Monday, October 31, 2011

out on the ATV

The weather has not been that nice so i took the plunge and had the ATV out to do the birds. Topaz loved it and rode pillion - must get a photo. Fresco was not at all sure and would not stay on it if it moved - so he had to run alongside. A Brittany moves at 20 kph before breaking into a double suspension gallop. With this ease of movement around the farm I took the opportunity to visit the copse in Dean Pond - to check the feeder. Quite often one can find a single bird but tonight assuming things would be as normal I sent them both ahead - to be greeted by a dozen birds flying out. Hmm - just shows one must never make assumptions.

Monday saw another meet up with Steve and Sam - this time I wanted to check out a boundary hedge or two with another visit to the Dean Pond copse; I also wanted to do some considered work on Fresco's pointing. - On the way into the copse Fresco gave a lovely indication and point - as I moved forward with him a large dog fox shot out of the undergrowth and away down the far hedge - Fresco managed to find a single pheasant at teh other end - but if he pointed it I will never know, at least he didn't chase it.

Steve and I and the dogs then moved back up hill to the home wood, rape with a back wind. Both dogs found birds, immediately after I had said I thought we were to far out to find anything. Laughing Fresco got into a really nice pattern - he would drop down wind and then do a left and right cross back to me then drop down wind again. No intervention from me as I had a phone call at the time. Another timely reminder to 'trust the dog', mind I think some of the reason for the pattern is the uniformity of the field so no distractions to alter the wind or his attention.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What a week for Fresco

What a week this has been for little Fresco. Tuesday he was rushed to the vet after being hit by a car, in the event he was suffering from gravel rash - such that I threatened to call him Tetley. (for non UK readers this is a reference to a tea bag advert - the quality of the bag being linked to the number of perforations in it). Despite lying on the vets table very sorry for himself he was perky by the evening and back to full speed the following morning. Friday saw him up at sparrow fart to go to a dog show - he won his class - but then he was the only entrant. Catja came along as well and despite being feisty and alert outside the ring failed to appeal to the judge once in it. She hates being in the ring and makes it show. We had been looking for an 'easy win' as there were only three bitches in the class. Mind you such a result allowed me to get away and back home with most of the afternoon spare. This was used to good effect by meeting Steve and his pup Sam at the farm. I had a particular bit of work I wanted to do - we have one particular field of stubble turnips that is attracting about twenty birds regularly, i now have a feeder and water there but I wanted to know if they were mine or immigrants from the adjacent ground. My intention was to work up the boundary edge and push them back to our pens. The wind was not in our favour and Steve who was working the field had quite a few bumped birds - but it did allow him to make sure Sam's stop was up to snuff. The birds all flew out of our ground and Sam had a couple of tentative points and some messy ground work. But no worries you could see he was trying to work out what was going on. The next field proved an eyeopener to Sam who had several nice points and some good sits to flush. Fresco worked teh middle of the field and missed a covey of partridge - partly because of my poor positioning and partly because of teh size of the bights he was taking. By the third field Sam proved he had got the idea and indicated well. A very good evening for both dogs.
Saturday saw the first picking up day for us. A boys only day - leaving Catja at home. Topaz consistently performed well - mostly runners. The only one he failed on was a bird that fell next to a beater who said 'I'll get that' followed half a minute later by 'You've got a runner' we never found it. I noticed that he often 'aimed off' and ran deep when working to a downwind bird. this allowed him to then work across the wind to find the bird. As he did this several times I read it as a conscious decision on his part.
Fresco was allowed a short blind for his first retrieve of a 'hot bird' - he ended up with a mouth full of breast feathers and a perplexed look on his face, he left the bird and came back to me. Sent out for it again this time he picked it up by its rump and struggled back with it - it was a very large bird. He had three further retrieves during the day and performed nicely on all I was very pleased. Otherwise he had to sit off lead and watch. He even wanted to retrieve a bird that was in its death throes with wings flapping.
One particularly memorable moment was when a shot bird landed between me and the dogs - neither moved, even when the dog from the next peg came in (complete with lead on it) to collect. I wonder how long that sort of steadiness will last?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What we don't know we don't know

What we know in relation to what we might know.

An interesting little diagram that I liberated and modified from the terrierman blog ( http://terriermandotcom.blogspot....f-blind-one-eyed-dog-is-king.html
) I wonder how much the sum of human knowledge could be increased if we all got to grips with the things we know and deny? I think one example for me might be Fresco slipping his whistle - again last night he did not turn when he should have and I put it down to my indecisive use of it, the fact he had just gone over the brow of a hillock and around a corner and that I was carrying half a bag of wheat (mind you with the state of my knees at the moment the fact i was carrying anything makes little difference to my ability to run). Once I had got to the corner of course there was no sight of him. I thought the best policy was to return to the car - a wise choice as that is where he was. So - perhaps I have now gone from self deception about this dog and his recall and am creeping into 'I don't know what I don't know' of his behaviour?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Devils Jumps

Sunday I took Fresco for a session in Devils' Jumps a 36Ha field currently stubble. There was a back wind and it is a long way to the end of the field before I could turn into the wind for him. When well away from the boundaries (so no geographic distractions) I took a gamble and let him off to hunt; my prediction was he would run around like a loon with not particular pattern. i was so wrong he ran down wind and then broke and quartered back to me. I write this not to say 'how good is my dog' but in the realisation that if he can do a text book pattern of his own making with no whistle in a large open space then whilst he could do that in more confined areas the fact that he doesn't does not mean he his hunting badly, just differently. It made me think how often i might have tried to 'correct' his pattern when in fact his underlying trend was 'on message' It was again a fine example of me the handler mis-reading my dog!

Steve T joined us with Tilley who had a good blast before we moved on to the area around one of the pens. A good chance for some points and some steadiness. We finished with the dogs sitting in the pen as the birds started to go up to roost for the night. A very useful couple of hours.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guest Trainer

I was invited yesterday to be the guest trainer for the Asburnham Gundog Group down in Battle. A most interesting experience - four half hour sessions one each of puppy, novice, intermediate and advanced. About 8 to ten dogs in each class. so it was a bit difficult to 'do' things that they could each have a go at - particularly as part of each session was introducing them to the Brittany which very few had ever seen before. Fresco spent a bored two hours thethered to a game bag watching other dogs. I thought it would be, and think it was good for him.

In the end I talked them all through my ideas about body language, praise, calming and did the focus exercise of walking around the dog slowly. With the advanced group I managed to run over by half an hour as we did use of the wind and how and when to blow the whistle - much amusement was generated when I explained about catching them with the ear leather up to reduce the incidence of selective hearing. I had been invited by Tania Stapley a retriever breeder and trainer of many years and a KCAI(WG Ad) (Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Working Gundogs, Advanced) so I was pleased to get positive feedback.

I had taken the boys with me - partly to ease the pressure at home and partly to have 'demonstration dogs' in the end I did not use either as demos as I felt the audience did not really want to know what i could do with mine they wanted to do stuff with theirs also I was half concerned Fresco would zoom off to play with any likely candidates as he is not used to having many dogs around. After the sessions i let him off and to my surprise he did not zoom off like a loon having been on a leash for two hours but worked the ground and wind quite nicely shoeing no intention of going after any other dog. My biggest problem was to keep him out of a rather green looking pond on our way back to the car!

The afternoon was spent putting feed out for the birds and some more watering points. In the last wood Fresco either got spooked or decided to go off for a bit of self hunting whilst I took a phone call- it was very much at dusk and the birds were going up to roost very noisily, however he did not recall to his whistle so I began to suspect he had gone off in search of his new 'friend' who lives just below the wood. As i had a small trailer on the back of the car and was parked in a deep dip the only way out was out through a very tortuous woodland path. My sense of humour was further affected when on finally getting out into the open the car got stuck in soft mud and without its four wheel drive (recently removed for engineering reasons). However whilst on the phone to my son seeking a tow who should turn up from behind me, hardly out of breath ??

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Finished in time - just

The staircase was fitted just in time - by half 6 on the last day! Will go back next year to colour and polish it - probably after a run at Vimpelles.

The last week Julia came over and we spent time digging drains, building stone walls and walking the dogs in Giverset Forest. A bit formulaic for them- but the dogs love these woods and it is easy walking for us.

On my return a visit to 'my birds' -- they are looking good now, feathering up nicely and beginning to fly well. however a bit too friendly as they seem to have no fear of dogs or humans. Fresco has adopted a bit of a laconic attitude towards them - he ignores them if he can see them and only shows interest on the hidden ones, however I still don't feel he has truly got the idea of pointing and holding the birds yet - hopefully this will come with a bit more experience and a scarcer population of birds. He does sit nicely to flush though so that is a bonus. They are holding well around the two pens - which is good - just hope they are still around next month when we host a novice field trial. Talking of Field Trials I had Topaz entered in the BCGB one which has just been cancelled through lack of entries. Crying or Very sad The HWHV trial was similarly suffering before its close and sent a round robin email - we only made the reserve list on that! Perhaps third time lucky with the Bristol and West's trial??

Training of Fresco is coming along - I discovered a 'hole' the other day. Whilst he is now pretty good on his stop whistle on a run out to a blind retrieve he just ignores it - which makes redirecting him before he looks for redirection a bit difficult. Will have to do some work on that; however i recall a similar problem with Catja and she ended up sticky for a while - running out a bit and then stopping in expectation of the whistle.

Monday, October 10, 2011

water jump

I am not getting the time I thought with the dogs. The job is on the verge of going off schedule (for reasons well out of my control) so the days are long to keep things close on track. With the temperature in the sun in the high 20's and sometimes low 30's the evenings tend to be a trip to the local reservoir. We operate from the earth dam at the end of the lake, the boys sit below the 'horizon' created by this and I walk to the waters edge and throw dummies in, returning to send them for blinds over the brow and about forty paces to the water and a good throw out. Fresco loves it and has really got an enthusiastic entry going - even when we are being circled (as we were last night )by a military helicopter who came around four times.