The Spinone combine

The NFL has their combine and last week was my Spinone combine. The guys haven’t pointed a bird since November and haven’t retrieved one since January, so I just wanted to take a look at them before we began our summer training. I didn’t do any training or give corrections other than a couple of “whoas” – it was just a matter of setting up the scenarios and let the dogs worked them.

Tracking
Tracking consisted of dragging a goose wing for roughly a 100 feet with a couple of direction changes thrown in. Doc lost the scent but was able to pick it up again and found the wing without much trouble. Mia did an excellent job of tracking to the wing. For whatever reason, this particular video didn’t turn out too well.

Blind retrieve
I placed Pheasant wings about 250 feet out. By the time I planted Mia’s wing and brought her into the pasture, I had forgotten where it was and cast her in the wrong direction (more about marking and casting in an upcoming post). Regardless, she was able to hit the scent cone and work back to the wing. As with her “aunt Sophie”, retrieving is done on her terms. Doc doesn’t care about taking a straight line to the mark always ends up in the right place.

Point and honor
I braced Doc and Mia for pointing and honoring. Doc went on point which Mia honored from a good distance. I planted another wing and this time had Doc “stay” while Mia hunted. When she went on point, I called Doc and he honored nicely. There was a time when Mia was a speed demon like Doc, but she’s become a much more methodical hunter, and by this time, there was a lot of scent out in the pasture for them to work through.

In all, I was happy with Doc and Mia considering their 4-month layoff and it will be interesting to see what they look like after three months of consistent training.

Spring training

Friday I braced the guys on several birds and they are doing quite well with honoring.

Doc established point with Elettra and Mia honoring.

20160219_110344Mia caught a scent of something and went on point, Doc and Elettra honored nicely.

Mia on point with Doc and Elettra honoring. Whatever she could scent, it was no longer there.

Mia on point with Doc and Elettra honoring. Whatever she could scent, it was no longer there.

Elettra established point on the second bird with Doc and Mia honoring.

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring.

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring.

Doc established point on the third bird only a couple of feet away, as he and Elettra were hunting in a cross wind.

Doc on point with Elettra and Mia honoring

Doc on point with Elettra and Mia honoring

After working on their honoring, I worked Elvis on a bird and he did a nice job of going on point and holding it.

Elettra returns to the field

Elettra was so upset at being left out of yesterday’s hunt, that I took her outside and put her on some pigeons. It’s been about two years since the last time she hunted so I wanted to get an idea of what we needed to work on, and she markedly improved with each of the three birds I put her on.

Elettra on point, 10-3-15

Elettra on point, 10-3-15

I let her hunt free on the first bird just to see what she remembered and as expected, her enthusiasm overpowered her steadiness. I spent several minutes steadying her up before releasing the bird.

Working with Elettra on a check cord, 10-3-15.

Working with Elettra on a check cord, 10-3-15.

I put her on a check cord for her second and third birds. It all came back quickly and she was much steadier on her second bird. I allowed her to break on the bird and chase it as reward for her steadiness; once she becomes more steady-to-flush, I’ll work with her on being steady-to-wing.

Elettra much more steady on point with her third bird.

Elettra much more steady on point with her third bird.

She was very steady on her third bird and required very little correction.

Final training session

Mia honoring a Drahthaar pup on point.

Mia honoring a Drahthaar pup on point.

Saturday was probably our final training session for the year, as bird season begins in another month and I’ll be focusing on conditioning.

Mia on point.

Mia on point.

Mia on point with the Drahthaar honoring.

Mia on point with the Drahthaar honoring.

Saturday’s training session included our collection of Drahthaars, English pointer and setter, Labs and Spinone. The temperature was cooler than the previous week’s training and with a cloud cover and nice breeze, it was nice and comfortable.

Mia is rewarded for her steadiness with a retrieve.

Mia is rewarded for her steadiness with a retrieve.

The dogs enjoyed it and were running big. Mia did very well with searching, pointing and honoring her brace mate.

Doc honoring a Drahthaar pup on point.

Doc honoring a Drahthaar pup on point.

Doc did very well with his search, point and honor, however he wasn’t steady-to-wing on the first two birds. Unlike last week when he was nice and steady, he broke and chased down when they were flushed; the good side of it was that he retrieved each one nicely. However we put an e-collar on him and set it to a low setting that was no more than a mild vibration.

Doc honoring a distant English Setter.

Doc honoring a distant English Setter.

Using the e-collar tone and low setting steadied him nicely, and he was awarded with a retrieve. It’s a balancing act between pointing and retrieving, and retrieving is their reward for being steady on point and honoring. Although I’ve never force-fetched any of my dogs, Doc and Mia do an excellent job of retrieving to hand.

Doc retrieves a pigeon as a reward for his steadiness.

Doc retrieves a pigeon as a reward for his steadiness.

Abbreviated water training

Our training pond.

Our training pond.

Last Sunday I took Doc and Mia to McTucker ponds in order to get an idea of where they were with water retrieves. I started them out on a couple of plain bumpers which they became bored with after a couple of retrieves, so I switched to bumpers with bird wings attached.

Doc returns with a bumper

Doc returns with a bumper

Mia returns with a bumper

Mia returns with a bumper

We only worked for about 15 minutes when some people set up a couple of chairs on the opposite side of the pond and began shooting their shotguns occasionally. Since I didn’t know where they were shooting or what they were shooting at, I called the dogs back in and gave up for the day.

Doc wades out for a bumper

Doc wades out for a bumper

Mia retrieves a bumper with bird wings attached.

Mia retrieves a bumper with bird wings attached.

Since it’s a nice area to train, we’ll definitely return – when there isn’t so many people around, that is.

Mia wades out to retrieve

Mia wades out to retrieve

Doc goes into deep water for the bumper

Doc goes into deep water for the bumper

Mia and Doc return with bumpers although Doc dropped his on the way back.

Mia and Doc return with bumpers although Doc dropped his on the way back.

Water retrieves

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

Doc and Mia wait to be sent out for a bumper.

With my little pond now full of water, it was a good opportunity to take the guys out for a little refresher training on water retrieves. Both the dogs and I were a little rusty on the obedience part of it, but it’s still early and there’s a whole summer ahead of us.

Mia returns with a bumper.

Mia returns with a bumper.

I took them out two at a time: Doc and Mia, Sophie and Elvis, and finally Dakota by herself. Since the Labs no longer hunt, for them it was just retrieving for fun with no training involved.

 

Doc returns with a bumper.

Doc returns with a bumper.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Mia takes the easy way out as she and Doc retrieve.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Retrieving is not everything as Mia and Doc go on point with my pigeons.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Sophie retrieves a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis swims out for a bumper.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond's inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

Elvis crawls up the bank with a bumper. Other than the pond’s inlet and outlet, I left the banks of the pond vertical.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

At the ate of 10, Dakota can still catch serious air.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

As usual, Dakota enters the water headfirst.

Angles

 

The arrows denote Doc and Mia's retrieves, 1-23-15.

The arrows denote Doc and Mia’s retrieves, 1-23-15.

On Friday I continued Doc and Mia’s retriever work with longer retrieves and angles. My goal with the longer retrieves was to get them out of the habit of retrieving bumpers only within throwing distance, so I took advantage of the moderate breeze to draw them further out.

 

Mia finds the bumper about 300 feet out.

Mia finds the bumper about 300 feet out.

In the diagram, bumper “1” was placed at about 250 feet, and both Doc and Mia did very well taking a straight line to it, aided by the wind. I placed bumper “2” about 300 feet out and again both did well taking a line to it.

Doc makes a 300 foot retrieve.

Doc makes a 300 foot retrieve.

Knowing that they use the fence as a reference point, I set four bumpers at an angle to the fence line. In addition to their using the fence line as a reference point, they have also developed a specific pattern for running and hunting in the pasture and I wanted to break that up as well. I placed the bumpers in grass about 150 feet from our starting point, a big step up from the line-of-sight retrieving they’ve been doing.

Mia had trouble taking a line on bumper #4.

Mia had trouble taking a line on bumper #4.

I alternated dogs, giving Mia bumpers “3” and “5”, and Doc bumpers “4” and “6”. I always cast them to the downwind side of the mark so that if they miss it, they can work back up the scent cone.

Doc took a good line on bumper #5

Doc took a good line on bumper #5

With bumper number 3, Mia insisted on taking a straight line to the opposite fence rather than the angle to bumper 3. After recalling and restarting her several times, she took a good line and retrieved it nicely.

Doc did very well with bumper 4, taking a good line and when he overran the bumper, worked back to it, finishing with a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble taking a line on her last bumper but made a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble taking a line on her last bumper but made a nice retrieve.

Mia had trouble with bumper #5 and I recalled her half a dozen times before she held a line all the way to the bumper. The trouble was that after running about halfway to the bumper, she’d turn into the wind and return to where the previous bumpers had been placed. I think some of the problem was the urge to hunt into the wind, plus I was sending her in a direction contrary to how they normally hunt. But after a few times of being recalled, reset, and sent out again, she got the idea, held her line and made a nice retrieve.

Doc with his last retrieve, which caused him a lot of trouble.

Doc with his last retrieve, which caused him a lot of trouble.

Doc had a lot of trouble with bumper #6 and I think that his problems were the same as Mia’s only more so. He couldn’t grasp the idea of hunting downwind and in the direction I was sending him; eventually I tossed  a couple of snowballs in the direction of the bumper to give him something to focus on. He finally held a line all the way to the bumper, worked his way back upwind to it, and returned in triumph.