We're moving into our final week of camp and things are starting to come together for all the dogs -- in some way or other. Since I last wrote, Jeremy dropped off Jackson for two weeks of camp in anticipation of the VCCNE/Mayflower doubleheader hunt test down at Crane WMA this coming weekend (and in anticipation of his own wedding the following weekend). And while I wish I could claim to have really set up this picture this way, sometimes you just get lucky: from near to far, Jackson, Rye, Capo, Momo, and Jozsi.
Jack has enough strength and drive that he has caught a few (too many) birds and so I am working on having him establish a meaningful, deliberate point for at least as long as a judge can see him. In my opinion, I don't have enough time and he has too much drive to try any kind of 'pre-breaking' and so have been using good-flying pigeons in launchers that I set off as soon as he breaks point. I'm hoping that somewhere in his tiny, tiny mind there is a light going off that says 'movement = no chance'. I am also working him on coming back to me at a suitable point after he's chased the bird in the hope that we can keep a handle on him in the JH birdfield. I may not even try him on quail before we head down there with the goal of having him not catch any more birds before the test.
Rye has proven that she certainly has an inner bird dog -- and that she is pretty damn smart and has a dominant personality. I'm pretty sure that she has transitioned from blinking birds to pointing birds in launchers to blinking launchers, that she isn't gun shy, and that she has the capacity to point like a champ. She has a couple more days to go after quail up at camp and then we'll see what she does down on the Cape. But having an 'Amy Winehouse' (a rehab dog that someone else has already fussed with and confused) has been an interesting challenge in terms of trying to figure out how and where she became seemingly indifferent about birds and then trying to stoke her bird drive all over again. I ran her this morning and am having a minor 'moral' dilemma about posting a picture of a dog I don't own before her owners get a chance to -- but here she is, tail fuzzed out in the middle, and staunch.
I have been trying to put the polish on Capo for her MH debut at the hunt test -- working her with another dog to get her into backing situations, giving her retrieve practice, making her heel away from a find to avoid a delayed chase. Here is Momo backing the Princess in the quail pasture. It has been interesting doing this with her in part because I have seen the competitive side of her personality -- which also inclines her to make mistakes that she might otherwise not normally do. But one of the reasons I am so fond of her (and of Jake, too) is the relative calm with which they take corrections and bounce right back, eager to get on with the next task and do it right.
I have been working Jozsi out by having him pull cables every third day or so -- although the one piece of equipment I wish I'd been able to scrounge up for this summer is an ATV so that I could give more dogs a more structured exercise program, particularly on their off-bird days. Jake, Capo, and Jozsi, for example, have pretty similar gaits and cruising speeds; Momo and Rye would have paired up nicely as another team. It would also have saved my ankles somewhat: I figure I walk about 8miles a day, a lot of it in rubber boots with little ankle support. I also need to remember that the dogs are running in hay fields and that chest-high timothy and alfalfa provide plenty of resistance training as well!
I don't remember where I picked up this tip regarding exercising dogs, but I've seen plenty of evidence of its validity this summer that it's worth restating. Heat, by itself, won't necessarily hurt a dog, but the combination of heat and humidity will definitely sap a dog's energy and endurance. This is to say that asking a dog to run full-out in 95degs in TX without having adequate water on hand to cool and rehydrate them is irresponsible; but having water on-hand won't do a lot for a dog trying to work full out in 70degs and 80% humidity. The magic number I've heard some place is 140 -- as the combined total of temperature and humidity -- and which I like for a couple of reasons: there is no elaborate heat index formula to calculate, and it seems a more accurate predictor of low temperature exertion. While it might sound ridiculous to think that your dog would somehow
get exhausted early running in 60deg weather, if you're on the verge of
a thunder storm you'll watch them get tired in front of your eyes. (Thanks to Joe for sending me this interesting link to the Canine Hydration Calculator -- which in turn led me to this animal physiology course on canine thermoregulation.)
Jake the Snake has been doing great -- and has transitioned from pigeons to quail, and from running wearing his full uniform of pinch-collar, checkcord, and e-collar to running free. He's certainly not perfect, but happily he seems to fully understand his corrections and bounce right back with a clarity of purpose. While I have deliberately not been running him in the woods, he did take himself in there the other day and had to be cued to stop-to-flush on a woodcock that burst out of the woodline. While the johnny-house quail are not as dynamic as either the woodcock or grouse in the woods, that itself becomes a training asset for a dog that is relatively far along in the breaking process -- because while they might ultimately fly under enough pressure, flushing them can often be quite theatrical and the temptation high for a dog.