Midwest June Blog

In the Midwest it feels like we missed spring and went right to summer. Now that we have temps moving into the 90s with high heat indexes, it is very important that you closely monitor your training routines and exposure to enclosed spaces.  When the temperature + humidity exceed 140, then we conscientiously move our training to the early mornings / late evenings and ensure plenty of water work to keep the dogs cool. If you are transporting your dogs to and from the training grounds, NEVER leave them unattended in a warm car. Battery operated fans are a great tool to use, but still are no substitute for common sense. Any outside temperature over 70 degrees should be considered too dangerous to leave your dog in the car without plenty of ventillation.

Training Blog

The progression we are seeing with our 6-7 month old dogs is impressive. Not every day is perfect and we need to continue to resist the urge to push them too quickly. It is amazing how quickly their minds can regress when we stop working on a core skill for even a week. Although it tends to get a little mundane from a trainer’s perspective, don’t stop working on the fundamentals. We incorporate group work into our training whenever possible – beginning with all of the dogs sitting on place boards and then calling them off individually to work on their drills. The steadiness that the remaining dogs develop while waiting their turn is priceless. If you do not have multiple dogs to train with, set your dog up on a MoMarsh stand or Cato board in the yard while you have company over for a summer BBQ and yard games.

New Skills We Are Teaching This Month:

Back casting -Our dogs are now at a development level where they are ready to learn casting. When teaching a dog to go “back” we like to further refine that by telling the dog which way we want them to turn – to their left or to their right. There are multiple, practical reasons that make it important to teach your hunting dog how to spin left or right:

  • In most hunting situations, seldom is an object directly behind the dog. It is either off to the left or the right a bit. We always begin with casting back to the appropriate distance before sending them side to side.
  • Sometimes the slope of the land will bias a dog in one direction or another. If you think of the sport of golf, we sometimes purposely aim slightly away from the target recognizing that our ball will naturally roll down a slope.
  • In an effort to properly align a dog with the scent cone to help them find the bird, we will want to make sure the dog is approaching the bird from downwind.  

To teach this drill we begin by finding a straight edge like a fence line or side of a building. By using the fence line or building as a barrier, we are almost guaranteed the dog will turn in the correct direction. Begin by heeling your dog and placing a trailing memory in line with the fence line and then heel your dog back along the fence about 5 yards and have them sit while you continue to walk away from them. When you are back to your starting position, stop, turn and face your dog. With your dog facing you and their right shoulder up against the fence, put your right hand (palm out) about chest high, then at the same time push your hand (still palm out) straight up in the air and give the verbal “back” command. In the beginning, your dog will likely not understand what you want, so the closer you are to them, the more instructive your body language will be. I usually begin by taking a step 45 degrees toward the dog to help them understand I want them to go back and which direction to turn. See a video example of this drill.  I will work on this “right back” for a solid week before moving on to the left back. As you might imagine, the left back is just done in reverse (i.e. you walk the other way along the fence line, line the dog up so their left side is tight against the fence line and then use your left hand to give the “back” command.  We always emphasize back casts before side casts (which are easier). So make sure you have your back casts really entrenched for a couple of weeks before introducing side casts.

Pull push drill – There are two prerequisites for this drill; 1) your dog must be able to remote stop on the whistle and 2) your dog must understand back casting – both left and right. To help ensure the dog is doing this drill correctly, you may want to continue running this along the fence line described above.  Heel the dog dog out about 20 yards and drop a trailing memory. Give the dog a soft “no” indicating they are not to retrieve this right now, and walk away from the bumper down the fence line. When you are about 10 yards away from the bumper, give the dog a stop whistle (1 on diagram) while you continue on walking another 10 yards. As you reach your stopping point, turn and face your dog. With your two arms outstretched, blow the recall whistle whistle (three peeps). When your dog is 1/2 way back to you, blow the stop whistle (#2 on the diagram) and have them sit. As you blow the stop whistle you will need to determine which direction you want them to spin and put up the appropriate hand. NOTE: If they don’t sit immediately, walk them back to the point where you blew the stop whistle and make them sit there. Now with your hand out in front of your chest, slide it upward and give the back command at the same time.  When the dog picks up the bumper, have them retrieve it to you. See video example of this drill.  You can and should mix up the cadence of this drill as your dog will begin to anticipate when you are going to stop them. Sometimes, recall them, then sit, then recall again a short distance before sending them.  

Water Retrieves – With the warmer temperatures and the dogs doing well with their retrieving, we continue to work on water retrieving. The water offers the dogs a good chance to cool down as well as demonstrating how well they understand the job at hand when our control becomes limited standing on shore.  

Double Retrieves – Last month we began introducing the dogs to two bumpers (doubles). As we continue to work on this drill, we are setting the bumpers closer together and teaching the dogs specifically which one we want them to run to first.  Sometimes we do this with bumpers that are equi-distant while other times will introduce a long-bird, short-bird sequence.  When running your dog on doubles, make sure you have a check cord on them in case they get confused and break from one bumper to another. Do not let bad habits (switching) into your training.   See video example of how to run this drill.

Beginning Introduction to “live” birds – Duke began his introduction to birds last month with a feather tied to a cane pole and having that “flush” in front of him. Next we put a live pigeon on a harness connected to the cane pole with a string. With the dog sitting on their Cato board, we let the pigeon fly over/around the dog and look for the same steadiness that we expect with denials. For young dogs, this live bird can be pretty tempting, so it is best to have a second trainer work the bird while you concentrate on your dog. See video introduction of live bird.

More Adventure Dog Work – We continue to introduce Duke to lots of new environments and objects to help prepare him to be an Adventure Dog as well as a hunting dog. This month’s introductions include an ATV. As with all introductions, we start very slowly and just let the dog get acclimated to the new object. Ultimately we want the dogs to be able to heel at the side of a moving ATV and to ride on the back of an ATV sitting steady.  See video example of ATV familiarization.  Video heeling alongside ATV.

Wildrose Midwest

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