Sunday, March 8, 2009

a matter of honor

As folks might be able to tell from my Dopplr widget, we have a trip to Sumerduck, VA, next weekend.  After considering various options, I decided to enter Jozsi in the Conestoga Vizsla Club field trial  -- in no small part to get him some more horseback experience while he is still a Derby. That way, if the horse throws him slightly in terms of his bird-work, he still has some room for error.  Nevertheless, to make the travel worthwhile, in addition to Open Derby, I have also entered him in his first adult stake, Amateur Gun Dog.  If he does what he normally does, he should be fine -- if he doesn't, he'll get picked up and there's merit in that, too.

I also chose to enter him in this AGD stake because it is non-retrieving -- and heaven knows, I haven't had time to force-fetch Mr. Enthusiasm!  However, the adult trial stakes do require that if a dog encounters its bracemate on-point that it honor.  (Unlike a Senior or Master-level hunt test, every dog doesn't have to display an honor during its brace.)  And I have only had the opportunity to whoa him into an on-point Momo a couple of times.  So we went up to TMT to see if we could get some practice in.

Because Jozsi is just so much faster, I figured I would send Momo out for a head-start and then release the Beast.  But Momo being the great foot-hunting dog he is, as soon as I turned around to go get Jozsi, he would track back around.  So, I ended up sending them out at the same time and had to hope for Momo maybe getting to one of the birds first.  And besides, he needs honoring practice, too.  On the first pass, Jozsi got to two of the three birds first -- and Momo, bless him, required a little tap on the e-collar for the first bird and then settled himself nicely for the second.  Both boys were hauling for the third bird and, to be honest, I didn't see what happened.  However, Momo was clearly pointing the bird and Jozsi was clearly looking at Momo -- and not the bird (although he was downwind).  The omens were good.

So I decided to put out three more birds to test the hypothesis that, perhaps, Jozsi had a pretty good idea of what was expected of him.  I will summarise the next three birds shortly, by saying that the basic spirit of things was very promising --  Jozsi did perform two honors with very little pressure from me.  However, he was starting to step in on the birds and even considered trying to grab for one.  There could have been any number of factors: competing with his brother, birds on limiters that he knew he could catch if he really tried, unusually warm weather, and rising barometric pressure.  So, after I put out three birds to shoot for Momo and for him to retrieve, I left one unfettered bird out there for Jozsi to find and for me to flush + blank, and fly free.  He got the bird nicely and was steady through the shot, but kept wanting to take steps in despite his obvious desire to go rip out for the chukar 50yds away.  With each step he got to meet Mr. Sparky -- although it took serious effort
on my part to say nothing as he took each step, but instead to ping his collar.  The key being to give the dog a command he is fully aware of and has successfully performed in other situations and then have the dog associate the shock with its movement rather than with your subsequent re-command.  I made him stand and stay where he was supposed to in nice gentle tones, heeled him away, and then let him run and hunt for another 15mins before putting him up for the day.

So, all in all, while I would love perfection from my two lovely boys, we at least found ourselves in the right ballpark.  While I have no pictures of today's experiments, here is a nice picture of Momo at TMT from January, courtesy of Bob.


In other exciting news, we will be taking Kim + Mike's Forest King Upland Tsunami, aka. Rogue, down to the Conestoga trial where I will run her for them in Open Puppy.  Happily, being a puppy stake, there's very little I need to do or can screw up -- so she should get some great experience.


Mike Spies said...


I think that all dogs are a work in progress - unless the owner has given up. You seem to be making progress, and a real go-getter is hard to break because the desire is so high. I didn't get Ted broke until he was 2-1/2, and he still worries me a bit...

Keep us posted.

Dale Hernden said...

Have fun and good luck.