more water retrieving

Doc goes out for a bumper while working on doubles

I’ve been working Doc and Elvis on retrieving drills, both land and water, and Friday continued with sending Doc out on doubles.

Doc returns with a bumper on April 19

Elvis wasn’t up to swimming and was content to wade and watch Doc work.

Elvis goes out for a bumper on April 19

But he had spent the morning on a special request for a therapy visit, so I let him wade and sniff while working with Doc.

A family of geese

We did see a little wildlife – a family of geese and a 3-4 foot snake, possibly a racer, I’m not sure.

A 3-4 foot snake we came across

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Baseball with Doc

This last Friday, I took Doc and Elvis out for retrieving drills, specifically the baseball drill. Until we can get on some birds, I’m focusing on retrieving.

Doc and Elvis take a pre-training run

I put Doc on the pitcher’s mound and placed the bumper at first base, then cast him. On his first attempt, Doc ran to me and then the bumper. On the next two casts, Doc made big arcs on his way to first base however the next three casts, he maintained a straight line to first base and back to me.

Doc picks up the first base bumper

I repeated the drill with the bumper at third base and exaggerated my casting. After a couple of casts, Doc was taking a nice line to the bumper and back to me.

Doc retrieving the third base bumper

As for Elvis, he’s taking his retirement seriously and decided it was too nice of a day for retrieving, so he stretched out on the grass, enjoyed the morning sun and watched me work with Doc.

Elvis sunbathing instead of training

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Elvis goes to school

Elvis and I were invited to attend classes at the Idaho Science and Technology Charter School on Thursday, Feb. 21 and would like to thank the school for the opportunity to discuss Spinone and therapy work. We are invited every other year to visit the school where during the course of our presentation, the students ask questions then write a report from their notes.

Elvis and me giving a presentation to one of the classes

Elvis enjoys the visits although he normally falls asleep about ten minutes into the presentation. The students are always amazed when I demonstrate how to strip a Spinone and can’t believe that it doesn’t hurt the dog. They also find it humorous when I demonstrate how Elvis has regressed in his therapy training and now ignores some of the commands he was once so sharp on.

Explaining the importance of therapy work

But then he spent six of his years as a therapy dog and now that he’s a retired senior, I guess he’s earned the right to ignore me from time to time.

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Smoking in the snow

A snowstorm didn’t stop me from smoking the ducks that we bagged this last hunting season, and they turned out absolutely delicious. This has now become my favorite duck recipe that can either be an appetizer (if you eat several of them) or a meal (if you eat a lot of them).

The smoker was a wedding present but after 25 years, is falling apart.

The original recipe called for various spices that I forgot to use, and found this simplified version just as good if not better than the original.

Doc and Elvis check out the smoker

After thawing out my ducks, I put them in a large pot and boiled them in apple cider for about 1 ½ hours. I drained them and let them cool, then breasted them out, cutting each breast in 4-5 pieces. Not letting anything go to waste, I snacked on the legs and thighs while breasting them out. The thighs absorbed more of the apple cider and were a little sweeter than the breasts.

Bacon wrapped duck fresh out of the smoker

Next, I then wrapped each piece of duck in bacon which I pinned on with a toothpick. This, I smoked over charcoal and mesquite wood, turning them over once to smoke evenly –  monitor your smoker since the drippings will start a fire that can burn the duck. So if you have still have some ducks in the freezer, this is a simple and delicious way to use them up.

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Cops and dogs

I took Doc and Elvis out for a little training, where we again focused on searching.

Doc excited to train

Two policemen were monitoring traffic at the school across the street from where we were training. After training, I spoke with them for a bit, inquiring as to whether a certain plot of weed-covered land was city or private property.

Doc honors Elvis’ retrieve

It turns out that the acre-sized patch of weeds is city-owned, and I can use it for training. One of the officers recognized the guys as being Spinone and it turns out that his uncle once owned one.

Stretching Doc’s range to about 100 yards

We spent a little while talking about dogs and hunting, and as he lives nearby, was interested in watching me train the guys. Afterwards, I took Doc shopping and Elvis to the vet for his annual checkup.

Doc retrieving. Several days of rain melted nearly all the snow.

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Duck search without birds or water

It may sound counter intuitive, but it depends on what you want to accomplish. First, I wanted to give the guys a little mental stimulation. During these months between the end of hunting season and when we begin training, they need something more than daily walks. Second, I wanted Doc to work on stretching his search distance beyond a couple hundred feet.

Doc and Elvis have a lot of room to run and sniff.

We didn’t do any training last year, partly because I had to get rid of my birds when we moved into town and I haven’t found a good place to train. Mia came down with a serious GI infection and then was hit with an aggressive cancer that took her life, so training was the last thing on my mind. I wasn’t even motivated to go hunting but owed it to Doc and Elvis, and in the end was thankful I did.

Doc hits the scent cone and quickly finds the bumper

But back to training, I used a technique suggested by another trainer. While walking the guys, I would toss a bumper with a duck wing zip-tied to it. We’d continue on for several hundred feet then I’d stop and cast Doc back towards the bumper. He quickly found them, but this exercise was just to get him comfortable with going long distances for a bird.

Doc retrieving a bumper

I’ll increase the difficulty as we go on, eventually adding a blind to the routine so he should be ready for water work by the time the ice leaves the ponds.

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Doc’s retrieve and duck search

I’ve attached a video of Friday’s duck hunt.

Doc had just returned with the duck I had shot when a wounded duck went scrambling through the brush. I sent Doc after it, but after nearly half-an-hour of searching, he went up the hillside and I was finally able to recall him at 120 yards. I made my way into the brush to help him search, and believe the duck crawled under some heavy brush that was impenetrable.

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