Friday, July 17, 2009

dogs + horses + dogs +...

We spent another two days upstate at Deb Goodie's place, running dogs in front of horses and identifying places to work on in our training once we're back home. We did get to see Marisa and her great dog, AFC Cliffside's Run'In On Hi Test, aka Tess. Tess has drive like crazy and lovely manners. Here's a great picture of her at full-tilt fresh off her breakaway. Whooooooooweeee!

As with our last visit, the real highlight was watching Momo have two energetic runs in front of the horse. I have no aspirations to make a trial dog of him -- but he has now come to equate horse = birds = fun and as a result has developed a nice breakaway. He may not be as bold as Mr. Enthusiasm, but he has a great nose, good bird manners, and loves to do well for his dad. Jozsi had an awesome run on Wednesday afternoon with three solid finds, but a great first find on Thursday morning, but got a little squirrely as he squared up for his second bird.

The interesting point for us to consider with Mr. Enthusiasm is what might be going on in his head in such situations when he gets birdy, initially stops, but then angles around before either stopping himself or whoa'ing on command. (I should point out that I don't normally 'whoa' a dog during birdwork, figuring that the dog has the genetics and the self-discipline to know when to stop itself -- and I don't want to create a dog that is nervous about messing up when it comes to its birdwork.) But in this scenario I had called 'stay' as he started to move for the second time.

To deal with the second part first -- of the dog apparently disobeying an obedience command that he is normally very good with: Deb did point out that vizslas, in her experience especially, are very context specific and so if I gave him a command out-of-context, ie. telling him to stay while he was actually moving, perhaps that was why he had failed to acknowledge it. Nevertheless, how you train for that is determined by what may be going on with the first part.

And so to deal with the first part second -- of a dog seemingly moving after establishing a (first) point: Kim Sampson (of Upland Equations and Strideaway fame) wrote the following on a bulletin board we both participate in: "For me it comes down to reading the dog's intentions. And, there is a huge difference between a dog self-relocating because he loses "contact" with a bird, and a dog relocating/repositioning just because the bird is moving. I want the first scenario, don't want the second. Watch the dog in enough different situations and it's pretty easy to tell the difference. I think it's fair to correct a dog for movement if his intentions are to get closer for the sake of getting closer or in an attempt to catch the bird." The emphasis here is that 'contact' means scent contact.

One of my challenges is that I have seen Jozsi deliberately take out birds, either wet birds he knows can't fly well, or deliberately bump birds in the open. Again, not all by any stretch of the imagination, but enough to see that there is a pattern to his behavior. But having said that, and while delicately disagreeing with Deb about Jozsi's second bird of the morning, this appeared to have been a dog losing contact with the bird (which he couldn't see and was masked by thigh-high grass) and merely relocating to get a better angle across the wind to re-establish contact. But I should think about adding some launcher work into our training repertoire to both discourage Jozsi from working too close, but also to work on his stop-to-flush.

The other nice part about getting up to Deb's twice in two weeks was being able to get some horse time on one of her horses, PC, and really start to feel like I knew how to use the horse to the full advantage (effectively to learn the subtleties of the horse's brakes and accelerator). The other nice part was getting to ride one of Deb's other horses, Dakota -- who is both a Missouri Fox Trotter and a gelding, as opposed to Deb's two other horses (which are both Tennessee Walkers and mares). Being able to find and maintain their smooth foxtrot or running-walk was just fun all by itself.

This picture is just for fun, of the boys waiting to get out of their Taj Mahal. Being an insulated box under a truck cap, it really does stay at least 20degrees cooler in there. We had temperatures up around 80degress and the (black) truck was parked in open sunlight -- but each time I took a dog out they were cool to the touch.

So we're going to keep working on our basic obedience in preparation for our upcoming VCCNE Versatility Test on August 1st up at Sharpe's Farm -- but also reminding Jozsi of his 'stop' command (which I use a whistle for and overlay with the tone on the e-collar) and styling him up by reminding him to keep his head high once he has established point.


Kim said...

Funny, I can so see the resemblance between Momo and Kyler in that picture of the boys in their box! Glad you had fun at Deb's training! Looking forward to the fall season, even if I can't technically be there!

theliteraryhorse said...

Wonderful photo of Tess, so exuberant! Christmas saw the pic and looked at me accusingly, as if to say "I could do that if you ever let me off the leash..."

Not in this lifetime. His little hunting terrier self would not return until his little hunting terrier self felt like it.

Great you're enjoying the horses too!

Stephanie said...

Jane - My hunter terrier (Cairn Terrier - Benny) took me three years to train off-leash and he's now just about 90% reliable on the re-call unless there's a chipmunk then the game is on! I trained him like a bird dog with a checkcord and he did great. You should try it... they LOVE IT!!