Fishing with Elvis

Elvis told me that he needed to get out, by standing with his front feet on my lap and staring me in the eyes.

“What do you want?” I asked. He led me to the garage door and stood waiting for me to let him out.

So Sunday evening I took him fishing. I selected a convenient spot next to the boat ramp and began fishing with a streamer that I’d tied. Those who know the river have caught some very large trout in this stretch of the river.

The water appears calm but is deceptively dangerous.

The water appears calm but is deceptively dangerous.

A few years ago I’d done some swift water training with Sophie and Dakota at this location, although this stretch of the river is particularly dangerous. The water looks calm but is quite swift and large whirlpools occasionally form, and the only boats launched in this area are power boats and jet boats.

Elvis watches a boat launch

Elvis watches a boat launch

Another fisherman arrived and fished for a bit without any luck. He had his 3 kids with him and Elvis waded with them around the launch. After they left, Elvis paddled around and explored the banks, but then became bored and I spent as much time tracking him down as I did fishing.

Elvis explores the river bank

Elvis explores the river bank

I called it quits when the boats began coming back in, since they would have spooked any fish and the water carried my line around to where they were loading.

Elvis checks out the river

Elvis checks out the river

Training heats up

My trainer invited me to a training session Saturday afternoon, along with the owner of a beautiful little English Setter. The Setter’s owner wanted to check on his pup’s progress, which is actually a smart thing to do if you send your dog off to training. As for me, I wanted to see how Doc and Mia did with honoring, and whether my training workarounds at home were helping or hurting them.

It was sunny and 85 (Fahrenheit) when we began training and 89 when we finished, temperatures never to train in unless you’re careful and well prepared. Although it was a little rough on Doc and Mia, we were well prepared with 5 gallons of water, my 2 coolers of water, a small tub for wetting the dogs down, plus I had Doc and Mia in cooling vests.

With Max on point, upper right, I bring Mia around to honor his point.

With Max on point, upper right, I bring Mia around to honor his point.

Cattle had eaten the grass down so there was nothing but dirt; while the other dogs routinely train in that area and their feet are toughened by it, not so with Doc and Mia. The hot dirt made it uncomfortable for Doc but burnt Mia’s feet to where she shifted from foot to foot while on point or honoring.

Working with Mia on honoring Max.

Working with Mia on honoring Max.

We began by bracing Mia with Max, an English Pointer. Mia started out slowly but eventually got into hunt mode. Max hit a solid point and I influenced Mia around, “Whoa’d” her, and she did a good job of honoring. However I realized that she is a little overweight and out of shape, so for the next month-and-a-half, conditioning is the name of the game.

Carrying Mia away from the bird after it flushed.

Carrying Mia away from the bird after it flushed.

After flushing the pigeon a second time, we carried the dogs away from it so as to save the bird for the next dog; when removing a dog from a bird, you never pull it away with the leash or check cord, but rather pick it up and carry it away from the bird. Max went on point with the second pigeon and this time Mia did a very nice job of honoring.

Mia is doing a nice job of honoring Max.

Mia is doing a nice job of honoring Max.

Lola, the promising Setter pup, was worked next and did very nice job with her birds.

Lola, the Setter pup, doing a great job on her bird.

Lola, the Setter pup, doing a great job on her bird.

Doc was braced with an older German Shorthair and did a great job of honoring the GSP’s retrieve. However it was his being steady-to-wing that caught our attention, which he held with perfection.

Doc doing a nice job of honoring the GSP's retrieve.

Doc doing a nice job of honoring the GSP’s retrieve.

 

Doc found the bird first and did a perfect job of being steady-to-wing after I flushed it.

Doc found the bird first and did a perfect job of being steady-to-wing after I flushed it.

Honor drills

Trainers have often said that honoring is one of the easier hunting aspects to teach your bird dog; when you think of it, honor or backing, and respect are really one and the same. Bird dogs need to honor or respect the bird, they need to honor or respect their brace mate, and they need to respect their owner/handler. But as Dr. Price mentioned in one of his sermons (different topic, same principle): in order to be respected, you must be respectable. Based on that, if your dog is going to respect you, you must first be a respectable owner/ trainer/ handler.

During Friday’s drills in honoring, I used four homing pigeons, giving both Mia and Doc two birds to point and two to honor. Right now I’m just using the “whoa” command but will add the e-collar if necessary. Normally I use the “tone” setting but will go up to 1.5 or 2, which is no more than a vibrating sensation and serves as a reminder rather than a real correction. And yes, I did try the e-collar on myself before I put it on them.

Doc is an intense pointer but Mia isn’t as steady, however I’m debating on whether or not to correct her steadiness. On the one hand, she should be steadier on point, but on the other hand I like the fact that she moves her head to keep her nose within the bird’s scent cone when the breeze shifts.

 

What's in the weeds?!

What’s in the weeds?!

 

 

It's Mia!

It’s Mia!

Training workarounds

Mia honors Doc during training.

Mia honors Doc during training.

There are currently a few constraints when it comes to training that necessitate workarounds for what you might consider standard training techniques. But then if you follow my blog, you probably realize that a lot of what I do is not really considered “standard”.

First, with three pigeons nesting and a fourth sitting on a pair of newborns, I want to be careful not to harm any of them in training. Second, I need to keep the dogs out of the pasture for the time being since it is now home to the neighbor’s horse and cow; with the grass about 5 feet tall, things could get ugly if the guys startle them while running through the grass. And third, honor training without an assistant almost always requires some kind of workaround as opposed to the real thing.

Doc honors Mia during training. The bird launcher is visible on far left of photo.

Doc honors Mia during training. The bird launcher is visible on far left of photo.

My solution was to leash Doc and Mia to the ends of a long rope that served as my check cord. Using my homemade bird launcher, I would plant a bird and then bring the dogs into the scent cone; this way I could work with both dogs on pointing and honoring at the same time.

Doc and Mia on point shoulder-to-shoulder

Doc and Mia on point shoulder-to-shoulder

Both Doc and Mia were a little prone to creeping and needed a little steadiness, but overall I was happy with their work. I was particularly happy with them being steady-to-flush, which at times they have a tendency to break on. I’m sure that being tethered with the rope had something to do with it but if so, the rope served as a reminder to remain steady, which is what training sessions are about.