This was the first weekend of taking the Luxury Cruiser for a weekend event and sleeping in the back of the truck. While space was a little cramped, it seemed to work pretty well -- especially after I'd resuscitated my Coleman two-burner stove and had remembered to bring all the accoutrements to make a solid cup of Turkish coffee. With the good weather, having the stake-out chain really made things a lot more enjoyable, I'm sure, for the League -- and having dogs that are used to it makes it a lot more enjoyable for me, too. Jake's ability to just roll with whatever is happening continues to amaze me.
Taking a step back or so, it's been a great month to really get to know Jake. As frustrating as the summer was for everyone remotely affiliated with the Wallow Fire, not being able to run him frequently or expose him to birds foralmost two months had me wondering 'what if'... and heaven knows, his sister Dot won her first Puppy stake the day she turned six months old. But the fact is that there is a time for every dog -- and I think we have plenty with the Dancing Pirate.
Living with three hunting dogs has proven interesting: we have definitely had to institute a more regimented schedule for us and the Gentlemen. After their breakfast (Momo and Jozsi just get a small handful of kibble after their morning run, Jake still gets a solid cup-and-a-half in the morning) and after their dinner, they have crate time to let them digest and to give us time to get our own food. Once we've eaten they get supervised playtime, although last night was the first night that Jake actually abandoned wrastling either Momo or Jozsi and came over and lay down on me on the couch, much to Jozsi's chagrin.
In an attempt to let Meg get a normal run in first thing in the morning and to give me the chance to really work on developing a rapport and a handle on the Jakeasaur, I've been taking him out by himself in the mornings and really letting him run in the woods, albeit with both an e-collar and an Astro. There'll be a few words on e-collars at the end, but I have been frustrated by the Astro's sometimes inability to combine correct range anddirection. I did purchase an extended antenna for the DC40 collar and I see now that the long-range antenna that comes on the new Astro 320 is now available as an accessory upgrade for the older 220. I have not been necessarily looking for more range, but more accurate communication between the collar and the receiver, and to that end have also experimented with re-tuning the frequency between the two units. In theory, shorter wavelengths (and therefore higher frequencies) can pass between obstacles more easily and with less corruption of the signal. And so I re-tuned the Astro to its highest frequency range; oddly, Garmin doesn't tell you how to do it in their manual, but it can be found in various places including here. Those two changes did make some difference, although at this point I can now tell that we have pending thunderstorms when it loses some of its normal accuracy. Having the Astro really lets me work on encouraging Jake to range and cast even after I've lost sight of him -- which in our woods is often soon after 30yds out. On our trail system, he does have some favorite spots that he really likes to explore -- and being able to not panic, and instead keep singing him out once he's hit 100yds+ is a real bonus.
He has had one run at Flaherty already, but the grass was so high in the spotwe went to that he couldn't hardly range and was suitably exhausted and abraded after his time on the ground that he slept wonderfully that night. He did also get to run at Crane this past weekend -- and it was pretty great to run him on wild-planted birds and watch how he dealt with new types of cover and tons of old scent. After his first bird contact, he certainly kicks it up a notch and, as a result, having a pretty good handle on him already is a bonus. In addition, I have been able to get my Evil Empire set up and birds acclimated to their respective drums. Today was the first day I released a couple from each barrel and left the recall doors open -- that a hen was already waiting to go back in when I went to open one of them. Hopefully this will be the first of many successful recalls -- I really do think it makes a difference using wild-planted birds, especially if you have stocked your johnny-houses. The two areas we need to work on with him are breaking him to the gun and running from a horse. I'm waiting till he is chasing, not merely following, the bird to the point that he is about to grab it to fire the gun. I've been able to do it a couple of times with a 209 in a single-shot .410, but one of the challenges in the place I train is that it is in the woods and if a bird flies behind a tree where Jake loses sight of him as he chasing, he'll just stop and either try to get a scent or come around in search of the next one. Again, there's a time for every dog and doing it right the first time means not having to take more time to rehabilitate a gun-shy dog.
He met Jen + Dennis's horses at Crane this past weekend, but time just didn't allow for me to take him for a jaunt and I'm hoping to have that opportunity this coming weekend. But this is the beginning of the season, the trial and hunt test season as much as hunting season -- and I'm looking forward to judging for theWestminster Kennel Club hunt test at the end of the month, then heading down to Conestoga to judge their Hunting Dog stake with my good friend, Michele Dowd, along with running all the members of the League as well as a newly-returned Miss Capo. The Road Crew reunited!
For some reason, it seems that the debate over e-collars has risen to the top again, maybe only in my world, but Pat Burns also felt the need to write a detailed (and to my mind, balanced) post about e-collars as a training tool. And from an e-mail exchange with Janeen over at SmartDogs, she said this: "Good working dogs, those bred to do specific jobs brilliantly well, have incredibly strong behavioral drives that both work for and against their human partners. When those drives are emitted as dissenting opinions they put the true working dog at odds with the job he was bred to do and there is no reward strong enough to break that focus." Janine remains one of very few folk who I know who has actually researched the 'research' about e-collars. But like Donald McCaig wrote in a comment to Pat's post: "But there is a substrate of the pro and anti ecollar argument that quelches rational discourse."
As for the guy who yelled at me last night for running my dogs off-leash at dusk in the park who got to watch a pointer turn on command 15ft from him without using the e-collar (but still having it as back-up): bite me!