Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vidor Puppies!

Congratulations to Carolyn and Vidor Vizslas in Michigan on 8 beautiful puppies from Lenke and Ivan!

Lenke is imported from Hungary,and has impressive field testing credentials from her homeland. She already has some pups here in the US, as well as in several European countries, Australia and Canada. Her offspring, although still young, are excelling in the show ring, and in the field. Ivan is from the highly successful Zoldmali kennels in Hungary. Excellent puppies with great hunting potential are expected from this combination.

These pups have been sold long ago, but I am very happy to make this announcement. I know one of these pups will be heading to Virginia, so I look forward to watching him/her grow up!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love this time of year!

It was such a spectacular September day here, I just had to take a few pictures and share them here. In this one, Winnie is using that great HWV nose to sample a breeze.

Not much training today. But Winnie enjoys just wandering around while I'm working in the yard.

A well earned break after a hard day's work!

We weren't the only ones out enjoying the day!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Support of Zoldmali Kennel

I have the utmost respect for our friend Zsofia of Zoldmali Kennel. Zsofia is one of the most successful Vizsla trainers in Hungary, and the dogs that come out of her breeding and training programs are among the very best Wirehaired Vizslas in the world. Her well-deserved reputation is far reaching - well beyond that of this humble blog - but I wanted to take this opportunity to inform the readers I do have of an ongoing dispute involving Zoldmali.

Please click here to read Zsofia's account of the dispute, involving a dog named Arany. I won't attempt to provide a brief and clear synopsis of the situation here, but wanted to declare my support of Zsofia. She wants what's best for the breed, and for every dog she breeds and trains. And she knows what's best for Arany.

Burr Removal

This face full of burrs is not a particularly bad case. But they were a little stubborn so I decided to try a little trick someone suggested to me.

ShowSheen is a horse grooming product that makes a horse's coat shiny and gets tangles out. I think some people spray it on their dogs before they go into a burr-heavy situation. But after the fact, I had great success by simply spraying it onto the edge of this stripping knife and running it through the affected area. The burrs came right out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Oktoberfest II

We braved a steady, cool rain to bring the dogs to our town's annual Oktoberfest celebration. As usual, there were many creative guesses as to what kind of dog Winnie was. Irish Wolfhound mix, Labrodoodle, Griffon, German Wirehair were the ones I remember. I overheard one person say, "is that a Hungarian Vizsla?" Even without the 'Wirehaired,' I turned around, ready to praise the first person with a guess including 'Hungarian' or 'Vizsla.' But it turns out the woman was actually talking about my neighbor's chocolate lab.

Flashback: Last year's Oktoberfest was Winnie's first public debut. Setting the early tone for our lives together, we both handled ourselves with class and grace.

Here's the whole crew: Winnie, Gromit at the bar, and Mac, a spectacular specimen of a Labrador. Mac is an accomplished dog in the field and at stud. Unlike our dogs, Mac's tough, and would never be caught sipping bottled water out of a hand-held cup.

Gromit bellying up to the bar.

OOPS!! Okay Mac, we won't tell.

This is a dog that is ready to go home and warm up on the couch. At this point we were all in agreement! But we'll be back next year!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Exposure to Gunfire

The other day we were outside and heard a loud gunshot from next door - my neighbor sighting in his deer rifle. Winnie didn't react at all to the first shot. The second one got her thinking about going inside, though not in a panic or anything. So I took the opportunity to grab her favorite dummy (no, not Gromit!) and play some fetch. A few more shots, good non-reactions to each, and we called it a day. Good, positive session, especially considering I hadn't planned it.

So tonight I brought the 12 gauge blanks I got recently over to my neighbor's and had him fire some shots while I was playing with Winnie in our yard. Forgive the video, but I was texting my neighbor to signal for the shots, trying to take video, throw the dummy and give her a treat here and there as well. The shots came from the other side of a treeline - actually the first came from the far side of his house, the others just a treeline and maybe 75 yards away.

Because I was using a text message to signal, I didn't know exactly when the shot would come - which I think was good, because it was very random - sometimes while she chased, sometimes on her way back to me, and sometimes when she was sitting and waiting. In the video you'll see three retrieves. No shot on the first one. The shot on the second retrieve she reacts to by looking to her right briefly (the shot came from directly behind me). It was just a curious glance but you can see she didn't slow down or change direction at all. I view this as pretty positive.

On the next one - which was the fifth and last shot of the session - I was maybe pushing my luck but things were going well so I threw this dummy toward the shooter, who is just beyond the treeline you see in the background. Probably fifty yards from the shot, no reaction I could detect. She dropped the dummy early but that's normal after fetching a few too many times in one outing.

So considering my plan was to work on this from a similar distance using .22 blanks, in just two days we've moved up quite a bit in our progress! The 12 gauge was loud and not very distant today. And I am hopeful - optimistic even - that if I continue being patient and get closer in small increments, we'll be able to get through this very important step in our training!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Training Strategy and Goals

Winnie is healed up from her surgery and feeling good about cooler weather. There is a lot I want to accomplish this year on the training front, and it's all rather overwhelming. So I decided to just step back and really break things down into manageable pieces. So as I think about my short term training goals (let’s say now through November, roughly), I'll be focusing primarily on just three things. In the coming weeks I will post specifically about each one of these, but here is my autumn training strategy outline:

Gun sensitivity training (without birds) 
Practice/fun with birds (without gun) 
Continue whistle work, particularly recall

If I am successful with the gun exposure, and she continues to respond to the whistle recall, we will be WELL on our way to trying things out in a real field environment!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meet Fish and Chips!

Meet our new barn cats, Fish and Chips. I know what you're thinking: "Ed, are you crazy? I know you have dogs and horses and snakes and lizards and, for some reason, tarantulas, but these things look like vicious wild animals, unfit for human contact of any kind!" Excellent observation. These two badass rodent bountyhunters are as mean as they look, and they will have one job: to patrol the property hunting for mice, rats, groundhogs, coyotes, any prey foolish enough to cross them. Can they be tamed? Maybe. I just don't know. Is it just too dangerous to have two? Could they join forces and overpower us? Probably, but the mice must die. So we learn to live in fear.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Welcome Home!

After spay surgery yesterday, Winnie spent the night at the vet. I picked her up this morning and am SO glad she's home. She feels like poop, no question. But I can't recall when I've been more happy to see her.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back Seat Driver

Just had to share this picture because I like it. The yellow ribbon hanging from the mirror, by the way, is the ribbon that Winnie wore when all the pups in the litter were color coded. I'll never forget the day I learned that Yellow was mine!

The Center of Attention!

Sandy and I took Winnie and Gromit to the Scottish Games and Festival today, and it was a very dog-friendly event. Gotta have junk food at a festival, of course, here we all share some potato pancakes.

Winnie's been in quite a few crowds before, and it's not unusual for her to get a fair amount of attention, but she got comments all day long! What kind of dog is she? What a sweet face! What beautiful eyes! And for everyone who stopped to meet and talk about her, there were more who I overheard talking about her.

I love the Scottish games - feats of strength in games with a lot of history behind them.

Also traditional is a pint of Harp or two!

Love this picture of Gromit, who got his fair share of attention too. They of course are EXHAUSTED tonight!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


With just a few minutes before dark I realized that I bought a pretty cool quail dummy at Bass Pro a few weeks ago and forgot all about it! Just for fun, I added some quail scent and hid the dummy for Winnie to find.

Well, quail-in-a-bottle may or may not smell like Actual Quail, but Winnie humored me and excitedly found the dummy. Her reward was playing fetch with it, which she LOVED!

I have to say, I don't really know what I'm doing, and Winnie may or may not know what she's doing, but what I've noticed in recent weeks is, she is extremely excited about our little training sessions. And that just has to work in our favor.

Much of our 'field' training we've been doing in the back yard, opposite the fenced-in front yard where they spend most of their outdoor time. So any time I get her and we head in that direction, she just gets really psyched! We're keeping it fun, and working at something - even just a few minutes - each day.

Working on our TAN

The oppressive heat of summer seems to be fading a bit, and we've enjoyed training in the yard more often. Primarily right now I'm working on the recall (3 whistle blasts and/or the 'Here!' command), Whoa (as discussed in an earlier post) and we've been working in some gun sensitivity training.

At the UHWVA Specialty show in Michigan in May, there will be an opportunity to take part in the UKC Natural Ability test, called the TAN. The object of the TAN is to evaluate the natural hunting ability of the pointing breeds, and there are three criteria.

First Criteria: Hunting Instinct/Handling. The judge will evaluate the dog's enthusiasm and desire to search for birds. The handler can use verbal/whistle/hand commands to handle the dog but excessive use of commands results in failure of the test. So she needs to be enthusiastic about searching for birds, but generally be under control and recallable. I think Winnie will be okay on the enthusiasm front, and we have a lot of work to do on recall and other controls, but we have a lot of time too.

Second Criteria: Demonstration of Pointing Instinct. The dog must establish a point on at least one designated game bird during the TAN hunt, and hold the point for three seconds. I think if she can find a bird, she will point it and hold it for that long.

Third Criteria: Reaction to Gun Fire. The judge must determine that the dog is not gun shy. At the flushing of the game bird pointed by the dog, a starter pistol or shotgun will be fired. She can acknowledge the shot but gun shyness will not be allowed. With Sandy's help, I've been introducing her to the sound of .22 blanks from a distance, and closing that distance as she demonstrates she's okay with it. I think we'll be okay on this criteria, but again we have a long way to go. I just want to be really careful about this step.

So, pass or fail, the upcoming TAN will be very useful if for no other reason than to push me toward specific, challenging, yet attainable goals, with a timeline. Also, if she can do these things for the TAN test, she is absolutely ready to hunt with. She may not be everything the experienced bird hunter wants in a dog at that point, but if I can control her with a whistle, I know she will find and point birds. Will she retrieve one after I shoot it? Who knows, but we can work on that.