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 Post subject: Next training steps for my Labrador.. groupthinking...
PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2020 12:21 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:17 pm
Posts: 5
My fox red Labrador (Ganderland kennels) is now just 3 years old. This is our second year of hunting pheasants together. His name is Havoc, because of a Shakespeare play. You know.. "Cry havoc, let slip the dogs of war." So if I am out there shouting "HAVOC!" a few eggheads are laughing in the woods.

We hunt public lands with stocked birds in South Central Wisconsin. Last year we got two all season, this year he really has it down- we bagged 9 in the first month of the season. Our terrain can vary from easy walking prairie grass and corn field to deep tough stream-bed impossible tangle/brush/thorns/muck, marsh land... the birds are almost always spooky and running unless sometimes it's just some dumb bird sunning itself 50 feet from where you parked your car... just to make you feel like an idiot after hiking all day to find one. As a hunter, I am learning the land, animals, when other hunters are out stirring things up and where, as well as taking the history of the weather in to account. Knowing when it might pay off to work hard in the rough and when it's just as likely to take it easy in the open.

In our second year...
He's got the nose. He'll get on scent, his tail is wagging at top speed, nose to the ground... he's gonna find that bird and make it fly.

He's got the ears. He knows exactly what they sound like. Crowing, squawking, just a quiet rustle in deep brush- he knows it's them.

Smart, soft mouth, easy to train, loves kids and puppies, friendly and playful... check. Gun shy? Heck no- a gun even miles away he heads towards it, tail wagging. Gunshot means bird and bird means he can go get it!

Drive- intense, he's absolutely a bird fiend. If it's out there, he will do ANYTHING to make it fly. Crawl through insane brush? Swim the creek? Come back bloody from blackberry canes? No problems. I used to think that making the bird fly and bringing it back was his favorite thing in all the world.. until a bird tried to put up a good fight. No way, Havoc was going to bring that bird back and the tougher the challenge, the happier he is! That was even more fun than fetching the bird that went down across the creek.

Oh, we use a real cheap $30 collar that vibrates or beeps (it can shock, I don't use that. I have a bag of treats in my pocket instead.) He responds excellently to the vibrate, which means "come back". Most often, he is responding very well to soft whistles I make with my lips and hand signals and voice commands like "Get your bird!" "fetch it!" and "release!"

I hope you are getting the picture that I am very proud of my dog, who is practically perfect in every way. He's basically outstanding in town or country.. except maybe one thing...

If he sees a bird sunning itself 200 yards down a tractor trail, there is (at present) no holding him back. He wants to charge down there like the red rocket he is and make that bird fly. He wants to do that so badly that when I have leashed him and we spotted a bird like that he whimpered and cried so piteously you would have thought he was a mama dog that lost her pups. No kidding, he was miserable not being able to get that bird- and I held the line and did not let him go. If we flush one and I miss.. he chases. He always comes back in a minute or two, but two minutes can seem like forever when your dog is just... GONE. Last season we flushed three... I shot one and he spent his time chasing the two in the air rather than the one that fell.

Part of me is thinking that it would be great if we could get a rock solid "HOLD".

On the other hand, I don't want to do anything to tone down his exceptional drive. In our terrain and with all the hunting pressure, he's putting birds up that we could never get to practically any other way than bird-crazy dog, and about a third of the time that presents decent shots. We're not pros, we're just out having fun and enjoying my retirement.

As he gets older and even a month in to our second season, I can see experience and practice are helping him be a better dog. Those blackberry field of impossible sharp thorns? He's now declining to charge through those like a red torpedo and picks his way carefully instead. He's not coming home bleeding now, which is good. He's getting his nose up so it's not rubbed raw, as it was a month ago.

My thought is... we just keep hunting this second season, keep reinforcing the idea of staying close... and work on our "hold" after hunting is done and on a dummy that is far less engaging to bring back than a bird. In time, he may mellow.. but having that drive is an advantage as well as disadvantage. He's getting birds other dogs have walked right past.

Work on the hold..
...maybe think about a grouse trip? He met some grouse this fall in Minnesota where we were hiking *not hunting* and he knew exactly what to do... get em up! He came trotting bag happy as a Labrador and got his treat and praise.
...ducks? I know NOTHING about ducks... but I think doggo is supposed to sit quietly for long stretches and that's not his thing
... trials? We don't have the skill and I suspect he doesn't have the temperament. He's more of a "I see it, I am frickin' bringing it back NOW! And if I get to jump off the pier on the way, I am jumping off the pier!"... not to say that those dogs are not amazing athletes, but we're more like the kid doing a cannonball at the diving competition. We're having fun.




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