Posts Tagged ‘versatile dog’

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?

Manny 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.


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So, what’s new? A LOT … 

Wingshooting USA captured a “Telly” award last week. It’s sorta the Emmy of cable programming. Edited by Tad Newberry (as they all are), it told the story of a mother-daughter team of English Pointers hunting Hungarian partridge among the coulees and prairies of Central Montana. You can watch it here. It is  Episode # 2. I am especially honored, as the 31st annual Telly Awards attracted more than 13,000 entries. Wingshooting USA was the only upland hunting series honored in the “TV Sports” category, which included entries from Nike, Golf Channel, Warren Miller Entertainment, and Bank of America. 

Sidney starred with her daughter in the award-winning episode of Wingshooting USA


Why the title? Here’s a capsule description: Montana’s big sky country is the setting for big-running Pointers after Hungarian partridge on the prairies. The mother-daughter dog team scales rocky ledges and sweeps through coulees to produce these elusive imports for the guns. The hunt comes full circle in a number of ways: we start and end at a yard of round hay bales … acquaintances become friends by the end of the hunt … and mother dog shows daughter a thing or two about hunting! 


I have just been named a contributing editor at Versatile Hunting Dog magazine … bestowing what little dogology “wisdom” I have … you can be sure each column will be brief. Most of the revelations came from the 150-plus dogs I’ve hunted with on TV … believe me, I couldn’t come up with these ideas without their help! If you’re not a member of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association, you should be. Join here. 


Finally, I’ve just signed a design consulting contract with dog gear manufacturer Spindrift … and will be putting in my two cents’ worth on bird-dog equipment based mainly on my pet peeves about bird-dog equipment! Manny and Buddy are already hard at work field testing product #1 … watch this space! And if you have suggestions for better stuff you’d like to see manufactured, let me know!

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Awaiting their turn at the test!

Awaiting their turn at the test!

(First, have you voted on my  TV show theme yet? See below when you’re done with this post.)

Just back from helping at our local NAVHDA chapter’s Natural Ability test and as usual, am energized and motivated as well as a little sunburned. The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (go here) is a fast-growing group with very clear and sound goals: create better bird dogs through training and sharing of breeding-critical information; and make better bird dog owner-handlers.

Designed for dogs 18 months of age and younger, the NA test is simply that: an assessment of the pup’s natural traits in areas that will ultimately be developed into finely honed hunting skills. That’s not to say you unclip the lead and cross your fingers, as one of the traits being tested is what NAVHDA calls “cooperation,” or a willingness to work with – and for – its handler-owner. But it’s also not about how a good trainer can turn a puppy into a hunting robot. (more…)

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Welcome behind the scenes!

There are hundreds of decisions that go into making a good TV show. From the name, to graphics colors, location choices … everything must eventually be clearly defined and set in stone, so to speak. Some are dictated by the networks, others by necessity, some are strategic, and then there’s the fun stuff. This one is definitely in the latter category.

The opening theme sets the tone for the entire episode. It’s gotta sound “organic,” but not corny. High energy, but not head-banging. With luck, it’s a bit of a cue (like that Intel thing) and you sit up and watch when you hear it. Mainly, though, it should be listenable and have a bit of rhythm, conveying the spirit of the sport and the show.

So put on your producer’s blaze orange hat. Time to help pick the official opening title theme song for Wingshooting USA. After listening to dozens of tunes, we’ve narrowed it down to a couple options (the accompanying video is just for giggles – not a final version by any stretch of the imagination). You can help with your comments, and vote in the poll.

Sit back, crank up the volume (give it a minute to download) then help choose the tune you’ll hear every week starting in late September.

This video doesn’t exist
This video doesn’t exist

Now, take the poll, and leave your comments below.

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Almost here.

Almost here.

Do you remember Christmas Eve? Maybe you went to mass, there might have been  a party, possibly a big dinner with cousins you saw but once a year (and never liked anyway). But after all the ceremony, once dishes were dried and put up, when the lights were doused and you were tucked into bed with sugar plums dancing in your head, anticipation eventually seeped into your subconcious as the one, the only feeling in your young and impressionable mind. Soon, seep led to trickle, then to roar as the endless night dragged on.

You know, that can’t-get-to-sleep, did I leave Santa enough cookies and milk? will it be under the tree?  potential for unbridled joy coupled with a tinge of looming disappointment.

I’m there. Smack dab in the center, at the nexus of fun and wariness. Tomorrow we head north and east, Manny, Buddy and me.

Maybe because last night I was subjected to old home movies of my first Christmases, that’s the metaphor that best describes the night before embarking on the Awesome Upland Road Trip.

I’d promised Buddy and Manny this would be the fall we both got enough hunting to satisfy us. Let’s hope I’m not turned into a liar.

I’m wrapping a family-celebration trip as this is written, and while air travel typically is a drudge (that’s on a good day), this series of plane trips has been flavored by optimism on my part, smiles by airline staff, good weather, on-time arrivals, friendly seatmates and that identical sense of anticipation that sets in about midnight on December 24th.

Do you ever get that feeling? Maybe as opening weekend approaches? Or as you set out to pick up a new pup? Maybe as your annual trip to (fill in the blank: Wisconsin/ruffs; Texas/bobs; South Dakota/ringnecks) comes nigh?

Rub your hands – sleep in your clothes – check the alarm clock every hour – get up early (earlier) than planned – the sweet taste of impending fun and new country. It’s Christmas in September …  see you on the road!

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[This, from one of last year’s broadcasts, was driven home again to me in a recent conversation. Not too early to start re-learning these things.]

In someone else’s house, even Buddy’s on his best behavior. But when you hunt with someone else’s dog, everybody’s a critic … or worse. Be a good guest in the field, too.

Let the dog’s owner tell you what to do, whether it’s feeding, doctoring or field etiquette. Ask about shooting wild flushes, or birds over a broken point.

Keep criticism to yourself. If your dog were better, you’d be hunting with him. Same for commands and discipline, which usually fall on deaf furry ears coming from a stranger.

Help a dog retrieve to his owner by turning away if he comes toward you. It eliminates confusion.

You can always offer praise. A scratch behind the ear or a stroke on the back are always welcome after the job is done. Until then, keep your mouth shut and your hands in your pocket.

And finally, don’t forget the other obligation of a good guest. A bottle of something old from Scotland for your human host ensures a return invitation.

– Scott

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So sue me.

We are a year behind in the training schedule (ironically, because I’ve hunted with too many other people’s dogs in too many other states). But Buddy’s nemesis, the retrieve, is starting to shape up. Dare I jinx it by sharing my progress?

Suffice it to say the one universal, all-things-for-all-purposes motivator for Buddy is food. And I’d neglected to use it in training to retrieve. But recent posts have discussed our retrieving training without addressing why I do it the way I do, so here goes …

Sure, the force-breaking thing is all the rage, but not for me – what would it do to the roll-on-the-floor stretching routine, for example? So it’s all carrot and no stick on the backyard training table at my house. (Save your ire for another blog – force fetching is NOT an option.)

So far, so good. And here’s how we do it:

– Every good move (or non-move, when on “whoa,” for example) is rewarded. Note that I give treats and praise for Buddy’s NOT doing something wrong as often as for doing something right!

– Even baby steps in the right direction merit a treat

– Once a part of the retrieve is mastered, fewer treats are offset by more praise

Eventually, my pockets won’t smell like chicken or salmon and Buddy will continue to bring back birds. Until then, I don’t mind the occasional whiff of seafood when I reach for my truck keys.

– Scott 

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