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Posts Tagged ‘pointing’

Uncle Buddy is the example: now, to approach strategically so he holds still on the flush.

Some things just make sense, whether you hunt with dogs or not. This is one of them.

If your goal is to have a steady dog that holds his point even while a bird rattles into the sky, this might help.

Dogs seem to be curious creatures. Unlike cats, curiosity probably won’t kill the dog, but it could cause him to break on a flushing bird if he feels like he’s being squeezed out of the action. On top of the others I’ve mentioned, here’s another good reason to be strategic about approaching a pointed bird: obscuring his view of the action could encourage him to move so he can watch the proceedings … even when you want him to stand sill.

This was driven home to me in a training situation just yesterday. I’d set up the bird in a launcher so it was hidden by tall sage. I brought Manny in crosswind, and he stopped at the first whiff of pigeon, front leg lifted in anticipation of the joy to come. Unfortunately, he was pointing scent that had wafted through yet another tall sage, so when the bird lifted he couldn’t see it. At the flush, he jumped left as if on springs, back on point when he landed. From his new vantage point, he could see the arc of the flying bird.

There was no intent to break point, or chase the bird. He simply needed a vector on it so when time came to retrieve he’d know where to go.

Yesterday it was a sagebrush. On other days, it’s been me. And there’s the lesson. By marching straight in on a bird, we are effectively blocking our dog’s line of sight. Holding a point with adrenaline flowing and guns blazing is hard enough. It’s understandable that any smart dog would want to know where the flying bird is headed – after all, if things go well, you’ll be asking him to “fetch it up.”

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A while back – now, it counts for real.

We are making progress. Manny and Buddy – a team again – are getting steadier by the day. Our past three days:

1. Flanking the whoa table, with Rick Smith’s waist-rope “point of contact,” the guys were attentive and still when the pigeon was fluttered, flapped and waved in front of them. Not too close, but closer than usual. Ditto when brought downwind of a launcher. They stood side-by-side (actually, Buddy gets first position, Manny learns manners).

2. Retrieves are also more than simple fetching drills now. Each honors their bracemate, learning patience and more manners.

3. Next day, the rope was simply draped over their flanks, a tap reinforced the point of contact but no waist wrap. Birds – flap – steady again. And earnest, purposeful “duck search” on dry land for the little guy afterward with a soft-mouthed retrieve after a momentary point upon discovery of the pigeon.

4. Today, no rope, no table. Dogs loose in the yard, I showed the pigeon and they froze. Big waves, major flaps, up-close- and-personal distance. Like statues.

Now, I’ve probably jinxed it.

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Would you be steady with them strolling past?

Would you be steady with them strolling past?

You’ve heard the phrase “less is more.” Does it have relevance to dog training?

Buddy and I are deep into preparation for an upcoming NAVHDA Utility test (www.navhda.org) and our latest challenge is steady to wing-shot-fall. If you know the test, you know it’s a ball-buster. Both the field and water portions require a dog to be rock-steady in the midst of distraction shots, walking birds, flying birds, dead birds, shot birds, bobbing decoys, and swinging guns. Not to mention a small gallery of judges, gunners and handlers adding to the circus atmosphere.

I hit on something today (probably did earlier, but it didn’t sink in) that I hope helps. Actually, part one hit me yesterday when in a less-than-stellar moment with my wife’s help, Buddy lunged every time the bird flew and the gun popped.

Revelation: he was simply reacting to her tensing the checkcord in preparation for the flush, telegraphing that tension to him literally and figuratively. He felt the stress both physical and emotional, and simply couldn’t focus on what he knew to be right.

[I remember an obedience trainer who'd worked with wolves once telling me canines will almost always pull back when you do, for example, on a lead. You've probably have had yours push back when you steady him on point by pushing on his rump.]

None of this would have sunk in had I not taken him out to remedy last night’s situation with a brush-up at lunch today. No wife, no checkcord, less tension in the air and voila! a steady dog throughout the sequence.

I may be a slow learner, but I pick things up, eventually. With luck, so will Buddy. Hope this helps you, too.

Scott

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