Second day, 2nd hunt of the Whistling Wings Spring 2010 hunt test. Deeper pond and taller grass than the first hunt yesterday, but the same happy results.
Two passes down, two to go for the UKC’s Started Hunting Retriever title.
Posted in hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged Andy Fontenot, bird dog, HRC hunt test, hunt tests, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on April 18, 2010 | 1 Comment »
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, blind retrieve, blind retrieves, dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, force to the pile drill, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel on January 1, 2010 | 3 Comments »
For a retriever, chasing a seen bird is instinctual. Going out after an unseen object requires following the handler’s instruction. Following instructions is not something that comes naturally to Cooper, and Russ is not a particularly bossy person. Fortunately, the “force to the pile” drill will help Cooper and Russ learn to work together, giving and following instructions.
In this drill, the dog goes out to a pile of bumpers that have already been set out beforehand, and brings one back. The point seems to be to bore the dog with going out and returning with bumpers that were not thrown (and are thus not exciting), over and over again.
Why bore the dog? Once the dog is bored, the hope is that instead of going to the pile, he will goof off, wander away, get distracted by some suddenly enticing scent — something, anything for which the handler can correct the dog.
The point of this is to teach to the dog to go out upon command, even when he hasn’t seen a bird fall. To trust the handler that there is something out there that needs retrieving. To obey the handler, no matter what.
Eventually, there will be “blind” retrieves: times when there’s a bird out there that the dog hasn’t seen fall. In a hunting situation, this might be a wounded bird that must be found and dispatched quickly. In a hunt trial, blind retrieves are set up on purpose to test the dog’s ability and willingness. This situation is what the “force to the pile” drill is preparing for.
In the early stages of this training, before the dog knows the hand signals that tell him to go left or right, something visible is used to mark the pile of bumpers. In this case, we’re using two while fence posts, stuck in the ground at angles to form an “X”. The bumpers are spread around the “X” instead of being lumped in a pile, to make it easier for the dog to just pick a bumper and bring it back. (If the bumpers are in a pile, many dogs will “shop,” rooting through the pile in order to pick the “perfect” one.)
This “force to the pile” drill is harder than it looks. The dog starts by sitting in heel position next to the handler. Only when the dog’s body and head is pointed at the pile can the handler send him out. This way, it’s more likely that the dog will go out straight. If the dog’s head or body is turned, he’ll go out to one side or another. And if he gets in the habit of going out to the side, he will be much more likely to miss a distant mark in the future.
To make sure the dog is sitting straight, the handler has to notice the position of the dog’s body. That sounds easy, but think about it. When the handler looks down and to the left, he sees (or should see) the dog’s head at the handler’s knee, pointing at the mark. But, if the handler’s body is also pointed straight at the mark (as it should be), it’s not all that easy to see if the dog’s body is also straight. You have to twist your head and maybe shoulders around to see it, and that movement can easily prompt the dog to move out of position.
And, at the same time, a novice handler is also having to think about what to do if the dog “breaks” (leaves position before the command), refuses to go out, changes position, wanders off, lies down, stands up, looks around, etc. And in the park where we usually practice, you also have to notice other dogs (some friendly and some not), people (some oblivious and some not), and flying chuck-it balls, frisbees, and etc.
It’s a lot to notice. Think about how it felt when you were first learning to drive, and you’ll get a sense of what learning to hunt-train a dog feels like.
Posted in dog grooming, dog shows / conformation, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged dog, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on November 25, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Cooper is home from hunt school! Hurray! He is much better behaved and just seems more solid and confidant. And he looks like a barbarian:
In this picture, Coop’s in all his untrimmed glory. Look at those mutton chop sideburns! You can’t see it from this picture, but if his topknot were pulled back, you could see that those sideburns go up the sides of his nose and join the topknot at the V in his forehead. Except for the naked nose (and his naked tail and naked neck), you might think he was a (gasp!) poodle.
This picture also doesn’t show his legs. I purposefully have not trimmed his legs since July, knowing that we’d be going into the show ring in early December.
But did he come home with long, grown-out leg fur? No, he did not. Either someone has been cutting burrs and debris out of his feet and legs (not that likely), or his daily running through the fields and grasses at hunt school has torn or broken the fur off his feet and legs (more likely).
Come December, Jayme is going to help groom him to get his as handsome as possible for the show ring, and whatever she can do will be a miracle. But I know Russ will miss Coop’s nature-boy sideburns.
I’m just glad to get my Coop Man home.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, bog dogs, Catskin Kennels, dog, dog sports, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on October 15, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Today’s training session with Cooper was yet another milestone. Last week he executed multiple single water retrieves back to back, all under verbal control. So this week we moved into double retrieves.
At the water’s edge and guided by the shotgun muzzle, he marked the launch and landing of the first duck dummy. Then we rotated about 120 degrees and marked a second dummy as it hit the water. With his laser focus, he shot out through the muck, the shallow pond water, and weeds, grabbed the second dummy, and returned to heel. He did drop the dummy to shake off the water and mud, but with a “fetch” request he picked it up and handed it over before spinning around to get the first dummy. All in all, it was a good performance (other than his covering me with water and mud).
In the gallery above the pond was Patrick’s owner, Kathy, up from California, and Marian, from Florence, Oregon. Marian, who is a well known IWS breeder on the west coast, brought her pack o’pups with her to have Andy evaluate a couple of girls for their potential as trainable hunters (they most definitely have it).
In Ireland and the UK, the name of “Bog Dogs” is given to this breed acknowledging them as water dogs of Irish origins. When Marian’s pack was cruising the pond’s edge I was compelled to photograph them working their way through the bog in the training grounds. Note that the one on the left, with a white muzzle and leading the pack, is 14 years old. Bog dogs, indeed.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged AKC hunt tests, bird dog, dock diving, dock jumping, dog, dog sports, dogs, hunt training, hunt trials, introducing shotguns to dogs, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, shotguns and dogs, UKC hunt tests, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on October 2, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Training for hunt trials and hunting can be two distinct activities. And the different organization that offer hunt trials, such as the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, add even more complexity.
Andy prefers the trials presented by the UKC over the AKC because he thinks the UKC trials represent a more natural hunting scenario to the dogs and handlers. One element is the use of guns and live fire over the dog as it would occur in a duck blind.
So the first step in his process is to include an unloaded shotgun at the line, cock it, point it down range in the direction of the ducks, and dry fire on an empty chamber at the time of the launch of a duck or dummy. If the dog is smart, they will associate the muzzle direction with where to look so they can accurately mark the fallen duck.
In time, live fire will be added after the dog is steady at the line (not bolting before being released) and improving in their marking skills.
As I was standing back with the camera for this photo, Andy was demonstrating with another IWS named Patrick. After this demo, Cooper and I came to the line and repeated the process. His steadiness is getting really good, and his introduction to live gun fire will occur this week.
Andy reports that his steadiness for water entries still needs a bit more work as his excitement at demonstrating his “dock diving” skills sometimes over-rides his discipline. Andy has remarked that his water entries are rather spectacular for a rookie trainee, but then, Andy has yet to see Cooper in his civilian job as dock diver extraordinaire.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, water dog, tagged bird dog, dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on September 18, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
After a night of rain in the Pacific Northwest, the sun popped out about 10:00 am. I took this one photo just after I made the 80-mile drive up I-5 from Portland to one of Andy‘s training grounds near Chehalis, Washington. Then it was time to put the camera away and to start working with Cooper.
Andy had set 2 pair of launchers on either side of the pond and a stack of bumpers on the far side for blind retrieves for the advanced dogs. My job today was to keep Cooper “steady at the line” until I released him in a series of single retrieves of Dokken Dummies (fake ducks). The task was to keep Cooper’s drive in check and for him to be aware that I was the sole source for the permission to leave the line. Once I said, “Cooper,” he shot down to the bank and launched himself into the pond as though this was a dock diving competition. He may be a rookie, but he gets points for style.
Then Andy had me do the same drill with a Lab who was quite a bit more pushy than Cooper and about 20 lbs heavier. Made me appreciate my seemingly sedate package in the curly brown coat. And then another chance to work with a 2nd Lab before the bonus round of handling Joey, the talented IWS from Colleen. After his double, Joey just swam out to the blind retrieve of about a 100 yards, came back, and calmly laid the bumper in my hands, looked up, and asked if there anything else he should get on my behalf.
Another handler mistook the curly brown dog in the water for Cooper and thought we had a prodigy taking back cast instructions after only 8 weeks of training. (I believe Joey has been at this for a year — and it shows.) Perhaps Andy had me handle Joey so I would get an appetite for a really well trained IWS.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, duck dog, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on September 8, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Earlier in the week, Russ was telling a friend that Cooper is doing pretty well at duck school, but that Tooey has the drive of a turnip. Well, both cases turn out a lot better than that.
Today, Cooper went and found his bumper w-a-a-a-y out at about 250 yards — farther than we expect to need him to go during a hunt trial or even in hunting. But training for it is good — if he can find it out that far, then closer in will be a relative piece of cake.
He did need some assistance finding the bumper all the way out there. The first one landed in a patch of high grass, where he couldn’t find it. So the winger (a training assistant who throws bumpers and ducks) threw another one, yelling, “Hey, hey, hey!” That bumper he found and brought back. This is actually pretty common for dogs as his stage of learning, so we weren’t at all unhappy.
After Cooper had four or five long runs, Andy put him up in his kennel with a pan of water, and we got Tooey out of our truck. She’s shy and had to be coaxed to say hi to people (treats helped). But then Andy got out a training duck. That caught her attention.
She didn’t pick up the duck, but she was definitely interested in chasing after it. We’ll do like we did with Cooper, and play with her using a training duck for a few minutes every day. Maybe we’ll get her to actually grab it. I guess she has somewhat more drive than a turnip, yes?
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on September 4, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
We got to see Cooper today, and Russ got his first training session from Andy. Everything was set up in a field near the Chehalis River, with uneven cover and three launchers.
Cooper did pretty well — he got distracted from time to time by the scent of birds that had been dragged through the grass by other dogs, and he had to be assisted once or twice in finding the bird. But he always retrieved his duck and brought it in.
Russ did pretty well, too. When to command, when to correct, when to assist. It’s all a learning experience, and he’ll go back for more next week.
We’ll be back!
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, Realta Rosario Cooper, water dog, tagged dog, dogs, hunt training, hunt training video, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on September 1, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, dog, dog sports, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on August 21, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Today we finally got to see Cooper work. The question in my mind is: Has this month of missing him been worth it?
I think all of us would say, “Yes!”
And now for a little commentary. Some parts of what we saw are not amazing: Cooper has always loved birds, so his being willing to pick up a duck is not amazing. For some dogs it is — as one of my fellow bloggers points out, ducks are oily and they stink. Not all dogs think ducks are wonderful at first –for them it is an acquired taste. Cooper has never had this problem.
Also not amazing is his willingness to go find and carry the duck (or a ball or a toy). He’s always loved going and getting things and carrying them around, starting with the newspaper the morning after we got him at 9 weeks and continuing with the tennis ball from the flyball box.
But here is what IS amazing:
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, dog, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on August 14, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Talked to Andy again today. It was just a short call, just passing on some details.
But it turns out that it took Cooper only three days to figure out that things have changed. When Andy comes into the kennel to get Cooper, it means that Cooper is going out on the truck.
Oh, joy! Much leaping and dancing. No more of this practicing in the yard with the bumpers. No, now he’s getting onto the truck, leaving the kennel, and going out into the field to work with ducks.
This is the part we knew he’d love. To hear that he’s dancing in his kennel when he sees Andy makes me feel (mostly) glad that we sent Cooper to hunt school.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on August 11, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, dog, dog sports, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on August 7, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
Andy, the hunt trainer, called tonight with good news.
The very best news is that Cooper’s spirits have improved. He’s been sad and moping in his kennel — I’m sure he’s been lonely for his family. But now, he’s begun to play through the fence with Joey, the Irish Water Spaniel in the next kennel.
That is such a relief. Having heard about low spirits and not eating well, I was wishing we hadn’t sent Cooper away. I mean, how can you tell a dog that he hasn’t been abandoned?
The next piece of good news is that Coop has “finished his force,” says Andy. That means he’s learned to fetch the bumper off the ground, hold it gently while returning to Andy, and give it back to Andy’s hand.
Next week, Cooper will get to go out into the field, and learn it all over again with ducks. He’ll pick that up fast. Andy says that Cooper is real enthusiastic about retrieving and eager for the training, so he might have the trained retrieve with ducks down by week after next.
And that means we’ll get to go see him. I can hardly wait!
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged bird dog, dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on August 4, 2009 | 5 Comments »
I talked with Andy this morning. He reports that Cooper is doing well with the force fetch and will learn more about holding next week.
Like all sports, there is jargon to be learned. Force fetch? Holding?
Another, nicer name for “force fetch” is “trained retrieve.” Basically, this means that the dog should go get the thing that the handler wants the dog to get, bring it all the way back without dropping it or damaging it, come sit in front of the handler with head up, and give the thing “to hand” instead of dropping it somewhere.
“Holding” is a part of all this: Taking whatever the handler wants the dog to fetch, and keeping it in the mouth without chewing it, mouthing it, or dropping it, no matter what.
(On this note, Russ has a friend whose Lab liked to pee on the way back from fetching a bird. She’s go get the bird, bring it part way back, pee — while still holding the bird, and then bring the bird back to hand. Odd, but she didn’t drop the bird, so no one could criticize.)
Going and getting something — now that’s always been easy for Cooper. Bringing it straight back has been harder — witness Cooper’s desire to go running off into another flyball lane after having grabbed the ball.
Bringing something back “to hand” has been even more erratic. It means gently putting the thing in the handler’s hand, without argument, without hesitation, and without doing several victory laps first.
Cooper has brought a ball or bumper back to hand once in awhile, when it serves his purpose, which is generally to keep one of us playing the game. But often his purpose is to just have the thing for himself.
I can see his logic: “I went to get the thing, therefore the thing is mine.” But success in force fetch means giving it back to hand, every time, no exception, no matter what.
Andy predicts that Cooper will have it down, using bumpers at the kennel, by early next week. Once that happens, the real fun will start: Going out to the field to learn to do the same tasks, but this time, with ducks.
That’s when I think Cooper will really begin to enjoy himself.
Posted in dog behavior, dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged dog, dog sports, dog training, dogs, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, puppy, WaterDog Kennel, WaterDog Kennels on July 29, 2009 | Leave a Comment »
It’s tongue-dragging hot.
Way too hot for the Pacific Northwest. This afternoon, it was 107 degrees at Pepper’s, the training grounds in the Puget Sound area that Andy uses for his more-than-novice dogs.
And at WaterDog Kennel, it’s just about as hot. But Andy assured us that Cooper and the other dogs who stayed back at the kennel are all fine in the shady barn. They get fresh, cool well water four times a day, and the barn is staying in the 80′s.
Andy also said that Cooper “certainly has the desire.” That’s for sure. Going out and getting things has always been Coop’s passion, from when he was a little puppy.
Now, Andy says, Cooper’s retrieving, coming back, and holding (not dropping) the bumper.
He also added that Coop’s beginning to eat a bit better and cooperate a bit more.
OK, so that “beginning to eat a bit better and cooperate a bit more” worries me a bit. That means that, at least for awhile, Cooper wasn’t eating all that well and that he wasn’t really all that into it. Oh, dear.
I’d like to think that it’s because he misses me (and Russ) as much as I miss him. But I hope he gets over that and enjoys himself, like a little kid away at camp who comes to realize how wonderful camp can be.