I have been gradually working on getting both boys absolutely steady-to-shot, ie. field trial ready with not a single movement of the feet whatever happens in front of them. Momo developed a creep after he was force-fetched which is, I think, him not wanting to bump the bird, but instead anticipating the flush and the retrieve -- which he now loves. Jozsi has always been pretty steady -- and is now having it rigorously enforced.
I have been setting the boys up in turn on the tailgate of my truck and 'stacking' them (which I gather is the technical term used in conformation shows) and making them stand. I'm not worrying about getting their heads 'high and tight' at least for now, but letting them know that moving their feet even a little will get a correction. For now, at least that correction is just me stepping in and physically re-setting them. Once that seems entirely ingrained, we'll start adding the e-collar.
Once we got to Flaherty, I wanted to run the boys loose and plant birds behind them -- and then re-run the course with each one in turn. The picture is of the two of them immediately afterwards -- Momo's face covered in mud, Jozsi wondering when he gets to run again. He did the first 45mins in his Christie's harness pulling 5lbs of welding cables.
Sadly for me, today was Jozsi's day-of-the-month when he seemed to be completely off-kilter. I call him a 'spaniel' when I'm miffed at him, as in "If I wanted a flushing dog, I'd have bought a...". So on his second run, this time by himself, he found three birds but snapped at and took three steps on the first bird, ran in too close on the third, and ran over the third (probably without scenting it, in all honesty). His only redemption at that point was the stop-to-flush. Better that he gets it out now than at a trial.
I then put Momo down. As much as I love Jozsi's unbridled energy, I love the Mominator. If there are birds in the field, he will find them -- and he did. We walked the same course backwards this time -- which to Jozsi's credit again, I realized that the wind had not only changed since we put the birds down, but had also increased slightly. And so, while Momo had the benefit of better scenting conditions, he also found a couple of birds that I hadn't put down, that were left from other trials or training expeditions. He ended up with four finds -- and, as ever, I am trying to gently bully him into standing completely still on point. As we discovered with his force-fetch, though, sometimes his stubborn streak supercedes his sensitive side -- so while gentle repetitions will often do the job very nicely with Momo, I'm anticipating that a short, sharp shock might end up being what is required to seal this deal.
(Interestingly, I think he has figured this out for when he honors. On his last few honors, he has stood without moving, despite me working Jozsi in front of him. A trainer-friend thinks that vizslas are a lot more context-sensitive than German Shorthairs, for example, who tend to be a little more hard-headed but for whom once the concept/command has sunk in, it is universally applied. For her, the good news regarding vizslas is that, if you are running into boggy ground with a skill or teaching technique, you can often just re-evaluate and reconfigure your teaching technique and simply change the command word. I've discovered this with Momo who likes to overthink things -- and for whom 'whoa' became an overly complicated word.)
I decided to take Jozsi out one more time so we could end on a, hopefully, absolutely positive note. I stacked him up on a narrow plank, 'stayed' him, and then tried to torment him into moving his feet by kicking around, firing my pistol, and then by flying a live quail around his head on a string. He didn't move. I think he thinks I'm mad. I may be.
Jozsi has his final field-trial run of the season in Amateur Gun Dog on Sunday at the Pointer Associates trial. Dennis is going to scout for me on his fancy new horse -- and I will scout for him for Sally's run in Open Gun Dog. Wish us luck.
Training update #2: this pic is from this evening (Thursday) taken on my cell-phone. Here's Jozsi perched on two saw-horses literally shaking with intensity at the quail I just flew around his head a few times and landed on the ground to rest. Interestingly, both boys when stacked up on the saw-horses put both front feet on a single plank. Both boys know the routine by now, but just get soooo jacked up once a live bird makes an appearance.