and so he got to practice his stop-to-flush. The next bird was textbook and he's doing well with just one simple 'stay' as I move up in front of him. The third bird almost got away because I am an idiot... and had left the safety catch on and ended up with a 3o+yd crossing shot rather than a 20yd going-away shot. I saw feathers fly of the bird and marked it down. I tried to flush it again, but realised it was too seriously wounded to fly and as it ran I sent Momo to retrieve it -- which he did really nicely. (Some dogs will balk on picking up a still fairly alive bird -- Momo, happily, seems to understand that a retrieve command is exactly that.)

All in all, a good day. And here's a pic from last week of Their Majesties enjoying each other's company on the couch.

Some Random Equipment Notes:

a) these flight limiters from Dogs Unlimited are intended to work well for pigeons. I'd trim them if I was going to use them on quail, but for chukar I found that 2-3oz of extra weight kept them from going too far. (I duct-taped three 20ga shotgun shells to the tube.) You can definitely make something yourself, although if you're like me and were ordering something else from them already, then save yourself a trip to the hardware store.

b) Jozsi has had a couple of short runs in his roading harness from Christies. Feeling a little nervous about having him drag chains (because it seems like they would get kinked and pick up crud), I took a suggestion from Kim Sampson and bought some lengths of welding cable. Right now, Jozsi is dragging 10' of 1/0 AWG cable, which translates into just over 4lbs. To start, I had folded each of the two 5' lengths in half with a clip in the middle, but it seem just short enough to get tangled in his back legs -- so I undid my previous work and simply created a short loop at the top of each length this time to create a longer single strand on each side. Seemed to work okay for him today.

c) Have also just started experimenting with Annamaet's Impact supplement. My apologies to whoever told me about it, but I've been giving it to the boys after either a day of hunting or, in Mr. Enthusiasm's case, after he's been dragging cables. The goal is to give them better probiotics to absorb the all the nutrients in the good food they're given and provide things like Omega-3s and 6s and anti-oxidants.