Tuesday, September 28, 2010

building an Evil Empire

It's been a wicked busy 6 or 7 weeks here at Team Regal Vizsla. The weekend after Momo and I got back from Arizona, the day after I put up my last post here, I chaired our Vizsla Club of Central New England Versatility Day up at Sharpe's Farm. As might be imagined in these economic times, it was a smaller entry than last year -- which was actually good because we felt less rushed in the heat throughout the day! Congratulations go to Mike & Kim's Kyler for finishing up her Versatility Certificate requirements!

A month later I chaired our VCCNE hunt test (although none of it would have been possible without a supremely well-organized secretary, Stephanie) out at Crane WMA out on Cape Cod. This weekend was actually a first for the northeast in that we held a double-header weekend with our friends at the Mayflower GSP Club -- and so we had testing in both morning and afternoon on both days, giving JH & SH dogs and handlers the opportunity to potentially start and finish their titles in a single weekend. With hunt test entries, it seems, down generally across the country, the two clubs wanted to try and create an even bigger incentive for folks to come out to what is a beautiful grounds out in East Falmouth. While we had to limit the number of SH/MH entries, especially, to ensure things stayed on schedule, overall the entire event went really well. Not sure how Stephanie managed it, but somehow this year we avoided any pre- or post-hurricane weather that has thwarted us in the past. This picture is of one of the nicest dogs I saw all weekend, a beautiful Brittany named Cassie, who moved beautifully and handled like a dream even though, for a variety of reasons, she had to be handled by a relative stranger.

Congratulations are in order again to Mike & Kim, but this time for Cedar finishing up with SH requirements! It's hard to imagine that two years ago we were all wondering if he'd keep one of his feet after being shot (not by them, I might add) in a hunting accident. He might be a little gimpy from time to time, but he does the job really nicely! Well done, C-Monster!

In between those two events, I also started work on building my own Evil Empire. It's taken a few years to make great connections like these, but I have been blessed to find a friend with some property upstate who has a shooting preserve license and is willing to let me install four portable johnny-houses on his property so that I can train my dogs on habituated, if not actually wild, quail. I saw the huge difference in the quality of the birdwork when using birds like this (as opposed to hand-planted birds fresh out the bird bag) when I was out in Arizona with Bill Gibbons -- and essentially copied his basic design using 55gal drums as the basic shell. Each drum can comfortably house 12-15 quail and, using the awesome Less Mess feeders and waterers, the birds can easily stay for a week (if not two) without needing a top up -- and you don't need to go inside the johnny-house to replenish the food and water. Finding decent birds that will both fly and recall, that's a whole other story.

Jozsi came back from Arizona last week looking fantastic; I wrote about the decision-making process to fly him home over at Living with Birddogs. It sounds goofy but I realised how much I missed him the instant I saw him bounce around in his crate at Newark airport as soon as he recognized me. This dog only knows how to do everything with the utmost enthusiasm. I haven't had the chance to run him on birds yet, but he has already demonstrated a voluntary honor on Momo that he's never done before. It's already been a busy fall with hunt test judging assignments as well, and we're headed up to the Nutmeg GSP Club hunt test this weekend to both judge and then give Mr. Enthusiasm his first run off a horse since coming home.

I'm also pleased to say that I just got my first article published online in a non-blog by the nice folks over at Strideaway. I was flattered to be asked to write about my month out in AZ with Bill Gibbons and I hope folks enjoy it. Coincidentally, though, in that piece I wrote about Bill's experience and skill in identifying just the right amount of 'leverage' to apply to a dog in a given situation and made an analogy to walking horse bits in the process. In the brand new issue of Eclectic Horseman, Martin Black has a short piece about bit selection -- and how he distinguishes between a 'signal bit' and a 'leverage bit':

A leverage bit meant to amplify the pressure or pain from our hands pulling on them whereas a signal bit is meant to amplify a signal from our hands. Here again the biggest difference could be just a different presentation with the same equipment. (p.5)

I mention it because what Martin is describing is how I understand Bill to be using the e-collar. Why is this important? Any training tool can be abused, but once you see a tool being used subtly, it's then also possible to see that tool in a much richer light. For example, if you can only understand an e-collar as a 'shock collar,' then for better and for worse all you can do is 'shock' a dog with it. And for a lot of dogs, that's going to more than plenty to turn them off.


Dale Hernden said...

I'd really be interested in seeing detailed plans for the barrel setup. I'm using a 4 x 4 x 4 wood box with wire mesh. The barrel looks much easier to move and store when not being used.

The breeder I buy my quail from gave me a hint. Buy all one sex and they'll re-call much better than having them pair off and start their own covey. Try it.


Jim said...

Andrew....any chance I can get the plans to your portable johnny house??