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Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

I wasn't intending to start this thread so early, but after yesterday I couldn't wait. It is not meant to be a training diary and it won't have the hundreds of posts that the UDG thread did. But having left Jack amongst the guns in Shropshire, I hoped to be able to let you know how he now progresses as a working-dog.

By the time we had reached the last drive, Jack had already completed 5 drives beating and had a pretty good day- his third ever day on a shoot. He had put up a good bird on the very first drive that was witnessed by most of the beaters and that bird was then flagged over the guns and shot by the back-gun. From my beat closest to the line, I saw everything from start to finish- a satisfying sight. He also had a real good find in the plantation, supposedly devoid of birds. It was buried deep in a pile of sticks. and it was a credit to his nose and his sheer determination that he drove it out. Sadly, he was deaf to my stop whistle afterwards, but our section-leader was inclined to concentrate on the positive. "He's come on again" she confirmed "because he's really had to fight for his birds, today."

Due to the nature of our final beat, Jack and I had got detached from the others and exited the wood we were in, directly behind the last three of the guns. Jokingly, I offered our services as pickers-up despite Jack having not yet completed any more than a 'warm game' retrieve. Our 'offer' however, was nonetheless accepted. Almost immediately the nearest gun to us Brian, who had shot excellently all day missed a straightforward bird that had my heart pumping. Then the end gun of the three, Glynn confirmed he had shot a pigeon that had fallen against the fence. "If you take him in close" he said "And send him along the fence, he might just pick it". I did just that and Jack picked the pigeon, the put it down, spitting out the feathers. However, he really wanted that  first bird, for he promptly picked it back up again and brought it in to hand. Before we had time to think about that or return to our position, Glynn brought down a pheasant. "You might as well have that one as well" he said as it fell safely behind him. I sent Jack again. Perhaps excited, he set off to the right of the bird but responded to my signal and once he saw it, he was on it in a flash. This time there was no hesitation and as he brought it in he was APPLAUDED by the guns. Can't say I've ever had a better day with a dog.

Here's Jack with his unusual first-ever brace......

An Unusual Brace

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

November 11, 2012 at 7:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

kjb
Member
Posts: 82

well done to you both, you must have had a fantastic day, great pic

xK

November 11, 2012 at 4:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neill
Member
Posts: 1280

Well done Jack (and Keith of course!).  If you want a really good Pigeon recipe let me know - they make better eating than Pheasants to be honest!

--

Every time I take my dog out for a lesson, he never fails to teach me something!!!!!!!

Neill

November 12, 2012 at 2:33 AM Flag Quote & Reply

kevmoz
Member
Posts: 6

Well done that's again a fantastic write up. Keep up the excellent work.  


Kev 

November 17, 2012 at 4:30 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

.... Cheers Kev,  :)

We really MUST get the siblings together. Maybe after the season ends.....?

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

November 17, 2012 at 9:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

John buxton
Member
Posts: 36

Look forward to your posts ! Glad to hear you had a good day,Jack is seeming to be enjoying herself as are you ! ? its a nice feeling when your dog puts up a bird over the guns, bu it makes me smile as the bird fly's down the line, bang after bang and you see the bird still flying ! see you next week I think .Will sort somthing out for a December sat when your free?

--
November 20, 2012 at 11:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

Hi John, yes Jack is enjoying himself being a gun-dog....  :) (as am I being his handler). The Saturdays that I am free in December are 1st and 15th as we are on our own shoot on the other two days. I will have to check with my buddy Sam (who will be driving hopefully- free fuel  :)) .

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

November 20, 2012 at 4:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

kevmoz
Member
Posts: 6

Hi Keith, How are you and Jack getting on with the season? I have to say that I had all but failed with the fluffy ball and retrieving it, so last weekend I had a brace of pheasants given to me and used them for retrieving, Fern did an excellent job of fetching and returning, dropping with no fuss at all, perhaps all is not lost. I think I may have to get expert help. 

Keep up the good work and catch up after the end of the season when the weather will (I hope) be warmer and dryer than last year.

Kev

December 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

:) Hahaha You didn't think Brian (our breeder) had let you down did you? I think it's in the family, my friend. Can't be much to do with training or else Jack wouldn't be as good as he is, since he only has me. Must be to do with that excellent pedigree and the lemon colour.....??

Fern, probably couldn't be arsed with the make believe and went straight to the real thing!! Seriously though, it's about finding what floats their boat where retrieving is concerned. It might be a dummy, or a ball or even an old sock. In Fern's case it was the pheasant itself. Got to say we've had no such problems with Jack. He retrieved a little ball from the bottom of the garden about two minutes after we brought him home from Brian's at 8 weeks. 75% of the time he still carries a toy object around in his mouth. (He greets everyone who enters the house in the same fashion). In case you're wondering, the rest of the time he is asleep. :)

As for working, Jack's doing very well, considering he is only in his first season. He's now completed a number of days on the shoot, mostly beating but he has picked-up on one drive. The time before last, the weather was awful and we had very few birds and little work, but Jack did put up one or two nice birds from a game cover, that were subsequently shot.

This weekend the weather was better, but the morning was as poor bird-wise as the shoot has seen in 20 years. The only bird of real interest was a woodcock confirmed by the Captain as a flush of Jack's that was presented right over the guns- and missed! Fortunately, things improved drastically in the afternoon and on the final drive in particular, the dogs were busy and good sport was had on all pegs. It was here that Jack enjoyed another little triumph- he eye-wiped the bloody picking-up lab.!!! Exiting the woods on that last drive we came across one gun, Brendan frantically searching for a lost bird. By all accounts it was the shot of the season on the shoot so far- very high, very fast and stone dead in the air with one barrel. Of a rough-shooting persuasion Brendan was not keen to leave such a magnificent bird behind. Enter Jack,  who was asked to assist. 

I should add that although it is an unruly beast that the Captain has threatened to (accidently) shoot on more than occasion, the lab in question has few problems in finding birds. Needles in hay-stacks are it's speciality. Not this time, it was defeated. Then I thought I saw something on the ground ahead of me. I handled Jack across and then brought him in so that he was approaching the 'object' from behind. I asked him to hunt and he was on the 'object' in a flash and it was indeed the lost bird. Brendan was delighted, telling all who would listen as he carried it back to the cars. Jack meanwhile, walked alongside him (not me) taking the occasional liberty in attempting to leap up and reclaim his prize. "Brendan" I said " You do realise, that as far as Jack is concerned, you only have the bird on loan!" :)

Anyway, that's more or less how we are doing. Much as I'm enjoying it, I would dearly love to get together when the season is done and let Jack and his sister 'run'.

Stay in touch 

ATB


 

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

December 12, 2012 at 5:33 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

:) Went out on a 'training run' yesterday. A fairly special one. My training partner and I were out in Gloucestershire on the land of one of the largest estate shoots in the country. As their land is crossed by some public footpaths they have a problem with unruly dogs disturbing their birds. My training partner had met one of the estate under-keepers who had indicated that provided we didn't stray too far from the public access he was happy for us to 'train our dogs by effectively dogging-in. I have to say that their pens were huge. I joked that on our shoot, we have drives that are shorter than their pens! Also the estate setting was fabulous- a Cotswold stone village that tourists would give their eye-teeth to see.

Both the handlers and the dogs enjoyed a fantastic morning. Jack flushed woodcock, pigeon, rabbit and pheasant, not to mention a muntjac which he clearly 'indicated' before he went into the cover to push it out.

The final section was a field of waist high stubble with the village as the backdrop. We effectively 'walked it up'. Jack immediately  flushed a rabbit and my training partner Sam found a dead cock pheasant that the pickers-up must have missed the day before. We tossed it out a few times. The younger dog, was not yet quite ready to retrieve it, but jack showed him a couple of times, how it was done. For fun, we decided to finish the 'walk-up' carrying our beaters sticks as though they were 'guns' as the dogs were working so well, trying to put the 'barrels' through any more flushes and learn just what is will be like when we eventually shoot properly over the dogs for the first time.  It was great fun, obviously making sure no-one was approaching who might think our 'guns' silhouetted in the sunshine, were real. Jack provided me with so many 'shots' that in the end I gave up. My friend remarked that I would have run out of cartridges and anyway, we'd never have carried them all back to the car....

As good a 'training' day as I've ever had.

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

December 17, 2012 at 2:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505
Saturday 22nd of December was a day that will live long in my memory, so I thought I would post this and tell you about it. 
I've said before that this thread is not intended to be like the 'Urban-Gundog' thread that preceded it and that I would just use it to let you know how Jack progresses as a first season working-dog, but do I think that this particular post is worth a read. To recap, I had set out with an admittedly well-bred pup (Jack is a grandson of Ian Openshaw's Dardnell Dealer) with the aim of training my own house-kept gun-dog for the shooting-field. He might have worked last season, but in the absence of a suitable 'shoot' (small, friendly, local) he did not. I therefore shelved my disappointment and continued on with his training for another year. In hindsight, it proved to be a masterstroke. Jack is a very sensitive and slow maturing dog and although it seemed at times that winter that we were not making much progress, he in fact reached the summer of this year a better dog than he was previously. In addition, we met a professional trainer who's rabbit-pen we have used and whose opinion we have valued, we met Peter Jones on a training day, who was truly inspirational and by a happy accident (his dog almost stole Jack's dummy retrieve) I met another 'first-timer' on the 'hills', who has since become my training-partner. Then, one of our ever-growing list of contacts paid off.
So Jack finally entered the shooting field in October at 2 1/2 years old. In the main, his duties have simply been beating and the odd bit of dogging-in. He has also however, thanks mainly to the kindness of the shoot progressed in his retrieving. Jack has always been something of a natural retriever (he is rarely without his 'rope toy' in his mouth even now) and many of the UGD posts have dealt with the various skills he has developed in this respect. However, on the training 'hills' we had not been able to get beyond cold game. Thanks largely to the shoot members though, he has quickly now progressed through cold birds to warm birds and from warm birds to freshly shot birds. Recently, as I have described in earlier posts he has  collected his first shot birds as a picking-up dog and picked a 'lost' bird at the request of a gun. On Saturday last, he moved on again.
If the weather in your part of the world, was anything like mine (and I suspect that it was) it was wet. Very, very wet. I think everybody who arrived at the shoot HQ on Saturday assumed they would find themselves alone and with the gate locked. I certainly did. But just about everybody did arrive and after the guns had drawn their lots the consensus was that we would run the shoot for three morning drives or until we all drowned, whichever came first. In the end, though water poured continuously onto our heads and off the fields we did not drown and in fact the three drives provided all the beaters and dogs with gainful work and the guns with enough sport to keep all of our spirits intact. The final drive for Jack and I was down the 'Big Wood'. Previously, we have driven across it's length, but this time we were asked to come down the steep incline instead. At the end of the drive, we came upon two guns pegged in the wood itself. One of them John the shoot captain, remarked that his neighboring gun, the jovial Doctor Dave had a hen-bird down amongst the trees that would in all probability take all of us in the vicinity to find. Dave meanwhile, was equally adamant that he hadn't- convinced that shooting through the trees, he had missed the shot that John had seen him take. With little in the way of guidance from me then, Jack was dispatched whilst the 'debate' continued. Literally seconds later, Jack astonished us all by returning from the undergrowth and presenting the said downed hen into my hand, settling the 'dispute' once and for all. So in the end, Jack had enhanced his growing reputation, Doctor Dave had his bird and John had maintained his authority. All in all, a pretty decent result for the three of them. 
Back at the static caravan that is shoot HQ John initially declared the shoot over and the picker-up and most of the beaters wisely stood themselves down. John suggested however, that should any gun wish to 'walk-up' any of the shorter drives he would not object and Jack was put forward for any dog-work that may be necessary. By now the rain had stopped  exactly as the forecast had predicted and the take-up from the guns was such that in the end two 'duck-drives' were put together instead. In weak sunlight, eight of us then set out for the flooded marshes that surround the lakes at the bottom of the hills on which we usually shoot. 

Five were guns. Meanwhile John, now transformed into a beater, had Doctor Dave's springer Spruce; Dave's wife had her clumber and I had Jack. Despite the treacherous marsh-land underfoot the terrain was quite a change from the usual wooded drives and soon we were waving and banging and lifting the first wave of ducks off the water and over the guns hidden behind a long hedge. The first volley brought success for Glynn who had shot Jack's first ever birds and as we moved to the next lake the guns talk was the prospect of a Christmas brace of duck and pheasant for each of them. The second 'drive' had more dog work as there was some cover at the far end of the second lake to beat through also. Jack had a pheasant flush, that sadly flew in the wrong direction, but soon after the ducks were again put to flight and a more sustained volley followed. On reaching the guns for a second time we found several proudly holding their Christmas duck, but another was requesting assistance, for his had fallen in the lake, some 30 yards offshore. Immediately, the clumber and the springer were dispatched but neither got more than a few yards. To be fair, neither is used as a picking-up dog and neither had been formally trained in water work. I was asked if Jack. already interested and splashing the shallows would try his hand. I answered that to him the bird was a blind, since he hadn't marked it. Furthermore, at his eye-level it was very difficult  to see- just a black shape on the water, not the day-glo orange water-dummy that he is used to. Twice Jack set out readily, but clearly he could not see the floating bird.  The third time he did see it and with the all the guns and beaters (aside from me) gathered in a huddle on the shore out my novice-dog went. All 30 yards. All the way to the bird which he picked and all the way back, bringing the the bird to hand without bother or fuss but with the congratulations of all the onlookers ringing in his ears. Enter Doctor Dave, for he too had a bird in the lake, father up the shore about the same distance out. Jack's assistance was required  once again. I realised I needed a way to focus his sight more quickly on the bird and found a gap in the reed bed that lined-up exactly with it. I sat Jack just behind the gap and kneeling beside him with extended arm I sent him again. The plan worked perfectly, the gap in the reeds acting rather like a window and It was straightaway obvious, that Jack knew  precisely where he should be headed. Out he swam, back he came. Job done, bird delivered to hand with no shake and no fuss. Gun delighted.
On the way back, Doctor Dave remarked that Jack had had a marvellous day. I have to agree. If over the festive period, you have had a better one with a novice-dog then you are very lucky indeed. 

Seasons Greetings

Jack and the Ducks

Oh, and here's Jack with his ducks. Two of the gun's were so pleased with him, they went back to their Range Rovers for their cameras......


--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

December 24, 2012 at 8:41 AM Flag Quote & Reply

John buxton
Member
Posts: 36

Hello Keith, Seems like your having a cracking seoson with Jack, and in some posh surroundings ! Sorry i have not been in touch over the festive season, the kids have been ill, I have felt like *hit, and not been out much. When we finally got out it was raining that bad our days were cut short, Derbyshire Pheasants dont like the rain and make the dogs work extra hard, Lizzie seems to enjoy it whatever the wheather, but looks like I'm starving her when she is wet ! Not many weeks left of the season, where has it gone ? I'm going to concentrate on Lizzie's retrieve as much as work allows ! its a little more enjoyable on a Saturday morning and the after effects not as painful ! PS I shoot more birds we my stick too ! lol. Happy New Year to you and yours.

January 2, 2013 at 4:03 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

...... :) hahaha, loved that John about the sticks!! Yeah, things are going pretty well, but the downside is of course that Jack is now a know-it-all who has spells of whistle deafness these days. Back to school for him as soon as the season is over.... Tell you the truth, I've started already on the odd training day I get now in between shoot days. But to be fair to him, he's shown every ability that he possibly could, so all in all he's a bit of a hero.

Sorry you haven't been well, hope you and yours are now over it and to be honest Shropshire pheasants are no happier in the rain than Derbyshire ones! Ducks are a different matter entirely though!! :)

best of luck with Lizzie, we can always meet up for a walk and some stick-shooting in the close season...?!

and PS. Just to be clear, the RR's don't belong to me. I have a Focus that is in some need of a hose-down...

ATB

--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

January 2, 2013 at 7:21 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505
Just thought I'd give a quick update as I sit here waiting to go out and shovel the latest deposits of snow off the drive- a war of attrition that has me for the moment at least, very much on the losing side.
The success of the previous weeks 'duck-drives' prompted a re-think at shoot HQ which meant that the order of the drives was now to be re-arranged for the remaining days of the season. We have noted that flushed birds from the early drives that are not hit are flying back specifically to the pen in the 'New Wood' (the newest drive). Until now however, we have shot the wood too early in the day it seems and  birds seem to be arriving after we have left. The New Wood will now be shot last and the duck drives at the quarry included as a formal part of the day, rather than a 'optional extra'.
This meant that on the 5th, we ran the day exactly as we had done on the 22nd and half-way through it Jack in addition to his beating, was back on general flushing/picking-up duty at the quarry. The first 'drive' brought a trio of geese over the guns ( two ignored, one taken. There is a rule- if you don't want to eat it, don't shoot it and most guns present didn't want to eat a goose). The second drive saw a request for more dog-work as a mallard was 'down' in the lake. Reaching the scene from our 'flushing' duty we were at first unable to locate the bird. Then all of us on the bank realised that the bird was not dead, but badly wounded. It was literally ducking under the water as it tried to escape and was thus 'invisible' for several seconds at a time. Jack, who has never yet retrieved a 'runner' from land was sent in after it. Twice as he attempted to grasp it, the bird dived, leaving him empty-mouthed and so he was eventually recalled back to the bank to observe. The next time it surfaced however, Jack needed no invitation and was on it quickly and this time there was no escape. The bird was brought back and mercifully dispatched. The role of the gun-dog 100% justified in that moment alone. I of course was delighted, but on reflection this retrieve was all about working for the shoot, working ethically and simply getting the job done. Training considerations were cast aside.
The 12th saw a third repeat of our new shooting-day. Again, the main focus of Jack's day was at the quarry, where 3 geese were brought down. By the time Jack and his co-worker, a six year old springer had  reached the shoreline one had already been retrieved by the gun who had shot it. The other brace had been shot by a second gun, Jason. One lay on land, the other in the water. I asked the springer's handler Stuart if he had a preference. "Your dog has already spotted the one in the water" was his reply- and he had. Jack plunged in without hesitation and reached the goose and then the thought struck him that the bird was considerably bigger than he and he turned to me for instruction. I called him back to the bank for a more considered and less excitable approach, siting him down in clear view of the retrieve and after a delay sending him with a clear signal, just as though a puppy-dummy had been tossed into a stream. In he went again, keen as always and soon he was dragging the huge bird in. Almost comically, he looked up at me for guidance, goose-neck in mouth, as he tried to clamber back onshore. Of course, I took it from him and in truth, this was not in the slightest bit comical. It was probably his finest hour to date.
Yesterday, was to have been a shortened day because in the afternoon, the annual shoot dinner had been arranged. However, as I said we have had snow and plenty of it. On friday, for the first time in decades, I was sent home early from work. So on Saturday morning out of nothing more than courtesy, I messaged the captain to enable him to confirm to me the loss of the day and was somewhat taken aback to learn that he was still intending to travel. "To the dinner or the shoot?" I enquired. "Both" he replied. "A little tricky for me, in a two-wheel drive" I said. At that he drove many miles out of his way to collect me from my snowed-in street and amazingly on arrival at the shoot, we were not even late. Nor was anyone else. Every gun, every beater, every dog present and correct. I'm told that in 20 years or so, they have never yet called off a day. I could see why. The foreshortened day that followed was one of the seasons best despite huge drifts and deep snow in the woods and fields and a nice bag of pheasant, woodcock and a couple of pigeon was accumulated over four drives. To a man (and woman) everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. Glynn, who had shot Jack's first birds earlier in the season was the standout. He shot only seven cartridges all morning- but bagged six birds all the same. Sadly for Jack the water-drives were among those that were omitted, so he was unable to add to his growing list of feats at the quarry but he did some good work in the woods putting up several pheasant (one dug out of a pile of sticks and flushed right over the gun-line) and a woodcock on one drive alone. For him it was then towel-down, coat on and back to the dog-box in the Captain's 4x4 whilst we all retired to 'The Downs' for dinner and real ale. Well, it is a dog's life after all....
This much snow couldn't get the shoot cancelled

My Urban Garden... Not even this much snow could halt the shoot 22 miles away in the open countryside....!!!
--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

January 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505
Jack's first-ever season ended gloriously- mine less so. I missed the informal day 'clearing-up' the shoot, collecting feeders, tidying-up HQ and taking the odd pot at anything still lurking in and around the woods. I missed saying goodbye to the folk once strangers now friends, who have helped me so much with Jack's development and I missed the chance to finally do what I've done all this hard work for- the chance to shoot over my own dog for the first time.
I remember my shoot-buddy Stuart remarking "You're a bit quiet..." as we set off on the seasons last formal drive. I recall my reply. "I'm struggling to breathe mate and it doesn't help having a bloody whistle in my mouth either!" I ventured that I'd felt the same pretty much all day. He replied that maybe after a tough day, it might then all come good in the end. We will return to this spectacular piece of prophecy later. To be honest, I was in 'defensive mode' and didn't much care. The steep down-slope of the 'New Wood' drive can be dangerous for beaters at the best of times- 'add in' the remains of a foot of melting snow and you have a recipe for disaster. All of them fell down at one point or another- I just wanted to get me and my dog home safe. I made it to the very last slope of all, then 3 beaters fell like ninepins, two in front of me. I was the third. Luckily, no serious damage was done to any of us and Jack's triumph aside, I remember very little else about the day, for a few hours after returning home I was struck by one of those 'winter viruses'.
You will have seen those cartoons where a character is struck down flat into the ground by an object (often a large falling rock...), so hard that they leave an imprint? Well I felt like I had instead been run over by the Flying Scotsman and that as I had clambered dazed to my feet, been landed on by a jumbo jet. It took four days before I could open my eyes properly, five days before the pounding agony in my head subsided and I've coughed so hard and long I've damaged my stomach muscles and reddened my throat. Oh and I look like Marley's ghost (the Dickens character just to be clear, not the dog). That's just about the half of it.
Jack meanwhile got to pen at the bottom of New Wood unscathed, for he has the benefit of doggy 4-wheel drive. Whilst we slipped and skidded and bemoaned our fate he'd had a fine time putting up the odd woodcock and pheasant and I'm not sure for the life of him, that he could see what the fuss was all about. There was then plenty of shooting at that final flush. One of the beaters on his 'day' had drawn the peg in the wood itself. I called a bird over him that veered away at the last moment, his optimistic shot being unsuccessful. Then as we filed out of the gate for the last time, our chief picker-up motioned to the peg directly in front of us all. "Keith" she said "(Doctor) Dave has a runner down, it's Jack's if you want it." The 'wounded' bird Jack recently collected from the lake was the only 'runner' he has ever had. However, I have  long since given up on the notion of training whilst on the shoot. Jack has been here to work since it became obvious that he was capable, so we accepted come what may. Doctor Dave pointed out three large trees behind him. "The bird is in the hedgerow, close to the middle tree" he said. Away Jack went as the shoot assembled to begin the last trek home. He stopped about half-way, nose down. "Don't correct him Keith" said the good Doctor sensing I was about to re-send my dog "He's on it, that's exactly where the bird came down!" Jack then veered left following the scent-trail. Meanwhile, we could all now see movement in the hedgerow to the right. Jack though continued on left then suddenly cut-back sharp right, like a world class rugby three-quarter and soon he was closing in. The last 7 or 8 yards he lifted his head and used his vision rather than his nose swooping in one move to pick up the bird. He adjusted the bird in his mouth only once before beginning his run-in despite the fact that it had only been shot in the lower leg and presented it in style for all to see. The good Doctor did the rest and Jack's novice season had ended in triumph.
"You were right, after all about that last drive." I later said to Stuart "Since when have you been Mystic bloody Meg?"
 
--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

February 2, 2013 at 1:22 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505
So, after finally recovering from the 'winter virus' (don't even try to say man-flu, I know several women who have been knocked sideways by it too) it was time to take stock.
All things considered, our first season could hardly have gone better. Jack and I were present on every single drive that our shoot put on and we carried out just about every job that a small family shoot could possibly require and despite the presence of several more experienced handlers and dogs we were in fact, the only pair to do so.
The issue I now have is something I think that Joe Irving alluded to, when he said that many shoot dogs have had a lifetime of education, but very little training. That they have been skilled not in the classroom, but in the university of life for in the midst of all of the camaraderie, the euphoria of the first retrieve, the glory of the first runner and so on, it is easy to forget that formal training, especially when one has a 'nine till five' existence (at least on days that don't start with an 'S'), falls largely by the wayside.
On the other hand,  as I said recently (and more than once) to Sam my dog training-partner, Jack is now a gun-dog. The winter has proven it. He has ability unquestionably and on a small shoot it stood out like a beacon at times. He also has desire and determination and more than all of these, he simply loves to work on game, in the company of humans. So Jack in my eyes is no longer a pet that is being gun-dog trained, he is the gun-dog that happens to live in the house and 'under the table' (and on his back on the bloody settees, all four legs in the air...).
How GOOD a gun-dog he is of course, remains open to question. But he is a gun-dog all the same.
Brian, one of the shoot stalwarts- part gun, resident comedian (he carried a plastic chicken, throughout the final weekend, to highlight some particularly poor marksmanship on his part) and part field-trial competitor told me that in the off-season he takes his 'first-year' dogs right back to puppy school. Irving said similar- so I resolved to put together a plan for Jack.
My plan for him has 3 aims-
1. To continue with the life-like scenario-based training that has stood us in good stead. Either 'hunting' without a gun on the 'hills' throwing out the odd feather or fur dummy, or even the odd head of cold game or else working on some walked-up and driven shoot retrieving scenarios with the aid of some new and interesting 'toys'. Sam and I are now testing equipment for the manufacturers Turner Richards and the new toys are very helpful in breaking the monotony of training and instilling even more confidence and steadiness into both Jack and Ruben- Sam's young dog.
2.  To re-install a couple of skills that have been lost over the winter. The first is Jack's go-back command. When you are beating 5 drives in every 6, 'Go-back' (or 'dead' in Jack's case- as a tiny pup we used Begbie terminology and having started with it, I stayed with it) is not a command to be used very much. Those that might remember the previous post may wonder if this was necessary, given that on the seasons final drive Jack was 'handled ' onto his first land-based runner? Well it is. This was the exception that showed the talent he has and to be fair, he only handled out to the fall. He then used his nose and his eyes and completed the job by himself. In most of what dummy training I have managed, he has actually become to look a little confused- a little sticky in fact. The other 'loss' was in quartering pattern. It is hard to consistently run a close pattern in thick woods, I understand that much. But in order to assist the shoot fully, I have had to accept a compromise, that the envelope be 'extended'. The problem is that with unwitting 'practice' it has become the new norm.
3. To improve Jack's off-lead walking and formal obedience. In the past I have done this (or not done it, depending on your point of view) away from the hills. Now I have resolved to pass with Jack, the intermediate and advanced spaniel tests offered by the UK Gun-dog Club- and all the training will be done ON the hills AND within my normal training schedule.
The 'plan' such that it is, was started upon about a month ago now and at the time I resolved to remain calm and not to judge either Jack or myself until after the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been won. As this is still more than a week away, I remain holding onto the same opinion. I will say however that 
1. Is going well. Back on his stamping ground of Walton Hill, he continues to find rabbits where there are apparently none and Saturday last, he had the most marvellous woodcock flush from a low bush having given a strong indication and a typical hard hunt into dense cover. In all my time on Clent as photographer and dog-trainer I have never ever seen a trace of a woodcock, but this one was sprung so close, I could have knocked it down with my stick. Furthermore over at Sam's, the latest version of the famous Turner Richards dummy launcher is allowing us to develop some extremely life-like scenarios and we have seen confidence within both dogs rise as a result.
2.  I have gone all the way back to simple 'memory' retrieves, in order to re-install the go-back and along the way I have thrown in the odd two-dummy and three-dummy to test our progress. Again, the launcher has allowed me to give a 'long-distance' blind and go-back as a change-up, which have proven successful so far. As I have said previously though, I am resolved not to rush to judgement and remain patient. Regarding the hunting-pattern, I feel this will be polished in two stages- firstly in the low dense cover of Clent. Here the tight cover prohibits the dog getting too far away and promotes the feeling that we are working together, again. Later we will move onto more open ground, but more of that another time.
3.  I have put together a simple two-minute exercise that encompasses much of the grade one and two gun-dog tests. Although I expected very little in six weeks especially as it was being done 'on the hills' so to speak in fact, he's doing it all rather well. Even if it may not yet please an examiner, the wife I think will be delighted particularly with the off-lead bit.
And that's it so far.
There have also been some other major and exciting developments in another area, but all that is for another day.


--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

March 7, 2013 at 2:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alistair Stobie
Member
Posts: 3

Interesting post.  Somewhat less formally I have just been through the same process, but looked at it from a what did not go well last season point of view;

1. Walking to heel - too much belief in Irving et al.  Unless solely trialling a dog there is nothing more important and not starting with heel work made bits of last season quite painful.

2. Pattern - except when shooting walked-up on dog-friendly land or in the miles of dense bramble on a wild pheasant shoot every other piece of land destroys pattern and in particular pulling on especially as the season drew to an end and cover died back.  Back to pattern and food bribery to get the pattern back over my toes.

3. Steadiness - I suspect that bramble caused cuts on his ears that became infected and resisted antibiotics caused him considerable discomfort which may have helped with *ahem* some whistle deafness.  Three weeks oftwice daily ear baths later (note - cockers, work clothes and ear baths do not mix) my original dog is back. 

After an outstanding training session yesterday (2 & 3 being better than 1) I wondered how long he would take being retrained before getting bored.  And given my desire to work on steadiness as most shooting I will do next season will be walked-up when is the right time to be back in the rabbit pen.

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March 11, 2013 at 12:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neill
Member
Posts: 1280

Regarding on-lead heeling, I agree entirely!  A tip which works to solve the painful hand problem an over excited cocker can cause, pop the slip lead over the dogs head in a larger loop than usual, put a twist in it under the chin and pop it over the muzzle like a halter - works a treat!

The trick with ongoing training is little and often, they should (and do) love it then.  If they show any sign of boredom call it a day.  I'd start in the rabbit pen as soon as you can as well.

--

Every time I take my dog out for a lesson, he never fails to teach me something!!!!!!!

Neill

March 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Keith61
Member
Posts: 505

Alistair,

Hi and welcome to WCOL- i gather you joined recently. Your post is interesting too. I'd be interested in your progress and be happy for you to share your thoughts on this thread. Your logic appears pretty flawless.... i'd like to know how you progress with your goals.

Neill,

Thanks, as always.... I've seen the 'loop' trick work well- a shoot colleague put it to very good use on his springer-bitch under conditions 1&3, though personally, it's not for me...


For my own part, I disagree in emphasis regarding 1. I still wouldn't start with heel-work, though many would I am aware. My dog is a hard hunter with plenty of stamina (he doesn't require a flush every couple of minutes to keep him interested) and I wouldn't have wanted to risk inhibiting that. He too will do much more rough/walked-up next season. I'm happy to work on the off-lead stuff. I never expected to do it in five minutes and I'm not going to be disappointed in that respect. There is clear progress though.... Regarding 2.- Well put.. I rather wish I'd written that myself!! I think in the end unless you are training for trials, the dogs 'pattern' will be dictated by the type of shooting and type of cover he works. I know what I require and what I will accept and I guess that you do too...? I've never used 'bribes' though... I wonder if they will work as well on a junior dog as they might on a pup? 3. I have a specific 'steadiness' issue to resolve rather than a general whistle-deafness. I personally would not over-do the 'pen'. The trainer whose pen we used a couple of times was adamant that they can get very wise, very quickly. Finally, regarding boredom- it's the whole reason my training is scenario-based and the 'classroom' stuff has been transferred onto the 'hill'.

Regards



--

"Outside of a dog, a book is probably a Man's best friend and inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

Groucho Marx

March 11, 2013 at 1:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alistair Stobie
Member
Posts: 3

Thanks for your thoughts.  

My heel work issue is not lead related but off lead (he hated the halter approach enough to give up pulling) - I would love to walk in a relaxed manner with dog and gun between places of action without slipping the lead on.  Both gamekeepers I work with manage to have their relative packs swarming around their feet until released to create mayhem!  Not expecting Crufts-like obedience just not hunting until released to go hunting.  Clearly some trainers have had stickiness issues by starting with heel work - not an issue with mine.

Keith's thoughts (or his pen owners) on pen use echo my concerns.  I have plans for a trip to the bunnies in Northumberland and will do a couple of pen trips before going and then dog in before the season starts. I suspect that the dogging in will solve more of the excitement issues than pens and training.

I thought that this was supposed to be spring - it was brutally cold this morning.

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March 12, 2013 at 8:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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