A true gentleman

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The perils of training blinds.

Training for blind work with Hunter, my Curly-Coated Retriever, was never ordinary. The theory is that you set up your training scenarios and run through them. Simple, right? Well, it was rarely simple for us. When I would set up blind drills, things usually happened.

On more than one occasion, as Hunter was swimming across the pond in the direction I had sent him, someone else's bumper that had been underwater, stuck in the mud, would just pop up in front of him. Naturally, he would think that I was sending him for the unexpected bumper so he would get it and return to me. I usually saw those and rarely tried to correct him for stopping early. We would then move on and set up something else to try to accomplish what I had originally intended to work on.

Often when we would train for land blinds, he would find someone's lost bumper in the grass, and again, he would retrieve that one and think his job was done. The problem with unexpected bumpers was that I didn't know they were there and couldn't see them right away, so often I confused him with more commands when he stopped prematurely. Since we were training blinds, I had to accept his find and let him think he did the right thing (which technically he did - he went out cold to a place he didn't choose to go and brought back his bumper).

The absolute worst training snafu, however, occurred on a pond we used to use all the time. I had sent Hunter toward the far bank on a line where he would have to swim past a point and push to the far side. As he neared the point, however, a Mama duck with her string of little ducklings swam across his path a few yards ahead of him and clearly, Mama duck knew he was there and was hurrying her crew as fast as she could. Hunter stayed on his line until it crossed the ducks' path then he took a hard left and began pursuit of the family.

I blew my whistle, I called him to come in, (I really didn't want him to traumatize a baby duck) but Hunter kept pursuing them, and he was gaining on them. None of my usual training commands were working. After all, I usually used those commands to put him on to ducks. And I'm sure in his mind, he knew that I meant for him to get that duck before he came in. It was right there.

As a last resort and with less than a yard to go before he caught up with the last straggling duckling, I pulled out one of my obedience commands and yelled "HUNTER, LEAVE IT!"

Like magic, he dropped his pursuit and swung around to face me, confused as to why I no longer wanted the ducks, but willing to obey the command. I yelled "Good Boy!" and "Hunter Come!" And to his credit, he headed toward me.

We had used that pond to train many times before and there had never been ducks there. Nor have there been ducks there since. Oh well, when you were out with Hunter, you learned to expect the unexpected.

Q & A for the day:

Why is it important to train for blinds?

A well trained retriever is a great conservation tool. He will retrieve each bird down and the hunter can take his limit.

Sometimes, when the dog is retrieving a downed bird, the hunter will shoot another one and the dog will have no idea where the second one fell. When the dog returns with his bird, the hunter will send him to the second bird. With training, the hunter can set the dog up, pointing him in the right direction and send him "back" toward the bird. Using a series of whistles and hand signals, the hunter can steer the dog to the spot of the fall. If the wind is in his favor, the dog's nose will guide him in, if not, the hunter can guide him to the fall.

The blind is first taught up close, then distance is added. You get quite a feeling of achievement when you and your dog communicate well enough to achieve the goal.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A very good year, in reflection.

2008 was a very good year.

We ended the year with everyone we started with. Parents, kids, grandkids, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and dogs. All are healthy, happy and greeting 2009.

We also extended our family quite a bit. Yes, we added Taiko and his littermates and their new families. Taiko is a blast and the extended families are wonderful. They love their new curly kids and they send pictures. We also added Zoomy, a wonderful girl that is settling in nicely. Funny, I went from majority oldsters to majority youngsters in the household and things move much faster now.

Our summer was pretty much taken up with puppies but we did manage to squeeze in a few shows with old and new friends. Ziva was out of coat at every show we attended (and at one show after the pups she had NO curls) but we had fun and she garnered quite a few reserves, so we have hope for the new year if the coat will just coincide with show dates.

Destiny was able to attend every show with me and competed in Juniors at most. I never knew how much fun kids and dog shows could be. We'll be doing more of this in 2009.

We already have training plans for the new year. In January Taiko starts his second obedience class (he is just six months old and will be in formalized training for awhile-I am the one that needs the structure). He will also start obstacle familiarization in agility. Plus, he gets to do field work with the girls. Ziva will continue her obedience training and agility, as well as field work. (We have to take a hiatus from field work in the winter since our training partners are out hunting, duh). Zoomy will take novice obedience classes so that we can develop a mutual rapport. We haven't had time to figure out what she likes to do yet. I'm also hoping to enter someone in a tracking class that starts in the spring so that I can learn the mechanics of it. The old ones will continue to hold their places of honor and share the love.

In spite of all our big plans for the new year, we are most excited by the addition of a new human family member. Due in February, we're expecting a baby girl, call name Riley!

Happy New Year!