Training a Hunt, Point and Retrieve (HPR) dog is a bit limited during May and June as you can’t really allow the dog to hunt where you might come across ground nesting birds. Training the dog to find grouse on the moor is totally out of the question as we just do not disturb the birds while the chicks are tiny. Should you split mother from 10 small, “bumble bee” type grouse chicks, she has a job getting them all back together and predators will be quick to take advantage of the confusion. Even in woodland and farmland we don’t hunt the dogs as they might find pheasants or partridges with young. But a bit of retrieving work should be ok and it’s a good time of year to practice those fairly boring routines of hiding a dummy and then direct the dog out to find it, but it’s good to teach the dog this and it’s about the only thing to do with them at this time.
So I did that the other evening. I chucked a dummy in the tall grass without Gaia seeing where I put it and without leaving any of my foot prints near it. I then got her out of the car and set her up for the right direction towards the hidden dummy. She knows the drill and ran out in a straight line. The dummy was about 80 meters out. She came slightly off course, but I stopped her and sent her to the right so she was exactly where the dummy had fallen, but now she looked all confused. I got a little annoyed because dogs can sometimes “blink” a dummy because they can’t be bothered retrieving for some reason, but Gaia is normally really keen to find it and bring it to me. She faffed about and looked at me as if I was demanding the impossible……. I was puzzled, but then I heard the characteristic whine, which made me run to the spot as fast as I could. The whine was from a roe-kid, but I didn’t know how small it was.
The dummy had landed about one meter from a newborn faun and Gaia was confused wondering if I wanted her to pick that up. Gentle as she is (and green!), she just looked at it.
Gaia had clearly got very close to it and scared it as it was wobblingly standing up.
I was mesmerized and could not resist taking a few quick snaps before I gathered dog and dummy and hurried off. What a beautiful little thing.