I’m not bragging. And I fear what I tell you next might jinx next week’s training. But every baby step forward is worthy of celebration around here as we head toward a fall NAVHDA Utility Test.
One key element of this grueling test is steadiness, not just to a flushing bird but to the shot and the fall. Only when the handler commands a retrieve is the dog allowed to move. As Manny’s enjoyed two puppy seasons of breaking at the flush this could well be our Waterloo. So, it’s the training priority these days.
This goal has so many benefits in the field, too. So like virtually every component in the test, there’s a practical side. Think about your own experience in the uplands: birds that flush over a cliff, wild flushes that you shoot anyway, bad shots and missed birds, an upwind crash that puts a bird in the air without a point … a dog that will whoa at those moments is a safe dog, ready to make a blind retrieve or hunt on.
So these days, it’s whoa training in all it’s manifestations. At the shot, at a long whistle, with a hand signal and voice. But also to the flush – my Real Bird Bumper, sticks and rocks, kicking around in the brush … and once the season is concluded, birds.
The bragging reference? We’ve had a strong week of training success, including today, which sums up the week: cross-country we went to avoid all the rude townies clogging our trails. Manny coursed the sage and bitterbrush prairie behind our place with one eye on me, the other on the far horizon. Over the course of the hour, I emptied a blank pistol’s eight-shot cylinder to repeated solid stops by Manny. Whistles at a distance, same result. Hand signals, stop. Combinations, more stops. A few retrieves to sweeten the pot were also preceded by one of the whoa signals, and deliveries to hand.
I’ll shut up now. No sense tempting fate any more. We are on our way.