Anticipation is the word of the day! We are eagerly expecting Mia to deliver her second litter of puppies any day now. Things are ready to go, and now we get to…
Make sure you are checking back often in the next week to see the very first pictures of Mia’s puppies!
On another note, I have some fun pictures and information to share about Duchess! Last week we took her for her first official bird hunting training session.
Last fall, we took her bird hunting a couple of times, but we had never done any formal training with her. We mostly relied on her natural instincts and allowed her to find and flush birds.
Zach recently found a local place that offers training and even some paid bird hunts on their land. We scheduled a time for Duchess at Pheasant Valley Farm, and it was AMAZING! Not only was Duchess absolutely thrilled with the experience, it gave Zach and me some valuable teaching about how to work with her. The formal hunting training is as much for us as it is Duchess.
This first training session basically helped our instructors to see what Duchess could do and to teach us how to begin working with her. Our goal is to teach her to quarter (zig-zag) across a hunting area in search of scent. When she catches a bird scent, she should immediately stop and point. She should hold that point as either Zach or I walk in the direction of her point in order to flush the bird. Once the bird is flushed and shot, Duchess should retrieve it on command.
I was impressed with how well we she responded to our instructions for quartering. There is enough of a natural instinct, I believe, that with a little guidance from us, she seemed to pick it up quite well. There were times she wanted to run in a straight line down the field. Zach, who was mainly working with her and the instructor while I observed, would then call to her and point to the opposite side of the field. Duchess caught on very quickly; and when Zach would call and motion, she would quarter across the field. With his assistance, she did quite well in learning to effectively cover a hunting area.
The area we need to work on the most is holding the point. It’s very obvious when Duchess catches a bird scent, but she doesn’t hold a point. She rushes into the bird and flushes it. This bad habit comes from a lack of training and our own inexperience in technique. We allowed her to do this last fall while hunting, and now we have to work at changing that habit. For now, we are working with her on a long lead, so we can stop her once she catches scent. We are also teaching her the command, “Whoa,” so we can command her to stop and hold a position until we give her a release word. She did decently well, but we have a lot of ground to gain.
Here is Duchess watching the instructors. She knew there were birds in the back of that golf cart!
For anyone who owns an Irish Setter or other breed of hunting dog, I cannot overstate how amazing it is to hunt with your dog. Duchess can be difficult when it comes to obedience training. Her manners are a little rough around the edges, because of her boisterous energy and boundless enthusiasm. When it comes to taking her on a walk, some days I think I’d be better off trying a jack-rabbit. Duchess has to run all around, “hunting” and sniffing all the bushes, yards, and flowerbeds. She always wants to RUN. Walking is only for the feeble-bodied, as far as she is concerned.
But when we get her out in the field hunting, it is BEAUTIFUL. All of those attributes come into play, and we have the chance to work with her instincts instead of against them. At home, we try to teach her to walk nicely in a straight line. We try to keep her focused on one thing at a time, like sitting or playing fetch or whatever. We try to keep her from chasing our chickens and the neighborhood cats. Out in the field, though, she can do all the things she wants to do. She can run in a zig-zag. Her energy is focused everywhere all at once, so she can catch that bird scent. She even gets to chase and catch birds, ideally on command.
Suddenly, she isn’t so hard to deal with and train. Because we are working with her natural instincts, she is much more obedient. She understands us, and she wants to obey. It is so beautiful to work with a hunting dog in the field. The bond of trust and communication you build can’t be replicated elsewhere. I highly, highly recommend getting your hunting dog out in the field. The experience is definitely worth it!