Many training books and articles talk about adapting training to individual dogs and letting the dog tell you when they are ready for the next step. The thing they often don’t tell you is what are the specific indicators for moving on with a pup or older dog. So, I thought I’d share a couple of examples. I had a cal from someone who was having trouble getting a pup to wear a bell without displaying a major amount of trauma. This person put the bell on the dog in the kennel and the dog immediately ran into its box and wouldn’t come out and stayed in the box for an extended period. I never put a bell on a puppy until I think they are ready and I usually introduce the bell by having the pup run with an older dog that has a bell on, than introduce it in the yard on a leash, and then when the pup is run. If the pup balks at all I take a step back and don’t force the issue as the bell is an important aspect of the cover dog game and all the dogs have to see (and hear) the bell as an indication that the fun (or Work) is about to begin.
The same thing with gunfire. I want a pup to already be hunting and finding wild birds before I fire over them. All four of the puppies that were born inn February that I’m working were just introduced to gunfire this week. Part of the reason for this is that although they have been finding grouse fairly regularly I’ve been running them in pairs and didn’t want to fire for one finding birds while the other was somewhere I couldn’t judge its reaction. So this week I ran them individually and waited until they were in hot pursuit of a woodcock to fire the gun. All four reacted as expected — they just ignored the shot and kept chasing the bird.
The boldest of the four went on to make a shooting dog type cast out of bell range (the bell she had on carries about 200 yards) and took her own sweet time coming back. That tells me that she is ready for e-collar conditioning and then being shortened up through the coming hunting season. A lot of people get enamored of watching their puppies run big even in the woods and then really have to lower the boom later when they want them to handle. I’d rather make them handle when their six months old and then let them extend their range later when they can be trusted to hold birds until I get there. This maybe the one draw back to gps tracking. We don’t worry about range as much because we can look down at the handheld and know exactly where the dog is. Some even seem to have developed a perverse thrill of letting their dogs run 300, 400, or more yards in the woods. I guess my question would be why? If our top field trial dogs ran that big we’d never be able to find them. I let my shooting dogs ramble and run big as long as it’s to the front. Puppies and derbies that aren’t staunch yet need to be kept on a much shorter string. To e-collar condition them I start in the yard with a 50′ checkcord and work more on come — at first I put the collar on them and don’t even turn it on. When they come regularly with pressure from the checkcord I start overlaying that with a very low level of stimulation. Soon I use the stimulation when I say come and hold the button down until they get to me. This teaches them that the safest place to be is with me. For a more detailed discussion of this for a older dog that didn’t learn the basics as a pup see the post Rope-a-Dope from a couple of summers ago.
There’s no real rush with puppies to accomplish these lessons, it’s better to take your time and do it right so you don’t have to do it again later.
The cool morning yesterday allowed me to get all six dogs on the truck worked and everyone found birds. Max was the day dog with broke finds on both a woodcock and a grouse. Jagger ran well and found four woodcock each time he is holding them longer. Brandy had a couple of grouse contacts that fired her up even more than normal. Trip had a single grouse. Then Peanut and Sam got to run late in the morning after spending a long time in the dog box (all part of the learning process) they each had a woodcock and Sam might have had more on her big cast.
This morning I went to one of our fall hunting covers that I can run two dogs in opposite directions Pete had a grouse and Lucy had three woodcock before I had to head out to the vets to get a shot for Brandy.
Tomorrow will be a Red Barn morning with Tony and four dogs each. There should be plenty of fireworks as the birds have been filtering in to the cover as the summer progresses. I’m thinking that I may send some of the training customers a surcharge for the 209 primers I have expended so far this summer — it’s a good thing I don’t have to use my .32 in training — I’m about to finish my third box of 100 primers since June 1.