Back in January, Russ wrote about taking Tooey upland hunting. He mentioned when he came back that the lightbulb really seemed to have flipped on in Tooey’s head — there are birds out in those fields that must be flushed and retrieved!
Little did I realize the significance of what lay behind his words.
Yesterday we took Cooper and Miss Tooey out to to a spaniel training day with the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association. Every one was eager for the work: the people to get ready for upcoming spaniel hunt tests and the dogs to find birds ASAP.
Knowing that Tooey particularly likes chukars, I’d gone out on Saturday to buy a few. Saturday afternoon and over Saturday night, I kept the chukars in nice comfy cages in the garage. All afternoon, all evening, and most of early Sunday morning, Tooey kept telling us, “Hey! There are chukars out there. Let’s go see the chukars. Now. Right now. I want to go see the chukars out there.”
And then, on the ride up to the training grounds, she did her best to keep a constant eye on those chukars. While Cooper and Scarlett* napped, Tooey stayed awake and watched those chukars.
That all amped her up, but we made her wait. And that combination probably explains why my arm and shoulder are sore now.
Tooey has generally been pretty gentle on the leash. Even when in hot pursuit of a squirrel, she manages to moderate her forward movement before reaching the end of the leash. So much easier on the arm and shoulder than Cooper is.
But when I got Tooey out to the practice hunt test course yesterday, she lost her mind and I almost got pulled over. What Tooey saw was just about unbelieveable: other dogs flushing and retrieving birds, and Russ out there with them doing the gunning. Without her.
course with two gunners, one working spaniel and handler, plus one waiting spaniel and its people
We were supposed to wait our turn somewhat near the course. But I had to get us away from there. So close to the course, I could not make her sit for anymore than 1 second at a time. And every time a gun went off, she was at the end of the leash, and both of us were 6 feet closer.
So instead of just trying to make her sit, I changed my tactic. Every time she pulled me toward the course, I turned around and dragged her farther in the opposite direction. We got all the way up a small hill about 100 yards away before she could sit quietly.
Eventually, it was Tooey’s turn. And she did great at the hunting. The gunners planted 2 dead birds close to the beginning of the course to give her confidence that birds were indeed out there. She found both of those quickly and retrieved them to hand.
Farther along the course, she also trapped two more chukars, grabbing them before they could get off the ground. Those were also retrieved to hand, alive.
Then, toward the end of the course, she flushed up a bird, which the gunner shot. She marked the fall, ran to go get it, and then brought that bird to hand, too.
That was the end of Tooey’s turn, but she was ready to keep going. Unlike Cooper, who tired himself out during his turn with a lot of running around, Tooey did a nice even zig-zag, back and forth across the course. And she did it at a moderate pace, too, kind of a fast trot. That makes for a more casual time hunting, when you don’t have to rush after your dog or worry that he’s going to flush birds too far ahead and out of gun range. (Take note, Cooper!)
Tooey’s puppies are due around May 7th, so I don’t know how much more hunting practice she’ll get in the next several months. But she remembered well enough from January to April. I imagine she won’t forget for the next time, either, no matter how long away it is.
Now we just need to work on steady.
*Scarlett is a Boykin Spaniel who is our friend Norm’s hunting partner
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