Training before hunting

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.

Through the Looking Glass

The Looking Glass drill layout

The Looking Glass drill layout

Apologies to Lewis Carroll, but after all Doc Savage is from the literary litter and this weekend he made it through the Looking Glass drill with little trouble.

Doc selects a bumper from the pile.

Doc selects a bumper from the pile.

I began by having him retrieve a pile of bumpers, then began the Looking Glass drill by tossing the bumper past the poison birds. I had to initially stop him from retrieving poison birds a couple of times but it didn’t take long before he was focusing on the bumper I tossed for him.

Doc gets the bumper in the Looking Glass drill

Doc gets the bumper in the Looking Glass drill

Doc working the Looking Glass drill

Doc working the Looking Glass drill

After a couple of successful retrieves, I placed the bumper rather than tossing it, and he was working the drill to perfection.

Mia searches the bumper pile for just the right one

Mia searches the bumper pile for just the right one

Mia retrieves from the bumper pile

Mia retrieves from the bumper pile

I worked Mia on the drill next, and as with Doc, started her out with retrieving a bumper pile. She ran the drill flawlessly, except for making her return retrieves over the line of bumpers instead of between them.

Mia working the Looking Glass drill to perfection

Mia working the Looking Glass drill to perfection

Mia does not always stay within the lines

Mia does not always stay within the lines

With Dakota, it was just the bumper pile. The clouds that had kept the temperature fairly moderate were gone and it was heating up.

Dakota charges back with a bumper

Dakota charges back with a bumper

Dakota selects a bumper from the pile

Dakota selects a bumper from the pile

Elvis was last and again, it was just the bumper pile for him. Even though he loves sunbathing in the heat, he was becoming hot with the retrieves. After we finished, he headed for the ditch to cool off.

Elvis cools off in the ditch after retrieving drills

Elvis cools off in the ditch after retrieving drills

The Looking Glass drill

The Looking Glass drill layout

The Looking Glass drill layout

We took a break from the water last weekend and I worked with Doc and Mia on the Looking Glass drill. This drill, along with the power bar and waist cord, was developed by Mike Gould and is used to help retrievers take straight lines to their marks and ignore poison birds (bumpers they have to ignore).

I use the check cord to keep Mia from the poison birds

I use the check cord to keep Mia from the poison birds

The drill consists of laying out two rows of bumpers that essentially act as poison birds, but also provides a virtual lane for the dog to follow. The mark, or bumper they are supposed to retrieve, is placed at the end between the rows. The drill consists of casting the dog between the two rows of bumpers and the objective is to retrieve the bumper at the end. A very challenging drill for dogs just starting out, since they have a tendency to go after the poison birds.

Mia makes a successful retrieve

Mia makes a successful retrieve

I haven’t done this drill in a few years and Mia was confused at first, but once she caught on, did a great job. After she was making retrieves consistently, I set a pile of bumpers for her to retrieve.

Mia goes outside the lines

Mia goes outside the lines

This was Doc’s introduction to the drill and he’s not quite ready for it. He was becoming more confused by the drill so I stopped and had him retrieve a pile of bumpers. It’s a drill he’s going to have to gradually work up to.

Final tuneup

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.

Mia on point

Mia on point

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.

Elettra and Doc honors Mia

Elettra and Doc honors Mia

In any case, I sent Doc and Elettra out to honor her which Doc did nicely but I had to “whoa” Elettra to honor.

Elettra on point

Elettra on point

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.

Elettra retrieving a pigeon

Elettra retrieving a pigeon

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.

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring

Elettra on point with Mia and Doc honoring

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.

Retrieving basics

Elettra with bumper

Elettra’s last retrieve was a couple of years ago in sub-zero temperature so I went all the way back to square one with her retriever training.

Elettra retrieves a bird wing

Elettra retrieves a bird wing

I teased her with a bumper that had a wing attached to it, and tossed it a couple of times but she wasn’t too interested. Maybe that was too basic and she was insulted, I don’t know.

Elettra races back with the bird wing

Elettra races back with the bird wing

However she was happy to play fetch with the bird wing by itself, which we did for a little while.

A multi-breed training session

Everyone gets a pre-training run

Everyone gets a pre-training run

Drahthaars, an English Setter, English Pointer, Labs, and my Spinone made up the collection of dogs involved in Saturday morning’s training session. It was the first session of the year with my trainer and I was interested in seeing how Doc and Mia did, particularly with honoring.

Working on a Drahthaar pup's steadiness.

Working on a Drahthaar pup’s steadiness.

We let the dogs out for a 10-minute run to take the edge off their energy level prior to training, then began the session with a Drahthaar pup. The pup did a very nice job for the amount of time he’s been training and I videoed the session to be sent to the pup’s owner.

Mia on point

Mia on point

We worked Mia next, bracing her with an English Setter. She was very steady on both point and honor, and was rewarded with a retrieve. Upon sending Mia out for the retrieve, the bird took off flying with Mia on it’s tail. A couple hundred yards later she ran it down and made a very nice retrieve.

Mia on point with a setter pup honoring

Mia on point with a setter pup honoring

Mia retrieving a pigeon after a long chase

Mia retrieving a pigeon after a long chase

Mia honoring the setter pup

Mia honoring the setter pup

A Chocolate Lab pup was worked next on his whistle-sit command and was rewarded with a couple of retrieves.

Working with a Chocolate Lab on the whistle-sit command

Working with a Chocolate Lab on the whistle-sit command

Next we braced Doc with an experienced English Pointer but after an extensive hunt, neither dog was able to find the planted pigeon. We hate losing a carded bird but there was no finding it, and we assume that it must have flown off, perhaps into a nearby wheat field.

Doc on point with a Drahthaar pup honoring

Doc on point with a Drahthaar pup honoring

After the pointer, we braced Doc with another Drahthaar pup and both dogs did a nice job of pointing and honoring. After working with them, we sent Doc out on a blind retrieve. Perhaps it was our earlier work on honoring, but Doc only brought the bird part of the way back before dropping it. He seemed confused about retrieving it so I walked with him towards the bird; he then ran to it and retrieved to hand.

Doc honoring the Drahthaar's retrieve

Doc honoring the Drahthaar’s retrieve

Doc and Drahthaar pup on point

Doc and Drahthaar pup on point

For his second bird, Doc did a very nice job of pointing and was rewarded with the retrieve. This time when I sent him out, Doc chased the bird down and made a very nice retrieve.

Doc retrieving a pigeon

Doc retrieving a pigeon

In all, I was very pleased with both Doc and Mia, who were both very steady on both pointing and honoring. The only real issue was that they need a lot more aerobic conditioning.

Bota bags are perfect for watering dogs

Bota bags are perfect for watering dogs

After returning home, I took Elvis to the snowmobile races, but that’s another story.

Blind introductions

I did a little goose hunting last year which meant sitting in blinds or behind trees waiting for them to fly over. Mia, Elvis and Doc were not impressed with this type of hunting.

Sophie peers out of the duck blind

Sophie peers out of the duck blind

So when a good friend gave me a new portable duck blind, I decided it would be good to introduce the guys to hunting from blinds. It took a while to figure out how to set it up, but once I decided to stop following directions, it went up much faster.

 

Elvis, Mia and Doc inspect the blind

Elvis, Mia and Doc inspect the blind

After letting the guys investigate and inspect the blind, I did about 5 minutes of training for their first session. I didn’t focus on how long they stayed in the blind, but rather, looking for triggers that would cause them to break.

Doc and Elvis check out the blind from inside

Doc and Elvis check out the blind from inside

With each dog, I called them into the blind and gave them the “stay” command, then walked out of sight for a couple of minutes. They all did well with that so the next step was to go into the house and wait a few seconds before going back outside and releasing whoever was in the blind. Again, they all did well with that little exercise.