The Vizsla Newzsletter (Oct / Nov 1998)
- Chapter 7-
The Grizzled One and his beloved were sitting in their den sipping their sun downers (actually a vodka martini for the Mrs. and a meaningful dollop of Bombay Gin , that was stored in the freezer, for gray beard.) This was a before supper tradition at the Squaw Creek Vizsla Works, a time when matters of import, or lesser degrees of import, were discussed. "How did things go with the Shorthair pup today?" Asked the Mrs. "Really good" replied the Grizzled One. "That pup is showing some real intensity and Ed added to his vocabulary today". "You didn't use any of those words you sometimes use when you get frustrated or somebody does something really stupid did you?" "No honey I swear. I taught Ed the usefulness of the word eccch". With that the Grizzled One went on to explain to his wife what had occurred to interject the sound eccch into the training situation. He told her of how well the puppy had finally done on the third pigeon of the beginning of the training session and that they had repeated that situation with nice pointing from the puppy on two birds. As they slowly approached the site of the third bird launcher the Grizzled One told Ed that they were going to add another component to the pup's training situation. He explained to Ed that he would take the checkcord and that when the puppy went on point, Ed was to move towards the launcher from the pup's front left (Ed happened to be walking to the left rear of the Pup, if he had been walking to the right rear he would have been instructed to walk in from the pup's right front) Ed was further instructed to begin kicking the high weed , as if he was trying to flush a bird, the instant he reached the weed strip. The Grizzled One would do all the rest.
When they reached the area of the bird launcher, hidden in the high weed strip, the pup froze on point. "Go in and work that bird Ed but remember go in from the pup's left front". Ed did as he was instructed, approaching the launcher at an angle to the pup's face so that the puppy was able to see him walk across his front to where the bird scent was coming from. The pup stayed frozen while Ed walked to the weed strip and began booting it. Instantly the Grizzled One thumbed the launcher transmitter and the pigeon was air bound. With satisfaction he noted that Ed praised the pup with a "good boy" and a pat on the shoulder. As they led the reluctant-to-go Benji who kept his gaze skyward to see where that bird had gone, Ed jubilantly exclaimed to the Grizzled One "Benji stood on point while I worked that bird, he didn't move in with me, he was great! Did having me come in from the front of him have anything to do with that?" The Grizzled One replied "It probably was a important factor. By coming in on the bird from the front, you were in the pup's line of vision all the time. There was no noise of weeds etc., crackling from behind him or next to him as there would have been if you would have come in from the back. The way you did contained no sudden surprises for the pup, that is until the bird flushed. You have to understand that when a pointing pup goes on point it is a coil of spring steel that requires very little to jar it into uncoiling. What you did was to help your pup maintain its concentration on the bird scent and point it instead of doing something to trigger it into charging in and flushing the bird. This doesn't mean that he won't do that. He will but there are things we can do that will reinforce his standing staunch while you work the bird. Now you take him off for a little walk while I relocate the launchers and plant some birds. We're going to extend his lesson a bit tonight. His intensity on birds is so good that we can continue the lesson without fear of his attention span waning".
The Grizzled One moved the launchers to different locations and put birds in each. The launchers were carefully placed so that the pup would be downwind on approach. He called for Ed to bring the Shorthair back and they repeated the previous training scenario with the addition of Ed going in to simulate working the bird and flushing it. Benji handled the first one as if he had been doing it all his life. With the pup eagerly pulling on the check cord moving down the weed strip (by lining the working birds the puppy has learned to go on for more game after the flush) the Grizzled One and Ed ambled behind. The puppy suddenly slammed on point. It was a thing of beauty. "Go ahead and work the bird Ed" said the Grizzled One. Approaching the location of the concealed launcher from the left front, Ed moved on the launcher. As he passed the front of the puppy's line of vision Benji, unknown to Ed who was watching the spot where the launcher was, took a slow but methodical step forward, He was creeping. That movement of the body forward towards the sitting game that pointing breeds will often do that requires correction. While Ed had not seen the creeping the Grizzled One had and the instant the pup had begun the movement the Grizzled One let out a assertive, but not loud, "ecccch" sound which caused Ed to turn immediately to see what was happening. Not having seen the pup begin creeping he could see nothing amiss as the pup was standing rigid on point. "Move towards the bird kicking the weed as you go" said the Grizzled One. The instant Ed began his movement the pup gave just the slightest hint of body movement that it was going to start creeping which prompted an immediate "ecccch" from the Grizzled One and the pup instantly froze. The Grizzled One triggered the launcher and the pigeon was airborne. "We're going to pack it in, the pup has had enough for today" he told the younger man. With the Shorthair in his crate Ed helped the old hunter gather up the gear and asked him about what had happened at the end of the session. "For a whole lot of reasons, many pointing dogs develop what is called creeping. Except for a handler dawdling and taking too long to go in work a sitting bird there could be a number of reasons why it occurs but except for the dawdling handler the other reasons are not important because it is a unacceptable behaviour in a pointing dog and must be corrected. Your dog is a puppy and it is going to do puppy things which is part of the nature of things by and large and for that you do not correct in the same way as you would an experienced adult dog. You noticed that I did not yank on Benji's checkcord, I did not bellow NOOO!, I just let a loud-enough to hear it without a yell effect eccccch sound. Now that sound is hopefully a replica of the sound that the mother dog lets out when it is disciplining one of her puppies. Not a bark, not a growl or snarl, but a specific sound which the pup knows means it better not do that whichever has mama peeved again. I have found that a quiet good boy or girl and a ecccch when needed works so much better with pups than loud commandeering verbalisms"
Ed informed the Grizzled One that his schedule for a few days was going to make it impossible to meet with him for a while so the Grizzled One suggested that when things looked clear to give him a call and they would meet for the next session. "We are going to change our training site next time Ed and start getting Benji out in the field. I think he is ready for that". "What did you mean before when you said something about dawdling handlers?" asked Ed. "My definition of a dawdling handler is a handler who moves too slow in moving in on the sitting game that a dog is pointing and increases the stress the dog is under and helps to cause the dog to make unnecessary errors. This is especially critical when working with young dogs. A dawdling handler can actually encourage a young dog to begin creeping. The sad thing is the dawdler is convinced that he/she is being thorough in working the sitting bird but they are not. This does not mean that a handler should go running in on the sitting bird the dog is pointing but it does mean that the handler has a responsibility to the pointing dog to do a crisp, well executed sweep of the area that the dog is pointing to produce the game. It makes for a much classier scenario. You have been doing a good job on that point. You would have received some instruction from me if I thought that you were moving too slow. I think both you and your pup have done well Ed."
The clink of the ice cubes in her glass signalled that the martini was gone and the Grizzled One's beloved got up from her chair and stretched. "I do believe that you are having as much fun with that pup as Ed is. Supper will be ready in a few minutes." The Grizzled One tipped his glass to drain the last drops of Bombay and looked out over the cat tail marsh that was his backyard and felt, with deep satisfaction, it had been a good day.
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