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Posts Tagged ‘What the Dogs Taught Me’

Nom nom nom. Good dog!

Whether this works for you, you’ll have to decide. If a more experienced trainer has an opinion, I’m sure I’ll hear via Facebook. But at least one of those, pro trainer George Hickox, thought enough to bring it up in a recent conversation:

1. Dogs work for themselves, not us. If they choose to cooperate with us, “obeying” our commands, it is a means to an end.

2. The end is quite often food (especially in young dogs) or prey (in our situation, usually birds).

Makes sense to me. Think about it for a couple days as you train, and see what you think.

So, how do we adjust our training philosophy and practice in light of those observations? I’m using the prospect of holding a dead bird as a much more frequent reward with Flick than with past dogs. So far, so good.

In steadiness training, when he slams on the brakes the moment he scents birds, he gets to retrieve one. Almost every time at first, and as quickly as practicable after a flush/shot. Then, he learns to wait a while from point to flush to fall to retrieve command.

In a gentle version of force fetch training I’m testing, a variation. Obviously, he “gets” the bird when he’s sent to retrieve it. But – and I’ve seen this countless times on the TV show and at training days – the moment a dog arrives at the human, the bird is yanked from his mouth.

Not Flick. He gets a moment or two to savor it. Maybe more, if he doesn’t start chewing! I’ll often heel him back to the yard or training table as he carries the bird – that’s a lot of savoring! And once he releases on command, he gets another chance to snort-sniff-lick it while I hold it.

A bird in hand may be worth two in the bush. But a bird in the mouth is worth two hundred in the bag … if Flick can enjoy it for a bit.

I’ll keep you posted.

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About 4,000 per month. That’s how many questions I get from Facebook, Instagram, email, and when you enter my Take Your Friend Hunting contest here. Some are just too good to leave alone – they beg for a little embellishment, just for fun. If any of these questions look familiar, please know it is merely coincidental.

[Editor’s note: no dogs were harmed in the making of this blog post, though a few egos may be slightly bruised.]

Q: Do you ever hunt without a dog? Thanks, Kat Luver.

A: Why?

Q: My children want to help with dog training, but they are not very disciplined themselves, i.e., dirty rooms, lost homework, bad manners. Thanks, Terry Bulldad.

A: Try an electronic training collar. They are nowhere near as inhumane as they used to be, and speed up the learning process when used correctly. The vibration and tone features also give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to behavioral change. Start with a very low stimulation, and work up as necessary. I would take the collars off before you drop them at school, though.

Q: Help! My dog won’t come to me when called. Signed, Star Tinghout.

A: He doesn’t come when I call him, either. Try making a sound like a filet mignon and see what happens.

Q: How long does it take to train a dog? Thanks, E.Z. Wayout.

A: A year should be sufficient for me to tell you how long it will take to train a dog.

Q: My dog is in a constant state of shedding both in the house and truck. Can I do anything about it? Signed, Harry Holmes.

A: Despite the claims by some “doodle-type” or shorthair breeders, all dogs shed. A good diet and regular grooming will help, but the real solution is to own furniture, carpets and truck upholstery that match the color of your dog. If your dog is ticked, spotted, checked or striped, buy two homes and two trucks.

Q: How can I get to go hunting with you? Thanks, Nita Friend.

A: Thanks! I’m always looking for guest hosts on the show, especially if they shoot well and let me take credit. Please send me a detailed letter, written in the margins of as many $50 bills as you need to draft a detailed, lengthy, convincing proposal.

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And ready for your order. Go here to get more information and order your copy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Thanks to everyone who has seen an advance copy of  “What the Dogs Taught Me.” The book should be available very soon – so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, please see what others have to say:

Randy Schultz’ blog “A Bird Hunter’s Thoughts”: Get this book.  Better yet, buy two and give the book to the new guy, too!  Read entire review here.

“What the Dogs Taught Me is an excellent read for any birddog owner, bird hunter, or amateur dog trainer. With his usual humility, and lack of an ‘I know it all’ attitude, Scott Linden presents the reader with a treasure trove of valuable information from training to the field. If you’re serious about your bird hunting, you will benefit greatly from Scott’s insights learned from his years of experience. What the Dogs Taught Me would be a fine addition to the reference library of any bird hunter.”
—Dez Young, host, “Hunting with Hank,” “Upland Days with Dash & Dez”

“This fine, information- and insight-packed book by Scott Linden teaches us all a great lesson: Trust your bird dog. He knows what he’s barking about.”
—Thomas McIntyre, author of The Snow Leopard’s Tale and Shooter’s Bible Guide to Optics

“Scott’s book What the Dogs Taught Me is a winner! Scott has succeeded in blending anecdotes, training advice, nutrition and health tips with a sincere passion and love for his life with dogs and the outdoors. What the Dogs Taught Me is much more than a reference book.  It is a must have for those who train, hunt, and enjoy the marvelous world of hunting dogs.”

– George Hickox, George Hickox Bird Dogs

You can place your advance order here. Delivery expected in June!

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A perfect time to ... find out when the book comes out, or in the next set of questions.

A perfect time to … what? Find out when the book comes out, or in the next set of questions.

You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers. Via Facebook, this blog, email and at events like the upcoming Pheasant Fest/Quail Classic you are not shy about wanting to learn more … about dogs, birds, hunting, shooting and that patch on my shooting glasses.

Here are some of my favorites …

Q: Have you ever encountered a dog that just couldn’t be trained to hunt?

A: I’ve OWNED them. Just kidding, but there probably are dogs that are less inclined to hunt. Much of that can be blamed on genetics and bad owners who haven’t trained their dog to basic obedience. I might guess that any dog with three or more legs (not joking) and a nose can hunt … if motivated by birds and their human.

Q: I hunt a lot of grouse and ducks in Minnesota and I have Springer spaniels. When hunting them in the woods they don’t like to get off the trail. What can I do to help them understand to go into the woods?

A: How much bird contact have they had? If you’re not finding a lot of birds in the woods, set up some training situations where they will discover birds when they get off trail. Once they get the idea, they’ll be more inclined to venture out.

Q: To neuter or not to neuter? I’m in the process of purchasing my first bird dog and have been given a lot of advice on what to do and what not to do when getting your first bird dog. On several occasions I have heard rumors around town about whether or not to get your dog fixed or neutered. Some say that if you do get your dog fixed, they will not be able to hunt longer and will be less aggressive in the field. Is this true?

A: Having just lived through our most recent neutering, I haven’t seen any change in Manny’s field behavior. The problems you worry about are easily fixed with good conditioning and training. The simple answer is, if you aren’t going to breed or show your dog, neutering will prevent unwanted doggie pregnancies and possibly damp down the roaming instinct in dogs seeking females in heat. The research on whether neutered males are more prone to certain cancers is not conclusive; certainly they aren’t vulnerable to testicular cancer! Many old wives will suggest a neutered dog is less aggressive, but there is little evidence of that in the science either. Most research does recommend postponing neutering for at least 18 months or more to ensure a dog’s body gets all the benefits of hormones generated from the testes and develops fully. Some suggest that will also minimize the cancer risks some research associates with neutering.

Q: Scott, you mentioned the tape on your shooting glasses so that you use your right eye. I was checking that out and noticed I close my left eye. I really never noticed it before. What are the pros and cons to closing an eye?

A: If you shoot better with your left eye closed, you might be cross-dominant like me. The tape ensures that I don’t have to remember to close my eye – instead, it muddles my left/dominant eye’s vision enough so my right takes over (I shoot righty).

Q: What’s the longest distance do you like to have your dog hunt in front of you and still be shotgun range?

A: Presuming you’re talking about flushing breeds, “gun range” should be the distance from you that puts birds in the air within a range you can ethically shoot at them … so a dog should probably work 10-15 yards in front of you so you have another 20-30 yards from a flush to hit the bird. Pointing breeds range according to genetics and training, but “gun range” is less an issue because (theoretically) they hold their birds until you get there. So I’m told.

Q: My question pertains to retriever training. Many if not most professionals encourage developing a personal bond between the owner and dog before moving on to advanced training. One such technique is the simple game of “fetch” to establish rapport and basic commands that can be built upon. My question concerns my wonderfully eager and cooperative English Cocker who is so eager to please that she is almost nonstop at retrieving. I have even ordered your new Signature Series dummy for variety as well as teach familiarity with a wing. My dog is still of the puppy mindset at eighteen months, easily wearing out my throwing arm before herself. She was a started puppy at seven months when I acquired her, eagerly retrieving flapping pigeons almost her size. Is it possible to overdo the dummy business such that she will lose interest in, or forget about the real thing?

A very serious dog trainer friend has cautioned me against this very thing. She loves to play so much that I would hate to deny her the fun, especially since she does it to eagerly please me.

A: Sounds like you’re having a great time. Yep, the bonding thing is important. I would agree with the very serious trainer (which I am NOT) that you could burn out your pup. At some point, retrieving must become a COMMAND, obeyed every time in every situation (force training). I face the same situation, though, with my 2-1/2 year-old wirehair. So I divorce the two: there is play time with a tennis ball and no retrieving-related commands. Then, out comes the Real Bird Bumper or real birds, and “fetch.”

Q: I notice in the magazines, big trials and even hunt tests that many dogs have long names. And sometimes they have unusual spellings of common names! What goes?

A: You can thank the American Kennel Club and other breed registries. Every registered dog requires a distinct name for recordkeeping, so many owners have to get pretty creative. Add to that limits on the number of characters on the registration form, plus many breeders who require you to preface your dog’s name with their kennel name and it can get pretty complicated.

More to come – watch for publication of my new book “What the Dogs Taught Me” this may. Like what you read? Subscribe to my Upland Nation e-newsletter here.

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closeup detail-23 “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

-Will Rogers

Dogs are fascinating, multi-dimensional beings that have intrigued me for decades. The most interesting aspect of their lives, at least to me, is how they think. Maybe “think” is the wrong word for those of you who believe animals dwell deep in the primitive depths of instinct, fang, claw, action and reaction.

But we hunting dog owners know better. We’ve seen our partners apply reason, employ logic, solve complex problems and learn a bit of “language.” Sure, they think differently from us. But they think. And the sooner we figure out what they’re thinking about – and why – the better our hunting team becomes.

Have you ever had a lousy boss? You know the type: harsh voice constantly berating you, cutting you down, badgering, yelling, and criticizing … never offering praise or encouragement.

Some of us have been lucky enough to have a good boss, or even been one. To others, it might have been a coach, teacher, Scoutmaster, neighbor. You remember them for their soothing demeanor, supportive attitude, mutual respect, positive reinforcement. Heck, even their critiques were constructive, almost pleasurable.

Of the two, who would you rather work for? For which would you gladly stay late to help with a rush order, or go the extra mile? The same holds true for your dog.

I’m not saying you should curry favor, suck up or kowtow to your pup. In the pack, your dog functions best when he knows his boundaries and who’s in charge. In your house, yard and field that’s always you. Establishing those boundaries and setting up your chain of command can be done in a number of ways, some better than others. One version engenders respect and cooperation, other versions foster fear or aggression.

When discipline is applied appropriately, instruction is melded with encouragement, or correction is done with restraint and sensitivity, I think your dog acquires a sense of “fairness.” I doubt that dogs truly comprehend that term, but they are certainly aware of the opposite.

Doesn’t it just make sense to create a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and reward for a job well done? Remember back to when it worked for you; I bet it’ll work for him.

(This is an excerpt from my upcoming book What the Dogs Taught Me, to be published in fall 2013 by Skyhorse Publishing of New York. Receive these regularly by subscribing to my emailed newsletter.)

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This is top candidate for the cover illustration.

This is the top candidate for the cover illustration.

Well, 59,457 words are in the right order, spell-checked and double-checked. The manuscript for my new book  “What the Dogs Taught Me” goes to Skyhorse Publishing in New York late this week. All that’s left is a final look at all the photos and illustrations, then a long wait.

Publication date (with any luck) is just before hunting season next year.

If you want a sneak peek, stay tuned here, or subscribe to my Upland Nation newsletter as I’ll be sharing bits and pieces between now and publication.

What do you think of the photo? It’s me and Buddy, shot at dawn by David LaBelle on Coyote Butte near my house.

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