Thursday, November 26, 2009

more training

Since getting back from Nationals, we've been in something of a hiatus. The weather has been bad on my days-off and I don't hunt in public hunting areas on the weekends -- at least none near here. And so, I've been a little slow in getting back on the training wagon with the two monsters.

I've been working on a couple of things: on Momo's tendency to creep a little when you walk in to flush a bird, and Jozsi crashing birds by getting too close, either because he's uncertain about a bird's location or because he wants to see it fly. And of course, he's two years old. Which is to say that I've been trying to figure out if its uncertainty or cockiness on his part. Here's Momo showing an unprecedented piece of self-discipline as the brace of quail ran from in front to directly behind him.

And so we've done some launcher work with both boys -- and been lucky to find a quail breeder fairly close by whose last two batches of birds have been energetic and spooky -- and as importantly fairly close to a friend's property that we can train on. The best part about our friend's property is that it used to be sown for arable crops and so while there are some really nice hedgerows and lines of cover, it is largely flat and open. So I can see Mr. Enthusiasm even when he's 300 yards away. No matter how carefully I handle them, Jozsi, though, is also smart enough that you can only do so much launcher work in a day before he'll just blink the launchers, knowing that they will rarely result in much fun for him.

I decided to put out quail in pairs without launchers this time -- and he made four awesome finds, standing off his birds a respectable distance with a nice high style. For every solid point, he gets lots of love and praise. I'm hoping this will just gently reinforce that a solid point, a flush, and a gunshot will come to equate 'good times' for him. On his second run after one good find, he then ripped out one bird in a hedgerow and then failed to stop-to-flush; after no praise, I sent him off in a different direction and watched him rip out a second bird 300yds away with no stop-to-flush. I called him to me and then made him stand in the middle of the field while I walked the 400yards back to the truck before calling him to me. In my frustration, it was the mildest thing I could think of that would be the least-fun for him. Wanting to end on a postive note, I put out another pair of birds for him. I think he inadvertently spooked the first bird, but stopped to flush, and I then worked the second bird for him without incident.

This is him waiting to be broken away for another cast. You can never fault his energy or application -- and heaven knows, he's kicked enough mud up in my face that I break him away from in front. But here are a few reflections:
  • I realize that no matter how gifted he was as a young dog, Jozsi has still not had the volume of birds that Momo did by this point in his career. He needs birds to teach him his lessons.
  • He is a great example of a dog almost spoiled by his Derby career. While he had at least one genuinely great broke-dog run as a Derby, he also got to pop a few birds here and there and that had to confuse him as to what the end-goals are.
  • He therefore needs clear positive and negative signals -- and while I will use the e-collar to signal to him that he should have stopped-to-flush on a bumped bird, it will not be used as a punishment for a flushed bird. (I'm using the word 'signal' to mean that the e-collar sends a cue that is an extension of the snap of the buckle on the no-pinch collar.)
I think I will go back another step with him next time -- checkcord and no-pinch collar overlaid with e-collar -- go through one solid rep and then go to just the e-collar. And in addition to praise, I will also pick him up immediately and put him in the truck when he commits and infraction (as he should expect in a trial). My thinking is that he needs a reminder that being 300 yards away does not mean he is now too far from accountability, and that an infraction will result in his fun being ended. And that good performance equals praise and more fun.

And while he is most definitely a work-in-progress, and as much as he can frustrate me, there is nothing like watching your dog sprint a field, break through a cover line and disappear, and then as you clear the same cover line, see him standing a bird in the next coverstrip. He breaks my heart, for better and for worse.


Mike Spies said...


I am where you are - a 2 year old who is 'almost there' and needs more bird work, and an older dog that was hunted so much this Fall that he is no longer stone broke.

Gives me an excuse to prep them for trials in the Winter-Spring season!

Andrew Campbell said...

Mike: that's actually really reassuring to hear! And yes, while I keep moving the timeline back for trialing with the young one again, there'll always be trials waiting for him.

all best

Rod Michaelson said...

Now that my 17-month-old male is just in Derby stakes, I am backing off from breaking him to keeping him up front and getting back "out there". I found the judges last week at a trial discounted a solid point for the run and the forward push. A lot to learn as a rookie.

Last couple days just using the e-collar to keep him to the front after a couple quick blows on the whistle and a light "signal". He's having a great time busting huge groups of dove. I'll work in the yard with a launcher and a dumby for the breaking for now and leave the fields for the run.

Rod Michaelson

High Mountain Horse said...

Hi Andrew,
I haven't checked in for a while, but it is exciting and brilliant to see your dogs progressing, and to understand the level of acccomplishment they must feel with their wonderful "work." Good job - you and your boys.

Dale Hernden said...

Always love your posts!

Steph said...

These boys are lucky to have you and the opportunities you are giving them. Keep up the good work and patience - it will pay-off. I promise!