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Posts Tagged ‘steady to wing and shot’

Not ready for retrieves yet - this is from last season. But soon, soon enough.

Not ready for retrieves yet – this is from last season. But soon, soon enough.

One step at a time, the saying goes, and the steps are encouraging. Despite two TV seasons of breaking at the shot, Manny is making progress on his steadiness to wing, shot, and fall.

We had a few setbacks without it, so we are back to using Bob Farris’ “gut hitch,” a variation on the Smith cousin’s flank half-hitch (thanks to all of you). It is the defining factor. That little tug on Manny’s waist may as well be an anchor chain for as solid as he stands the bird. A whiff of pigeon and he’s staunch, foot up and tail twitching into a straight and high twelve o’clock posture.

Then the gut hitch goes on, I mutter a quick reminder of “whoa,” and move in for the flush. Boom goes the blank pistol (we’ve graduated), and a wirehaired statue watches the pigeon fly toward the desert, disappearing through the trees and out of Manny’s sight – and mind. A wiggle in the tail as the bird vanishes, but four feet remain firmly planted on the sandy soil. Ten more repetitions and I’ll take off the hitch.

So, how’s your training going? What are your goals for this spring and summer?

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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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A perfect example of why steady to shot makes sense - that's pretty tall grass! This was shot at Nebraska's Pheasant Bonanza; the photo is by Nancy Anisfield

Along with the other things we’re practicing, Manny is now learning that a gun shot means “whoa.” Yep, I sometimes shoot birds that fly wild, nowhere near my dogs … especially on a slow day, the first day, the last day, or any day when the adrenaline is flowing faster than the wisdom. When I actually hit something, I want my dogs to find it.

By stopping to the shot (or a flush, or a command or a whistle) Manny and Buddy might actually see the bird drop. If not, at least they are ready for the fetch command and a hand signal assist to the right general area. When a chukar tumbles among the rockfalls and scree, I like to think they appreciate the heads-up – literally.

In the NAVHDA Utility Test, there are several instances where a shot-whoa sequence will come in handy: after pointing birds in the field, sure. But also when standing at the duck blind, watching birds fly and hearing shots from several directions including from me! The duck search also includes a shot prior to sending him to the water, where he should remain calm and at my side … so you can see how this training might help.

That said, do you think there are any downsides to “whoa to shot?”

As an aside, I’ve found many uses for a long whistle as another “whoa” command, much like the retriever guys use. And last night, Manny did me proud – 150 yards from me, he locked up tight when I blew! Good boy!

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