….and Then the Wheels Fell off.

As my dearest friend, Anne Johnson, says: “With pointers, in particular, just when you think things are going beautifully, then one of the wheels come off …….”

And that is so true. It has been a while since I wrote the last Pointer Blog because of course I wanted to write about the splendid progress of Pontus, but the wheels have come off!!!

After a successful grouse season 2017, where Pontus was hunting nicely and pointing grouse (although he was slightly “creeping” in on them while on point), we progressed to days of walking out looking for the odd pheasant for the pot and later woodcock. It can be difficult to find good pheasants that have not been disturbed too much and they tend to run rather than sit, which is not ideal for pointers, especially a young dog. But I have had opportunities, especially thanks to our lovely neighbours who allow me to take a dog and gun out on their land, where I can come across the odd bird. But Pontus has made far too many mistakes on these hunts. He runs well and not too far away from me, but IF he detects the scent of a pheasant (often he doesn’t even notice them…), he will take the pointing position briefly, but he then continues to creep forward till he is too close to the bird, which then flushes. He is very well trained on the stop whistle, but that has no effect at all in the excitement of having a bird on the nose and he takes no notice of my whistling.

I scratch my head having bred this dog out of two exceptional pointers. OK, Gaia DID take her time to point staunchly (she was close to two years old), so I am still hoping, but Pontus’ father is FTCh and has won many open trials beyond that. I will take my time and now it is end of April, I can’t train Pontus in the fields where birds might be nesting, but I can train him endlessly on retrieves. This is OK because simply training complicated retrieves and water retrieves will help keeping our relationship as wonderful as it is already. He is such a lovely, happy and connected dog, I just hope the true game pointing will appear in the autumn.

We went woodcock hunting in the winter and Pontus hardly got the idea at all. The birds are difficult and to have a dog that bumps them is most frustrating. Gaia and Gollum are both quite reliable when it comes to woodcock pointing and we had good days out. Even with really good guns, by FAR the most birds disappear before you can even raise the gun. In some places we find birds every 5 minutes, but they often sit in thick cover where a shot is not even attempted. Pontus came along every day and although I was sometimes trying to use my 20 bore, I was also trying to place him right behind Gaia or Gollum while they were on point, but it didn’t make a huge impression on Pontus.

 

Some pointers don’t point till they are well over two years, so I will keep my hopes up. Once the brood counting starts in July and August on the grouse moors I will be out there with Pontus in the hope that maturity has set in and he will be more on the ball.

Here is Gaia on point at a classic spot: a woodcock sits under a fallen tree in woodland. And yes, there was a bird there. And yes, it got away too.

Gaia on point with the guns walking up to her.

Gaia on point with the guns walking up to her.

The classic flash-point. A bird in the bush.

The classic flash-point. A bird in the bush.

I went to Skye and the west coast and Isle of Muck. Pontus liked the boat trip…..

Pontus on the boat from Isle of Muck.

Pontus on the boat from Isle of Muck.

On every photograph taken in the field, Pontus looks adoringly at me, but it’s a bit like “Lights on, but nobody home”.

Looking for woodcock on Skye. Pontus looking for me.

Looking for woodcock on Skye. Pontus looking for me.

Again, Pontus fixed on my face.

Again, Pontus fixed on my face.

At least Pontus’ modelling career is going well. The dog bed side of his life is indisputable….  Here he is modelling The Raised Tuffies Bed.

Untitled-1 copy

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Pontus now working.

Well, the season is in full swing and Pontus has been walking with me, taking careful notes of how the other two are doing the job.

Pontus learning the trade walking on the lead.

Pontus learning the trade walking on the lead.

Here Gaia has flushed the bird and Pontus is right in the middle of it all, taking it in except he is still just watching Gaia, not following the bird. Pontus is not yet allowed to retrieve, so marking is not high on his agenda.

Pontus watching Gaia more than the bird as it flushes.

Pontus watching Gaia more than the bird as it flushes.

On the 15th we were out with a friend, Duncan, who also has a GWP and who can shoot well. I took all my three and it was a bit of a gamble to allow Pontus to hunt because he has not quite learned to stop at the right distance from the birds to avoid putting them up prematurely. However, he just did a great little job. He stopped on point and held it. Naughty Gaia took the opportunity to flush, which took my by surprise. Not a good start, but no great harm done, I am sure.

Here are three photos from Pontus’ first shot bird.

Pontus on point, time to get up to him.

Pontus on point, time to get up to him.

Pontus on point and gun ready.

Pontus on point and gun ready.

At the flush and retrieve, there was too much going on to take photos, but I think it is evident that Pontus is enjoying what has just happened. He MUST know that this was his work. I think.

Proud looking Pontus.

Proud looking Pontus.

He hunts well and keeps his head high most of the time. He flicks his head up more at the scent of birds, which is why he almost always has one or two ears inside out once he gets on point.

Pontus hunting

Pontus hunting

I later got an opportunity to have a very short day with two great friends and I took the gamble only to bring Pontus. It all went well and I made a little film of it all.

Pontus is too young to retrieve, so the ‘keeper’s Labrador does the retrieving.

The 'keeper's retriever is collecting the birds while Pontus is still young.

The ‘keeper’s retriever is collecting the birds while Pontus is still young.

Having gained the confidence with Pontus, I worked him further during the week for friends and he did a great job.

Here he is pointing with Norman waiting for the flush.

Pontus with birds in the nose. Gun waiting.

Pontus with birds in the nose. Gun waiting.

The birds more or less flush on their own as he is not yet aware of the right distance to stop on point before the birds will lift.

Birds flush and Pontus is a little startled.

Birds flush and Pontus is a little startled.

Last week the dogs were out six days on the trot. They were tired at the end of it and always sleep soundly on their dog beds in my truck all the way home.

 

 

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Pontus and Grouse Brood Counting

This is now the season where we venture out to see how the grouse has bred over the summer. Unfortunately it has not been great here in Scotland 2017, so this year it is a real treat to be able to hunt the grouse on 12th August as many places have simply cancelled all shooting.  The estates can only shoot what is sustainable, so if there is not enough stock, well then there is no sold days. There will be enough for the limited bags of controlled shooting over pointers, so we will still be busy.

The brood count is great for getting the dogs tuned in to the job and to get everyone fit. This year I have young Pontus to have fun with and it is a delight to see him discover hunting over the moor.

Pontus hunting the moor

Pontus hunting the moor

The first time he actually took scent and bore forward to come on point, I had the compos mentis to get my phone out and make a little film. Unfortunately I did not trust his skill and stopped filming before his four birds got up. It was a great moment to see him point and judge the distance (how far to stand back).

In general he runs with his nose nice and high and here he is, stopped with his nose way up to assess the wind for scent. Nice to see.

Pontus assessing the scent in the air with his nose up.

Pontus assessing the scent in the air with his nose up.

Like his mother, he will end up with his ears inside out when he is on point because he has been running the last bit in to the wind raising his nose to catch the scent and thereby flipping his ears out….

Pontus and Gaia on point with ears turned out.

Pontus and Gaia on point with ears turned out.

Also on his own do I see him with the ears turned.

Also on his own do I see him with the ears turned.

It is so nice to be out with the dogs and I can’t help making little films. Here are two of Gaia. She is a little bit sticky in the first film especially, but once the gets the right word, she performs a “positive flush” with a nice steady sit.

And here is a nice little, careful search for one single bird:

Gollum is now 8 years old and very cool at his game.

Definitely birds in front of this dog.

Definitely birds in front of this dog.

With the young dog, hunting the back wind is always a bit of a job to get right. However, with a dog that has the right instinct, there are promising movements at the age of 14 months.

Here is Pontus being sent out on the back wind, going away from me (at a bit of an angle, but still ok):

Pontus going away on the back wind.

Pontus going away on the back wind.

When the dog has taken a certain bite of the ground, he should hunt that piece back to the handler, zigzagging in to the wind. Pontus shows how it’s done…

First cast working the wind back to me.

First cast working the wind back to me.

Second cast working back to me (giving me another glance).

Second cast working back to me (giving me another glance).

Third cast on the back wind. Very pleased with himself.

Third cast on the back wind. Very pleased with himself.

Although it would have been tougher to walk all the way, it’s really hard work riding in the Argocat and that shows on Pontus, here trying to balance on the narrow seat.

Pontus in the Argo

Pontus in the Argo

Great fun to be out all day on the hill and I know that my dogs were sleeping extremely well on their dog beds all night long afterwards.

 

 

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“Walkies” can be made in to nice training.

It’s nice to train the young dog and the result is best if you integrate it in to a walk so that you move in various areas as much as possible.

I take two small dummies with me as they fit into a jacket pocket. To train the dog to mark a retrieve and also to train getting directions to a blind retrieve, I do this:  I throw a dummy to be marked by Pontus, my 14 months old pup.

Throwing the marked retrieve.

Throwing the marked retrieve.

As he goes off for the marked retrieve…..

Potus setting off to get the marked retrieve.

Potus setting off to get the marked retrieve.

….I turn round and throw one out the other way while he is not looking.

Placing the unseen "blind" dummy.

Placing the unseen “blind” dummy.

Pontus then picks the marked one and delivers it back to me.

Picking up the marked dummy.

Picking up the marked dummy.

Return.

Return.

Delivering, "holding" nicely.

Delivering, “holding” nicely.

Then it is time to turn him round and send him for the blind retrieve.

Setting Pontus up for the direction.

Setting Pontus up for the direction.

....and off....

….and off…

If all goes well, he doesn’t need stopping for further directions, but simply picks the dummy on the wind successfully.

Returning the dummy.

Returning the dummy.

Happy dog.

Happy dog.

The treats come out every time.

I “hunt” him and throw seen dummies or I sneak blind dummies in to the mix and hence we are moving in various places making the training as enjoyable as possible.

"Hunting" Pontus in to the wind.

“Hunting” Pontus in to the wind.

I sit him down on the whistle and then throw a dummy for him to mark. The small dummies are not easy to find in the long grass, so it’s a good challenge.

Watching the dummy.

Watching the dummy.

On a nice day, a swim in the river is fabulous training too.

Pontus likes his svimming.

Pontus likes his svimming.

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Training is good fun

It doesn’t have to be a chore to train the dogs in preparation for the season. It is ALMOST time to get on the moor to count the grouse broods, but the retrieving training is still going on without disturbing ground nesting birds.

In order to train my Gaia, I plant dummies from my car so I don’t walk out with the dummy and hence creating a “trail” for her to follow. If I drive the car out, there is less scent for her to “cheat”. I make sure I put the dummies somewhere where I can mark the place well for directing her. Sometimes she has to go out to find a blind dummy at over 100 meters distance and I have to be able to pinpoint exactly where to send her.

Throwing the dummy from the car leaves less scent of me.

Throwing the dummy from the car leaves less scent of me.

Placing the second dummy thrown out of the car window.

Placing the second dummy thrown out of the car window.

I then drive to a place where I feel it’s a challenge for Gaia to go out in a straight line and get directed to the scent of the dummy. I set her up and send her off.

Setting Gaia up to give her directions

Setting Gaia up to give her directions

Off she goes.

Off she goes.

As she gets nearer the dummy, I sit her down for further directions till she finds it and comes back.

Sitting her down at about 60 meters to give more directions.

Sitting her down at about 60 meters to give more directions.

Returning to delivery the retrieve.

Returning to delivery the retrieve.

Sending off for the other hidden dummy.

Off for the other one.

Off for the other one.

 

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The “R” in “HPR”

Pointers and Setters only need to hunt and point. Labradors only need to hunt a bit, but mainly just retrieve. HPRs, such as German (Short-, Wire- or Long Haired) pointers, Vizlas, Munsterlanders, Brittanies etc need to hunt, point AND retrieve.

This means that a HPR dog has to know everything a Pointer or Setter knows and everything a Labrador knows. So there is plenty of training to get on with. As previously described, Pontus has started to point a bit on snipe and I have also spent a good deal of time with him on grouse. He definitely started to point and his hunting and obedience is getting very good. He has a nice, natural pattern and tends to cover the ground systematically. It is now nesting season for the grouse and all other ground nesting birds, so hunting training is suspended for the summer, which means that the (boring) dummy training is the best thing to invest in now.

Pontus has, as previously described in my blog, learned the controlled retrieve, which means he politely comes and sits, holding the dummy till I take it.

Holding the dummy, slightly awkwardly....

Holding the dummy, slightly awkwardly….

There are various disciplines a one year old pup should know and these are:

Memory retrieves.

I walk out with a dummy with the dog to heel.

Walking out with the dummy.

Walking out with the dummy.

Throwing the dummy for the dog to mark it.

Throwing dummy for the dog to remember it.

Throwing dummy for the dog to remember it.

Walk the dog back.

Walking puppy back hoping his memory lasts.

Walking puppy back hoping his memory lasts.

Sending the dog for the retrieve helping it along with hand signal. This sets the basis for later blind retrieves later.

Off for the retrieve.

Off for the retrieve.

Picking it up

Picking up.

Picking up.

Returning.

Triumphant return with dummy.

Triumphant return with dummy.

Being steady to the throw.

The dog needs to sit down and be steady to dummies being thrown. The most tempting one is when you throw it right over the dog’s  head. After the fall, the dog must sit steadily till it is asked to retrieve.

Tempting, flying dummy over his head.

Tempting, flying dummy over his head.

Waiting to be asked to retrieve.

Waiting to be asked to retrieve.

Turning to retrieve.

Turning to retrieve.

Getting there.

Getting there.

Returning.

Returning.

Directions.

One thing that takes a bit longer is the Right-Left and Back command. In an open field, place two dummies and train the dog to understand if you want the one to the right, the left or the one behind the dog.

First the dog must sit in the middle of the triangle till you give it directions. Then you say “Out” and wave to the side, you want the dog to go. Correct gently if he gets it right and eventually the dog will understand the right and left wave.

Waiting for directions.

Waiting for directions.

Understanding the directions.

Understanding the directions.

Very pleased with one self.

Very pleased with one self.

And then the going back for the one lying behind him with the “Go back” command.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Slightly hesitantly going back.

Slightly hesitantly going back.

Success.

Success.

Blind retrieve.

As a very small beginning I cover his eyes while a friend throws a dummy in the long grass. Then I set him up with the hand signal and use the above corrections if I need to help him find the dummy.

Setting the direction.

Setting the direction.

Successful find in the long grass.

Successful find in the long grass.

Clever boy.

Clever boy.

Obstacles.

Obstacles are part of a shoot day and it’s best  get the dogs used to all sorts. Here, on the ground today there is a wall on the grass slope very suitable for training. So a dummy is thrown over the wall and Pontus retrieves.

A bit of wall does not phaze Pontus.

A bit of wall does not phaze Pontus.

Nice, soft landing.

Nice, soft landing.

Happy retriever.

Happy retriever.

Water:

Retrieving over water and swimming is important. Here, we didn’t get anything deep enough, but we got the principle:

Ready with hand signal although he can see it.

Ready with hand signal although he can see it.

Across.

Across.

Found it.

Found it.

Return.

Return.

Delivery without dropping the dummy.

Delivery without dropping the dummy.

And guess who won Puppy class and got a second in Novice at the weekend?

 

Clever Pontus.

Clever Pontus.

 

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Pontus’ progress

Pontus is now 10 months old and although we do all the boring dummy retrieving, it never becomes quite as much as it ought to be because it is really very boring. Also, I have been taking advantage of the pre-nesting time to get him to go on snipe and woodcock and the odd pheasant. Like his mum, he is slow to point, but I have no worries about that because I know it will come.

Here is one of his first indications of pointing as he froze in the scent of a snipe:

Pontus on point in the white grass, scenting snipe.

Pontus on point in the white grass, scenting snipe.

We have now got in to grouse pair counting times and this is an important window not to miss as he is young and we only have a few weeks of it before we have to leave the hill for the birds to nest. I have taken advantage of having an older dog again and I allow Pontus to get up behind Gaia or Gollum on point. He is a bit of a barging-in-dog, he does not respect other dogs’ points, which is annoying, in fact on the continent it is seen as a fault when they don’t back other dogs’ points. Here is Gaia on point and although Pontus is not flushing, he is moving ahead of Gaia, so I use the handy, not-docked tail to hold him in place.

Gaia on point and Pontus learning. I have to hold him back by the Tigger tail.

Gaia on point and Pontus learning. I have to hold him back by the Tigger tail.

Gollum on point, Gaia backing and Pontus learning on the lead.

Gollum on point, Gaia backing and Pontus learning on the lead.

There is little doubt he enjoys the moor.

Pontus loving the run on the spring moor.

Pontus loving the run on the spring moor.

As he runs past me, he has time for a little glance. He is WITH me on the moor.

As he runs past me, he has time for a little glance. He is WITH me on the moor.

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Gollum Pointing and Flushing Woodcock

In February there were still loads of woodcock about and I took Gollum and Pontus, my two wirehaired pointers, out to find some. I made three little films of Gollum on point with the subsequent flush. Pontus, the apprentice, was on the lead behind Gollum to get the idea.

Here is another point and flush:

Lastly, I worked Gollum on the back wind and because I had a bell on him, I could hear that he had stopped. As I realised he was behind a bush, the bird would have to be sitting in the bush and I switched my iphone on hoping I would be proven right. As you play the film, try and go back to stop it just before the bird lifts as you can then see it sitting on the ground. At the end of the film you see Gollum rigid on point behind the bush.

It was really nice to get some easy shots of him with this fantastic bird.

Gaia was out with me today and never missed a snipe. Here she is on point, but over-shot where it was on her flush.

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Hunting and pointing, first steps

Pontus is now hunting,  but he is not sure why. His instincts and his breeding makes him search nicely, but he is clearly not sure what to look for. However, Watching him hunt is reassuring as I can see the beginnings of a nice pattern on the wind, obedience to the whistle and a really nice report with me. It is all natural for him, but roe deer foot scent is catching his imagination more than birds sitting in the grass.

Pontus is now allowed to hunt with me, but no shooting.

Pontus is now allowed to hunt with me, but no shooting.

At six months old he still looks dis-jointed, but happy.

At six months old he still looks dis-jointed, but happy.

He is using his nose to get the scent and clearly stops when there is something interesting. He does not point yet. His mother, Gaia, also took a while before she started to point.

He just catches the scent running along the pond.

He just catches the scent running along the pond.

The scent makes him want to investigate further.

The scent makes him want to investigate further.

And the nose goes in to the grass. There was nothing there...

And the nose goes in to the grass. There was nothing there…

As Pontus has no idea what he is looking for, I want him to understand that it is birds, not roe deer and I use an older dog for that. Here, after a little bit of hunting, Gollum is on point on a woodcock and I have led Pontus up beside him so he can get the scent and be “inspired” by Gollum’s point.  Funny how that paw goes up while he is still puzzling over what they are looking at.

Pontus lining up beside Gollum as he is on point. Paw up, but no idea.

Pontus lining up beside Gollum as he is on point. Paw up, but no idea.

Out training puppy with an older dog also gives the opportunity for some “sit-stay” training. It’s good to do all the exercises repeatedly in different places.

Pontus sitting, looking a bit forlorn in the middle of the woods.

Pontus sitting, looking a bit forlorn in the middle of the woods.

Great fun training a puppy.

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Small Retrieves at Five Months old.

Pontus is now five and a half months old and I have practiced the controlled retrieve, so he is solid in his delivery and completely certain of what to do with a dummy: deliver nicely in exchange of a treat.

We have moved outside now and Pontus loves to perform:

Pontus in full flow delivering a puppy dummy.

Pontus in full flow delivering a puppy dummy.

I sit him down and make him hold the dummy while I walk a short distance (20 metres) away. Once he has sat nicely I call him.

Waiting to be called, holding the dummy.

Waiting to be called, holding the dummy.

When called, Pontus sets off with the dummy.

When called, Pontus sets off with the dummy.

Softly holding the dummy while in full flow.

Softly holding the dummy while in full flow.

Looking up at my face as he approaches.

Looking up at my face as he approaches.

Sitting down, looking at me.

Sitting down, looking at me.

Holding the dummy, waiting for me to take it.

Holding the dummy, waiting for me to take it.

And finally the titbit as reward for delivering.

And finally the titbit as reward for delivering.

It is time to practice on cold game. All the training is about putting one building block on top of the previous, solid one. Here Pontus is holding a little cold partridge. It’s different to a dummy, but he is good at holding and gets used to it quickly.

Pontus sitting nicely holding a partridge.

Pontus sitting nicely holding a partridge.

I find it important to be able to clap him all over, also under his jaw, while he holds the bird. This is so that he doesn’t spit out too early just because my hand is near the bird. If a bird is still lively you can lose it if the dog spits out too early.

It's important to be able to clap him while he holds.

It’s important to be able to clap him while he holds.

It is also a good discipline to be able to walk the dog to heel while it is holding a bird.

Pontus walking to heel, holding the bird.

Pontus walking to heel, holding the bird.

Pontus sitting, holding and waiting with a partridge.

Pontus sitting, holding and waiting with a partridge.

Delivering partridge.

Delivering partridge.

Sitting down to present the bird for delivery.

Sitting down to present the bird for delivery.

That’s us for now. I also “hunt” him, but we have not yet had any real points. I am not seeking places with much game, it’s still too early.

Pontus has one more job: he still models our dog beds:

20th-nov-14

 

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