Monday, November 24, 2014

Quirky Dogs

I have owned bird dogs for most all of my life. I have had several breeds. Some were back yard bred and some were of really strong trial blood. I am not a professional trainer, but I do get a little bit better with each dog. In spite of my imperfections I have been the proud owner of some really nice dogs. All of my dogs have become serviceable bird dogs, but some have taken a lot more work than others. This is often because of my mistakes but not always. One thing I don’t think I will ever understand is how inconsistent some of them can be. Just when you think you really have them sharp.... you don't.
I left the house one morning with the thought of getting Sunnie our two year old setter some experience on chukar. She has had lots of bird experience for a two year old, and some chukar experience, but it had been a year or more since she saw consistent wild chukar. I have always felt like she had the run and style of a big country chukar dog. I wanted to see her start to realize that potential, and I was dreaming of her standing birds as I drove to the desert. When we arrived, I put her on the ground, and she went to work. She was doing what she does eating up big hills and rock fields with that silky smooth gate that she was born with and then boom, she slammed into a point

150 yards below me. As I stumbled to closed the distance in the difficult terrain I could not take my eyes off of her. She was standing beautifully just like I had imagined on the drive up. She held point like she has all of her life even though the wind was blowing briskly. I walked in and about 20 birds exploded from the hillside. My gun tracked one, and then another, and both fell dead. Sunnie retrieved like clockwork and I was in my happy place. I watched the escaping birds and saw exactly where they landed. I was thinking we were about to have a really fun morning. Everyone knows if you give them the hill they will run over the top and leave you standing gasping for air while they flush off the other side. There is no choice you have to get above them to hold them on the hill. So we climbed straight up the steep hill to get above and around on them. When we were on top of them we started our descent. They were right where I thought they would be. When Sunnie got downwind I saw her nose cue into the wind she then accelerated right through the whole covey and chased up every bird in the flock. I was so shocked I did not know what to do. She has been stopping to flush every time for 6 months and pointed strong all her life. After got my jaw to close, and I came to my senses I stopped her with the whoa command, and set her back making her stand while I walked around hopping a straggler would flush. I had no such luck. Thinking this was some sort of fluke I released her and we hunted over the hill in the direction some of the birds went. As we got to the top she cued on scent again turned into the wind and flushed another bird. I was more on my toes this time and hit her with the collar, and this time she at least stopped. I set her back again and went through the motions before I released her, and we hunted on. The same scenario played out one more time. I had seen enough. It was time to pick her up and go back to the drawing board with her.
This kind of thing has happened in one form or another to me for as long as I have tried to train a better dog. I try to assume it is due to my short comings as a trainer/handler. It is best for me to feel this way as it prevents me from getting angry at the dog. Maybe I am even correcting it wrong. I do the best that I can with the knowledge and experience I have. Many of my Facebook friends say they have noticed this behavior when a dog is in or coming in to season. Maybe she will show in the next few days. Some say dogs just have bad days. Maybe the strong breeze was a factor on this day. Maybe dogs are just as quirky as we are and there is no real explanation. The only thing I know for sure is we will get her straight one way or another.

Have you had any experiences like this with your dogs? How did you handle it?

This is a slide show and Video of sunnie's first 6 months

1 comment:

uplandish said...

Great blog. Im guessing your dog could see those birds before she plowed into them. Often any inconsistencies we observe in our dogs is a reflection on our own training program. Either way I wouldn't sweat it too much, another word for hunting is un-training.