Again not much is happening apart from maintenance.
Erik is very pleased to be on holiday, he did a happy dance in the caravan once it was all set up and the dogs came in, when we went to the dog walk area he had a long session of tail tucked under running around like a loon with the zoomies. Never seen him do that before, I think he likes being on holiday 🙂
We had a week of daily training sessions with Helen Phillips and my goal was to work on progressing stop to the flush. I haven’t had any time to go out and work Erik on the birds yet this year so this was his first day out working birds this year. I was very pleased as he was reasonably well behaved. He went off the whistle for some of the session but in general didn’t do too bad a job. He can’t stop on a flush yet. At one point he almost caught a bird on the ground but didn’t chase it. The next bird he put up he chased and yipped as he was chasing. When he came back he then proceeded to scream at me even though I hadn’t asked him to do anything! Question – Is he really frustrated because he didn’t manage to capture the previous bird?
We decided to head back, as he was over aroused and not listening to his whistles, and worked Erik along another hedge, he indicated that there was a bird in the hedge so I encouraged him to go into the hedge. He found and caught a sick bird which he retrieved and managed to release it to me reasonably well. From then onward he was much calmer, his eyelids that had been bright pink (an indication of histamine released when very aroused) went back to their normal colour and his demeanor was much calmer and more focused and he was able to listen again.
As a result of this we are going to try cold game retrieves as a reward for flushing and ultimately stopping. He flushed one more bird on the way back after quartering well through a stubble field and we rewarded him stopping after the flush with a retrieve of the bird that he had caught. That worked well although it highlighted the fact that he struggles to pick up the bird confidently.
We worked on hunting through some cover on the training field and practiced stop to dummy throw and then stop to shot and dummy throw. He was absolutely steady to all the throwing and didn’t need a stop whistle for any of it.
We then practiced some heelwork through the rough grass and rewarded with shot and retrieve. Erik was very noisy to start with but settled once he understood the game and managed with only a small amount of noise.
We then did some more hunting and shot with cold game retrieve as the reward. This upped the distraction level and he struggled to stop when he knew that there was cold game around. He again struggled to pick up the bird so we will try with it in a stocking tomorrow. This lead to another question – Is the difficulty picking up contributing to his frustration and inability to release once he has returned to me with the bird?
We started the session working on the birds, we had two cold pheasants wrapped in stockings with their heads out as reward retrieves for the stop. Erik flushed two birds quite soon and managed to stop on his return to me. A bird was put out and he was sent to retrieve, better pick up and better delivery.
We continued on with Erik flushing and not chasing, stopping on his return to me after turning off the bird, putting out a bird in a stocking and then sending him to retrieve. As the time went on his delivery got better.
The last flush was in heavy cover, I blew the stop whistle and he immediately stopped, I sent him for the retrieve and he delivered it perfectly. So we decided to call it a day as we couldn’t do better than that 🙂
He had hunted for about 20 mins with about 6 flushes and finished with 3 good retrieves in a row.
We went back to the field and did some more work on walking to heel through cover, shot, dummy retrieve; this was better with less noise.
We also did some hunting, stop to shot and then cold game retrieve, first pick-up was a bit messy but the second pick-up and delivery was very good.
Erik was hunting well and on the whistle and stopped well to the shot.
We began as yesterday on the birds. Not as good hunting weather as it was warm with very little breeze. He had 3 good flushes and one small chase.
He stopped well on his return to me, better pick-ups and better deliveries. Less damage and less mouthing on the birds. The birds were still in stockings. More confident on pick up = less frustration=better delivery.
We then did some more heel work, shot and dummy retrieves as heelwork through hunting ground and steadiness to shot and throw is needed for Grade 5 HR test.
I need to start increasing the duration of stillness between throw and pick up. Erik managed to increase the duration a bit with no noise and also managed to stay whilst I went to pick up the dummy.
He is beginning to hold the mark better and his heelwork is improving.
Erik still needs opportunity to run around to decompress and sniff between reps as he finds it very hard.
He is managing to stay within one body length of me for his heelwork.
His stop on shot is still instant and he is still steady to the throw.
This was pretty much a repeat of yesterday, continuing to make some good progress with the new pattern.
We then packed up the caravan and headed home.
We were at home on holiday for the week. We visited some friends and had some good walks in the first part of the week, the second part of the week was a bit hampered by me damaging my ribs which curtailed any training.
I am dealing with sore ribs still, so not much is getting done other than the minimum to maintain everything.
I am starting to get back to doing a bit more training in the park, some hunting and heelwork. I also have started to teach Erik to pick up and hold a lead whilst sitting as I need him to do this for a photo shoot for a book that I have written.
Photo by Farlap Photography