We had a productive day of training up at Deb Goodie's on Thursday. Our trial season will start next weekend and I felt a strong need to give both boys a tune-up. And to his credit, Jozsi actually only behaved like a total jack-ass once. And happily, even on the occasion, the quail were sturdy enough to get out of his way. He's a strong dog who knows that if he can get the jump, he stands a pretty good chance of grabbing a bird. Some dogs like to make birds fly. However, any time Jozsi bumps a bird, I genuinely believe it is his prey drive not his chase drive that is kicking in.
This pictorial interlude is brought to you by Lyza.
Training with someone else who knows something about dogs is a blessing -- whether they're a pro or not. As much as I have been taking the boys up to Deb's recently, I woud still advocate for amateurs doing as much of their own training as possible. This is where we might have the advantage on the pro -- having a domestic relationship with our dogs and therefore potentially having a little more time to dedicate to yardworking our dogs. Deb also has horses and birds. But she was also able to spot something with Jozsi which I had noticed but couldn't figure out the context.
He can find birds. When you're working a bird in front of him, he is solid as a rock. But often, unless the bird is in the open in front of him, he flags his tail. In a lot of dogs this can be uncertainty about where a bird is (and for Jozsi I had often thought it was because a bird was wandering in front of him and he hadn't gotten it pinned). What Deb hypothesized was that his wagging tail was actually an indicator of his desire to pounce in... he knew where the bird was and was priming to go get it. Assuming this is the case, the question now becomes how to train for it.
My prescription is to do several things:
a) do some more bench work with Jozsi but with me behind him, ie. with me out of his range of vision, but correcting him nonetheless whether with by picking him up and re-setting him or with a pole (to style up his head and tail);
b) when working birds in his range of site, to stop moving if he flags, but to give him plenty of praise and move directly in for the flush when he firms up;
c) continue 'warning' him with very low stimulation on the e-collar if he tries to move anything when I am working in front of him.
The irony is that he may have been more solid, maybe even more 'broke' (although his footwork, tail- and head-set are all much better now) when he was 13-17mos old than he is now. But then again, he ran great as a puppy, but he is a beast now. What I also needed to hear from Deb is that he is doing what 2yr-old boy vizslas do... testing limits, sometimes quite subtly. In that regard, he is perhaps just merely being sophomoric.
In other news, we received official notification that Momo may now be referred to in official communications as Widdershins Momchil SH VC. While he is a deceptively tough dog, his is not this VC, but rather his Versatility Certificate. Jozsi also received his certificates to say he had finished up both the Obedience and Conformation requirements for his.
But looking at the serial numbers on their certificates, I was surprised they were so low. Since the Versatility Certificate program began in 1982, less than 300 dogs have earned that title -- Momo's certificate number is #281. (Incidentally, Lisa DeForest earned two (if not three) of the first six VCs issued in 1982.)
What was more interesting were the serial numbers on each of the boys' respective Conformation, Obedience, and Field certificates. Jozsi was the 600th dog to have earned the Conformation certificate, Momo was the 368th dog to earn the Obedience certificate, and the 418th dog to earn the Field certificate. I guess I was surprised at how many people have started the VC program but either don't or can't finish it. While the highest number in Conformation might reflect folks with show-oriented dogs trying to embellish their dogs' versatility, the answer could be as simple as Conformation requires the dog to do little more than meet the breed standard (and not bite the judge). I was pleasantly surprised that more certificates have been issued for completing the Field portion than the Obedience portion.