I don’t know who came up with the idea of hunting with a leashed dog, but I’ve run into several hunters who have done just that. The black Lab I rescued this year was wearing an expensive camo leash which tells me that’s what her owner must have been doing, and perhaps being gun shy, she bolted when the shooting began.
Dangers of a leashed pup.
Simply walking through brush, on uneven terrain with a loaded gun poses a risk, and people are accidentally shot every year. Add an excited pup who is straining at the leash and it’s downright dangerous for you, the dog, and anyone else in shotgun range.
Can you shoot?
Say you get far enough into your hunt to actually flush a bird, how does one shoot while holding a leashed dog? The only option is to drop the leash and then chase down pup who, suddenly free, has either given chase to the bird or run the other way. Any pup that needs to be on a leash is certainly not going to be steady-to-wing-and-shot.
What does it do to future training?
Whether their range is being limited by a leash or e-collar, pup is being trained to hunt underfoot. Unless that’s all the hunter wants out of their dog, they’ll have to later correct problems with range and quartering. Someone who starts their dog out this way likely doesn’t know enough about training to be able to correct those problems.
No shortcuts to training.
There are no shortcuts to training, if that’s the intent of hunting with a leashed dog. The only real shortcut is to get it right the first time and that means understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, understanding your dog, and understanding the training methodology you choose.
I’m going to be handling Doc, Mia and Elettra in next week’s double-double hunt tests, so this weekend was their final tuneup. Testing three dogs in two days will certainly keep me busy, so hopefully the bracings will be favorable.
Friday we worked on retrieving but was interrupted when Mia went on point. Perhaps she caught wind of the local partridge, or maybe even the pair of geese that have been checking out the pasture.
In any case, I sent Doc and Elettra out to honor her which Doc did nicely but I had to “whoa” Elettra to honor.
Saturday it was back to pointing and with Elettra, retrieving as well. I set a bird in my homemade launcher for Elettra and she did a very nice job of pointing.
For Elettra’s second bird, I carded a pigeon to give her a retrieve. Elettra has always refused to retrieve a bumper even with wings attached, and in Friday’s retrieving drills, even refused to retrieve bird wings. But give her a real bird and she’s almost flawless.
For the third bird, I put a pigeon in my launcher and braced Mia, Elettra and Doc. Elettra established point and both Doc and Mia did an excellent job of honoring.
Friday I braced the guys on several birds and they are doing quite well with honoring.
Doc established point with Elettra and Mia honoring.
Elettra established point on the second bird with Doc and Mia honoring.
Doc established point on the third bird only a couple of feet away, as he and Elettra were hunting in a cross wind.
After working on their honoring, I worked Elvis on a bird and he did a nice job of going on point and holding it.
When it comes to training, I’m limited by our 2 ½ acre pasture, especially this time of year when there’s no ground cover. It doesn’t take the guys long to learn where I plant the birds so rather than actually hunting, they just run to areas where the birds are most likely to be.
I changed things up last Sunday by digging holes in the snow and planting the birds in the open, away from any cover.
I followed the same training formula by letting everyone out for a run in the pasture, worked with Elvis on tracking and then each of the others on pointing. I finished with bracing Elettra, Mia and Doc.
Individually, the guys are rock-solid and they’re even pretty good when braced together. During their brace, Doc established the point and Elettra honored, but when I called Mia over from the ditch she was hunting, Doc broke and ran right up to the bird where he went on point once again.
I carried him off and let them hunt another part of the pasture for a few minutes before influencing them back to the bird, where Elettra established point with Doc and Mia nicely honoring.
The guys don’t appreciate vacations and become restless between the end of hunting season and start of their off-season training. Occasional workouts on the treadmill and runs in the pasture still don’t appease them, they want birds.
So on Saturday afternoon I put the Spins on two birds each just to get their minds back on training. It was about ten minutes of training for the guys but a 3-hour session for me, since most of the time was spent planting the birds and walking the spins between the house and pasture – like a football game that only has 11 minutes of football action and over 2 hours of commercials and sideline shots of players standing around.
We trained with the wind at our backs since I wasn’t about to walk to the opposite end of the pasture and work back against it. The guys did a nice job of quartering with the wind but not being dummies, focused their attention on the few tufts of dead grass that provided what little cover there was.
This reintroduction gets their mind back on pointing since the last half of hunting season is spent primarily retrieving waterfowl, and maybe only briefly, satisfies their bird obsession.