Sunday, October 4, 2009

Training with Birds (Part 2)

Saturday evening I returned to the field we used earlier that morning to see the neighbor who owns it. While passing the field I spotted one of the chukar in the field. So I went back home and got Winnie and brought her back. I thought it'd be a good opportunity to let her run around free without the check cord and try to find a bird without me knowing where it was. I also brought the .22 blank pistol along, in case I got the chance to flush a bird I wanted to try firing the pistol while she chased it.

Well she worked the entire 2-3 acres pretty thoroughly - though without any sort of structure or pattern to her search - and came up empty. She could have missed it, or maybe it returned to the treeline, who knows.

But as we walked back home I reflected on the day and what I learned. Here's what I came up with:

What I Know.
  • When I returned to the field that evening and let her run free, I got the sense that she absolutely thought there were birds in there, and wanted to find them. BUT, what I noticed was that in this situation, our whistle recall is not nearly what I want it to be. So we need to work on that in more varied and more tempting environments to make sure we're working toward a reliable recall.
  • Her nose seems to work. She picks up the scent and heads straight toward the bird. But she waits till she is very close to the bird before she points.
  • She learns VERY quickly. This makes me nervous because I feel like she'll learn from any mistake I make before I realize I've made it. By holding the check cord on one bird when she chased, she stopped chasing the very next bird on her own!

What I Don't Know.
  • I'm not sure if I want her to chase the bird or not. I may need that frenzied enthusiasm when it comes time to tie in the gunshot with the bird. On the other hand, down the road it'd be nice to keep her there in a Whoa until I send her to retrieve a shot bird. I am impeded not only by my lack of gundog training experience here, but by my limited actual hunting experience as well.
  • I continue to be nervous about properly introducing gunfire, and think it's time to get some assistance. 

What's Next?
  • I think it's clear that I got lazy with the recall, getting good results in the comfort of the yards and paddocks at our house. Much more work needs to be done here.
  • Soon it will be time to build in a little structure to her bird searching. Not sure how to go about that but it will include whistle commands to change directions. That will come AFTER I make some progress on the whistle recall.
  • I'll be looking for a trainer or preserve with lots of room where I can have a gunner shoot from a distance as she's chasing a flushed bird. If that goes well, we might be ready to shoot a bird over her and really start tying all of this together. But to me that all still seems a long way off.

In Other News
  • My earlier post about using ShowSheen to get burrs out of her coat got further testing Saturday. It works GREAT! I do need to get a better comb, maybe a flea comb, to use to remove the burrs once I spray the area.


Zuner said...

Great Post! Please keep them coming :)

Its a great insight for rookie bird dog trainers like myself.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't see the place to comment on the clicker/beer training-any way-it looks like you two are well on the way to bartener Winnie!!
She's really got the clicker down-so do you-not an easy task for most-keep up the great work!