Thursday, March 11, 2010

what we did in school today...

Last weekend, we got invited to go up to Flaherty to join a group of friends who were running a 'mock horseback trial' training session. Heaven knows, any excuse to ride a decent horse and chase a decent dog is a good one for me.

Besides my two, the only other red dog was Stephanie's Rye -- all the rest were GSPs. I wanteed to give Momo the chance to get used to be running from a horse because I thought he'd enjoy it -- and he ended up braced with Baldur, my friend Kim's biiiig-running dog. In terms of run, Baldur has it in spades -- but the box score at the end of the day was the same: one divided find, one honor, and one find each. But I swear that Momo was running with a smile on his face. We need to do this again. He may never be a trial dog like his brother, but he is certainly enjoying himself.

Mr. Enthusiasm ended up braced with Jen + Dennis's Tucker. There aren't many dogs that I enjoy watching as much as my own crazy man, but Tucker is one of them. We were in for a footrace. The wind must have been fishtailing something fierce because none of the dogs I saw run ran quite the long, linear race that you might expect. But Leadbelly and Mr. Enthusiasm found birds. The first picture is of Jozsi high and tight on a running pair in The Pines. He had two more finds, including one on an obviously running bird that often provokes him into getting in after it. He looked great. This second picture is of Tucker -- he's a good looking boy with some nice manners for a young dog. (These pictures are courtesy of Jen, by the way.)


Yesterday, we took the boys and the lovely Ottla up to do some more birdwork and get her used to being handled. I am grateful to Ottla's mom, Annabella, for taking these pictures -- and especially this one of me and The Mominator. As you can imagine, it's tricky trying to get pictures of yourself with your own dogs while they're actually working. In case folks are wondering, while I am wearing my blank pistol, I am carrying my shotgun. One of things I've realised -- and I might have gotten this suggestion from Don Brown at Dobrocat Vizslas -- is that Momo tends to creep a little when you get in front of him, and especially when you have a shotgun in your hands. Completely geeked to retrieve, he is anticipating the flush. And so I am carrying the shotgun and asked Ottla's dad, Mario, to carry my other one to simulate a shooting party. And we didn't shoot a single bird, merely blanked them with the shotgun. Between these kinds of drills and working him each morning with the pinch collar, I'm hoping we can get his feet a lot steadier by the end of the month.

But of course, the highlight was watching Ottla figure out how to be a bird-dog. We're using blue scaled quail (because it's what was available) whose initial tendency as primarily grassland quail is to run rather than fly. My own preference is also to use fully alert quail, rather than sleep them up so they're groggy and don't act like birds -- and so we've been putting her birds out in releasers in likely spots and turning her out. This week though, I offered to teach her to breakaway and to begin handling her -- with the goal of demonstrating how Mario and Annabella can handle her in the future -- and also to give her the clear cue that me and and her orange flash collar = birds = fun.

And after some modeling from The Mominator and Mr. Enthusiasm, she seemed to clearly understand that a certain whistle cue meant to get her running legs on and come with me. (In a side note, she almost ran over a woodcock which flushed as soon as she passed. It's nice to see the mudbats back in the neighborhood even if they're just passing.) She had worked one sorghum strip looking for a bird we had slept slightly (but which had moved on), clearly find the spot it had been placed and filling her nostrils. Then she cut ahead and through the cut in the hedgerow and locked up on the bird hidden in the sorghum on the far, downwind side. She held nicely till I got to within about three feet, then stalked a step, pointed, stalked, and then leapt in for the bird which got up and flew nicely and was pursued by a happy vizsla.

Having just done some research, she and my two boys are remotely related having several common great-grandparents. But it is also clear that she looks like her momma, Blaze, especially here on point. It's great to see a young dog begin to drawn down on her genetic coding and pick up on the game.