We took a little time yesterday to just go romp in the fields and let the puppies explore. My friend brought his french brittany puppy and I brought my little female german shorthair Abby. It was fun to just let the pups run and chase each other in a non-threatening outdoor environment. In a book by Bill Tarrant he claims that this “happy timing” is crucial to the dog’s development. The focus is to make sure that pup learns to love the outdoors and becomes street-wise to things like cow manure, crossing streams, avoiding cactus, traversing fences and learning the difference between a bird and a butterfly. We came across a dead sheep which was quite a different smell for the puppies and Abby surprised a couple of mule deer that were drinking in the stream. Experiences like this are logged in the pups memory banks and make pup all the smarter.
And I thought hunting Blue Grouse last week was challenging. Chukar hunting in the Central Utah desert is quite a bit more challenging than grouse. First, you have to hike and hike and hike and it’s all uphill hiking mind you. Chukar seem to be able to live where nothing else can eek out enough food to survive. Second, they like to run way out ahead of you so you can’t get close enough to flush them and when they do flush they are usually well out of shooting range. Last, when they do flush they hug the terrain like an A10 warthog on a strike mission and they always fly downhill at about 120 miles per hour. After missing several chukar I finally figured out how to pick one out of the flock and shoot more quickly.
Since Jake is struggling with a major bird shy problem I decided to take my little female GSP Abby along for the ride. She seemed to do pretty well and worked well with my buddy’s yellow lab named Allie. I was most pleased with Abby’s instinct to check back with me frequently as we were huntng rocky steep terrain. Closer working dogs seem to be more effective when chasing chukar in the desert. I can imagine how a big running dog would probably inadvertantly bump a lot of birds. It was really a pleasure to watch Abby work even though she is still young. As the sun dropped and the winds kicked up the temperature dropped considerably and snowflakes started falling. Lucky for us it was getting dark so we headed on home.
Over the weekend our new gun dog breeder website reached the 200 kennels mark and kept on climbing. We are excited about this project since it is a labor of love for us. My hunting buddy and I thought it would be great to build a web directory that helps bring buyers and gun dog breeders together. As of this moment we have 234 gun dog kennels listed in 44 US states. We recently added the Canadian provinces to our list so that we can now accept kennels from our friends to the North. I didn’t realize how many gun dog kennels there are in Canada.
Users can search for gun dog kennels by State or by Dog Breed. Currently the top gun dog breed on our site is the German Shorthaired Pointer with more than 140 GSP kennels listed. Second is hunting labs and retrievers with nearly 40 kennels listed followed by Brittany breeders with almost 30 kennels listed. Our classified ads are getting well used also with 44 current ads announcing puppies for sale, started dogs and finished dogs for sale.
GunDogBreeders.com is really starting to take off as more people hear about it. Over this past weekend alone we received 30 new gun dog kennel submissions. We are considering applying the same format and web technology to a much larger site for all dog breeds called Dog Breeder Search.
This past week my one year old german shorthaired pointer “Jake” started blinking his birds. I could see when he caught the scent but he just kept on walking, hoping I wouldn’t notice. It was disturbing for me to see him exhibit this problem since I have been careful in introducing Jake to gunfire and birds. I immediately took him back to the ATV and gave him a break while we finished running his littermate.
I am not an expert dog trainer but I was able to recognize the problem early on. I think I just need to slow down with Jakes training and get back to having fun. Next time we go out I will just let him chase some birds and leave the gun at home. It seems most important that he be excited about birds and wanting to find more. This problem will probably take a little extra patience and work on my part. I think I will consult with some of the experts over at Gun Dog Forum and see what they recommend.
This afternoon Jake and I were invited to go grouse hunting with my neighbor and new friend Chris Colt. Chris brought along his two one-year-old labs and I brought Jake. It was a new experience for myself as well as for Jake. We went up on Cove Mountain near my home and found some really nasty terrain (around 9,000 feet in elevation). It was steep and thick with pines and aspens and we just started hiking the upper edge of the tree line. It only took about ten minutes before we had our first flush. There was a storm blowing in so the grouse were roosting in the trees which gave them the advantage. The first one flushed straight at me and passed over my head and by the time I fired he was on his way down the mountain and well out of range.
After flushing four grouse and hiking some extremely rough mountainside, we dropped down and doubled back hoping to pick up the missed birds. We flushed one bird on our return trip and my buddy blasted him. A very healthy grouse, I was surprised to see that they are nearly as large as a pheasant. His labs did a great job of marking the bird and retrieving to hand. They made Jake look like a chump, very impressive since they are basically the same age. I attribute their success to the qulaity of training, since I know Jake has an inexperienced trainer. I think it is good anytime you can hunt with dogs that know the game better than yours. Hopefully a little of it rubs off on Jake and he gets a better idea of what is expected.
The official title of this gun dog training video is “The Hunter’s Guide to Training Pointing Dogs“. I had to dig out my little 13″ TV/VCR combo out of the camping gear trailer since that is the only VCR we own anymore. I don’t think you can find this title on DVD anywhere, at least I didn’t have any luck. I tried to sign up for one of George Hickox’s training seminars because he had one in Utah but it was sold out months ago. Maybe next year I can get some trainer training from somebody as knowledgeable as George Hickox.
This video was filmed at the Orvis endorsed Flying B Ranch in Idaho which looks like a fine hunting lodge. Run time was 75 minutes and it was pretty engaging overall. I only dozed off once during a section on retrieving. The puppy section at the beginning of the video has some good tips on introducing your pointer puppy to birds and building the prey drive. Basically George feels strongly that you can’t train a bird dog without using live birds. He suggests using pigeon or quail in the beginning when pup may be a little timid and suggests using a taped wing pigeon to help buld his confidence. He also had a cool trick for spreading the scent around a little when planting live birds for training.
I am working on training and reinforcing the Whoa command with my dog Jake, so that is the section that stood out to me the most. George focused on place orientation and showing the pup what you want many times before any correction takes place. He uses a square piece of plywood to stand the dog on when teaching the whoa command. If the dog moves simply pick him up and place him back on the plywood square. He had a handy little suitcase lead that he made with 40 inches of check cord with snaps on both ends. Basically one end snaps to the collar and the other end wraps around the haunches and snaps back on itself. This creates a nice suitcase type handle for replacing the dog when he moves. A barrel on it’s side is also used in teaching the whoa command. Basically, the dog learns that if he holds still everything is okay. If he moves he’ll fall down.
The other really good section he had was on using the E-collar in training and correction. George Hickox lays out the ground rules of using the e-collar to ensure that the dog doesn’t get traumatized while training. He encourages e-collar users to find the stimulation that works best for the individual dog. Proper stimulation should just make the dog flinch but not so much that the dogs yelps or runs. Once the optimum stimulation level is discovered, George goes into teaching the proper use of the e-collar in training. Since I am trying to train my german shorthair without the use of an e-collar I didn’t listen intently. But, if you want to use an e-collar this is a great training video for showing the proper use.
Overall I would give this video a 7 out of 10. I am sure this is not George Hickox’s best video. I plan to order his 4 volume “Training Pointing Dogs” collection which is much more detailed. As a rookie I have found that it will probably take me at least a few dogs before I become proficient in dog training and develop my own skills. It is definitely not something that can be learned by reading a few books or watching a video. The learning comes more clearly for me when I actually get out with my dogs and get to work.