Puppies are the Perfect Time Wasters

The first few days are the most concerning, not just for the new mum, but for everyone. It is all new and scary and for the first few days all routine is upside down. The other dogs are kept out of the way (they are curious about what is going on, but as soon as they smell the pups, they keep their distance).

All looked fine and settled at night, but when I came in to the “maternity ward” this morning, Gaia had moved all the pups on to a spare blanket under the table next to the whelping box. Of course I got a bit worried that she might have suffocated one in there, but all was perfectly fine.

Gaia under the table on a blanket with her puppies.

Gaia under the table on a blanket with her puppies.

Outside the whelping box the pups can crawl away.

Outside the whelping box the pups can crawl away.

I put them all back and soon all was peaceful again. I put a blanket half way across the whelping box to help her feeling secure.

All queueing up at the milk bar.

All queueing up at the milk bar.

Eat, sleep, eat, sleep.....

Eat, sleep, eat, sleep…..

 

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Gaia is Settling in as Mum

Yesterday, at three days old, I decided to make portraits of them all. Here we go:

Gaias female pups three days old copyxxxxBlog

Gaias male pups three days old copyxxxxBlog

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All Born and Everyone well.

Saturday 28th May 2016:

I spent the night with a restless Gaia, but no digging and no pups. Got up just after 5am as she seemed to be changing her behaviour and Pontus was born at 7.05. She was insisting on staying in the Tuffies nest and everytime I tried to move her to the whelping box, she went back.

Gaia all stressed out in her nest before the first pup.

Gaia all stressed out in her nest before the first pup.

Finally, she had the pup, Voramissen Pontus, in the whelping box.

Gaia giving birth to her first puppy in the whelping box

Gaia giving birth to her first puppy in the whelping box

Everything going smoothly and Gaia says hello to her first puppy.

Gaia saying hello to Pontus.

Gaia saying hello to Pontus.

She insisted on going back to the nest to have her pups and Atlas was born in the nest.

Atlas being born, Pontus already white and clean.

Atlas being born, Pontus already white and clean.

It turned out that every single pup came out backwards. Here is Atlas arriving.

Atlas being born, feet first.

Atlas being born, feet first.

Green and dirty when just born.

Green and dirty when just born.

Phoebe arrived at 9.45, also born in the nest!

Three pups born in the nest.

Three pups born in the nest.

Nothing happened for three hours and I decided to move Gaia and children to the whelping box and keep her there. At 1.05 Calypso arrived and shortly after that, Oceanus.

Calypso being born in the whelping box.

Calypso being born in the whelping box.

Soon after Theia came reversing out:

Theia being born.

Theia being born.

Cleaning up Theia.

Cleaning up Theia.

Suddenly Gaia decided to put them all back in the nest! I couldn’t stop her, she had done it in a flash.

Gaia carrying a puppy back from the box to the nest.

Gaia carrying a puppy back from the box to the nest.

Phoebe being put back in the nest.

Phoebe being put back in the nest.

Obviously I put them all back in the whelping box and took away the nest.

After a long wait again, Selene was born at 3.55 followed quickly by Titan.

Titan just born.

Titan just born.

So at 4.10 with eight pups, I assumed it was all over and Gaia was resting very peacefully. We sat outside the door in the sunshine and I allowed myself a little Gin and Tonic to celebrate. At 6pm I heard worrying noises and went back in, Helios was being born.

But that was it. Five boys and four girls.

 

The final count of nine pups.

The final count of nine pups.

Pontus on the nipple.

Pontus on the nipple.

Pontus falling asleep.

Pontus falling asleep.

Zonked out and fallen off the nipple.

Zonked out and fallen off the nipple.

I took Gaia out today, less than 24 hours after finishing her whelping and she LOVED it.

Gaia running on the grass.

Gaia running on the grass.

FREEDOM....

FREEDOM….

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Gaia is due to Give Birth Today…

Gaia should be ready for birth today, but no signs yet.

Gaia bursting with puppies. Having difficulties sitting down.

Gaia bursting with puppies. Having difficulties sitting down.

During the last three nights I have abandoned my husband and slept in a spare bed with Gaia by my side (well, uhm, yes, ON my bed). It would be too risky to leave her alone so close to the due date, I wouldn’t have slept a wink if I suspected she could be giving birth. However, NOTHING has happened. Last night she started getting restless and panting, so I thought Ahaa, here we go, but she was just too hot and fell asleep when I opened more windows to cool the room down.

What a dedicated working dog, however, I brought her over to the office with me this morning and on the way she caught scent of a rabbit in the long grass and went on point:

Gaia pointing a rabbit on her due day of birth

Gaia pointing a rabbit on her due day of birth

I guess in nature the bitch will have to try and feed herself right up till the last minute before whelping and as soon after the birth as well.

Staunchly on point this morning

Staunchly on point this morning

She is now lying in the office, not on one of our dog beds, but on the door matt. Maybe that’s a sign??? She is literally in the cold draught!

Gaia lying on the matt with her enormous belly.

Gaia lying on the matt with her enormous belly.

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Gaia has just two days to go.

According to my calculations Gaia should be due having puppies TOMORROW. She is big, but not enormous.

Gaia in the garden with five days till due date.

Gaia in the garden with five days till due date.

We are getting ready with the whelping box and the Bespoke Dog Bed to cover the base. I have made new pig rails and covered them with soft pet-bedding. They fit right round the box to prevent the mum squashing a new born puppy.

Whelping box borrowed from a friend and fitted out with pig-rails.

Whelping box borrowed from a friend and fitted out with pig-rails.

She has been checking out her maternity ward and it seems to be approved as I found her in it this morning.

Gaia in the whelping box looking approving.

Gaia in the whelping box looking approving.

She is still keen to keep her bone intake up. In fact she wants to eat ALL the time.

Gaia on a Tuffies dog bed eating her cow bone.

Gaia on a Tuffies dog bed eating her cow bone.

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A Winning Year with the Working Pointers

Let me just get the bragging out of the way first: My two German Wirehaired Pointers spend most of their time working, but I do enter the odd Field Trial as it’s a fun day out. I am not prepared to travel the country entering every Field Trial there is, so I have only entered a few last season, which then shows a pretty good strike rate:

 

Strandkantens Gaia with her winnings 2015/16 season.

Strandkantens Gaia with her winnings 2015/16 season.

Trudvang Faurbauste with his All Age Field Trial trophy Maplehaze

Trudvang Faurbauste with his All Age Field Trial trophy Maplehaze

Gaia won the only Novice she entered last season. It was a grouse trial and she did a beautiful job of sweeping the moor and stop on point on the first bird that came in her scent path. Two birds were shot, but as it was a novice, she was only asked to retrieve the one she had marked. It flipped in the air, but she caught it and brought it back unscathed. She had a second run where she took in a big chunk of ground, partly on a cheek-wind, then carried on and moved forward, following the scent. I got the guns to keep up with me and she led us in, but it was a big covey and they took off before we could get there.

Later on I entered an All Age trial with both Gollum and Gaia. Gaia probably would have won it, but she is a bit of a wimp swimming, so when three dogs got through to the water test at the end, my two and one more dog, she let herself down making a mess of it although she did complete the task. Gollum got the first prize and Gaia third, but she took the trophy for “The Guns’ Choice”.

Later, during the pheasant season, I entered two open trials where she messed up the first one. She hunted, had a fantastic point in the bracken, flushed the bird, which was shot and she collected it, but she put it down and hesitated a little before she brought it back to hand. The judge was mortified having to put her out.

Things went better next time where she hunted, pointed and retrieved a live bird. She won that trial. So now Gaia just needs to win one more Open Field Trial to be Field Trial Champion.

The Grouse :

I use the pointers 20 – 25 days on grouse each year. We get to the most beautiful places in the Scottish Highlands where guests pay their way to enjoy this old tradition of shooting over pointers. The respectful harvest of wild birds results in a modest bag that is admired and taken home to the kitchen. Walking the heather-clad hills while shooting over pointers requires a good level of fitness.

Gaia on solid point on grouse on the moor

Gaia on solid point on grouse on the moor

Gaia busy retrieving a grouse

Gaia busy retrieving a grouse

We are sometimes high up on the hills. Here we are near the Glenshee ski area and the heather can be very short on the tops making it almost impossible for the dogs to hold birds on point. Where the heather is sheltered a little bit in a hollow, it gets longer and lush enough to create a habitat for the grouse and here the dog gets a chance to stand back on point while the guns can approach.

Gollum is on point in a little bit of thick heather

Gollum is on point in a little bit of thick heather

I often allow one dog to point and flush while the other dog retrieves. This trains steadiness in the first dog, in fact it is a lot to ask a dog to find the bird, see it fall and then not be allowed to retrieve, but this is all for discipline.

Gaia retrieving the bird Gollum found. Good for discipline.

Gaia retrieving the bird Gollum found. Good for discipline.

The steadiness is crucial because sometimes you might have one bird rising, which is shot and a little later another bird gets up creating a good shooting opportunity, but if the dog is running in to get the first bird, it is unsafe to shoot at the second bird and it ruins the opportunity. Therefore the dog MUST sit still till it is asked by its handler to retrieve. In Field Trials this is also important and if your dog does run in to the shot, your dog is eliminated from the competition.

Last year I did take part in one driven day. It was appalling weather and I couldn’t resist showing a couple of pictures here just to prove that the grouse moors are not always “glorious”. This is at 9.30 meeting and already looking dodgy.

Beaters and flankers in the mist before a driven grouse shoot

Beaters and flankers in the mist before a driven grouse shoot

And it got a lot worse. Here is the last picture before the day was cancelled. Everything wet and miserable:

Flanker walking in pouring rain. The day was cancelled shortly after.

Flanker walking in pouring rain. The day was cancelled shortly after.

I had plenty of solid days with Gaia and Gollum last year and Gaia proved to be a really nice dog to work, now three years old. I received such a nice compliment from a Spanish guest, who is an accomplised shot with many years of experience. We had been out for half the morning and, after Gaia had presented them with yet another find of birds, he turned around to me and said “It is so relaxing to shoot over a dog like that”. Some dogs are a little too interested in just putting the birds up themselves, but both Gaia and Gollum have realised that this is a cooperation between handler, dog and guns and they work to make the day great.

Lastly, I must mention that hopefully Gaia will be pregnant, expecting pups on 27th May 2016. I have put her to Field Trial Champion Trudvang Balder. Anyone interested, please contact me on sales@tuffies.co.uk . His list of achievements in Field Trials can be seen on request.

Patch is Trudvang Balder, stud dog used on Gaia

Patch is Trudvang Balder, stud dog used on Gaia

Patch, stud dog used on Gaia

Patch, stud dog used on Gaia

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The Hill Harvest in Progress

All the training of pointers are for a safe and sustainable harvest of the wild grouse on the hills. For those, who are not familiar with the grouse, they are wild birds that live of heather, insects and berries on the Scottish and English moors. To help the birds’ survival, estates spend vast amounts of money on ‘keepers, who control the vermin and help the habitat for the grouse. This also benefits the habitats of many other non-game birds such as Black Cock, Lapwing, Curlews, Sky Lark and many, many other small birds.

My three German Wirehaired Pointers have to hunt the moor, using the wind to smell the birds and then indicate where they think the birds are sitting. They then have to push the birds out of the heather on command and when they are shot, collect the birds tenderly so that the meat is perfectly usable for the table. Many people prefer young grouse, but having eaten this wonderful wild species for many years, I have learned that well prepared older birds are just as enjoyable. Barbecued grouse is simply divine.

Here are some photos of the season so far. We have been blessed with mostly dry weather and there has been time to take photographs. Although I shoot over my dogs from time to time, I mainly use the dogs as a service for people who want to shoot over pointers and who don’t have a well trained dog themselves.

The Glorious 12th of August:

You can JUST see Gollum with his orange collar on point in the heather by the arrow. He has pressed himself down, just sticking his nose up to keep in touch with the bird scent. The guns are walking in and ready.

 

Dog on point and two guns moving forward

Dog on point and two guns moving forward

When the guns are ready, the dog moves forward and flushes the grouse out of the heather.

Dog flushes, you can see the grouse flying.

Dog flushes, you can see the grouse flying.

On the shot, it is very important that the dog marks where the bird falls. This is so that the retrieve can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Bird is shot and Gollum is paying attention.

Bird is shot and Gollum is paying attention.

A safe and tender retrieve is done by Gollum.

A safe and tender retrieve is done by Gollum.

There is always great admiration for the shot quarry. Every bird will be used for the pot.

The guns admire the bird when retrieved.

The guns admire the bird when retrieved.

Hosts and ‘keepers are interested in each bird to check for health and age. All birds are divided in to old and young.

Host examining the retrieved bird.

Host examining the retrieved bird.

Here is Gaia, my three year old, on point:

Gaia on point in the purple heather.

Gaia on point in the purple heather.

On the command, she rushes in to flush.

Gaia leaps in to the heather to flush the birds.

Gaia leaps in to the heather to flush the birds.

As Gaia flushes, the bird flies out of the heather.

As Gaia flushes, the bird flies out of the heather.

She performs a perfect retrieve:

A tender retrieve for the table.

A tender retrieve for the table.

The Glorious 12th was really hot and humid with very little wind. Enough wind to work the dogs and to keep the midges away, but the FLIES!!!!

Dog with a SWARM of flies on its nose.

Dog with a SWARM of flies on its nose.

Luckily there are water holes and I always bring water in my bag in case we hit parts of the ground where water is scarce.

An halved plastic football works as a water bowl.

An halved plastic football works as a water bowl.

A great day was had by all.

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Summer Training with surprises

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 sitting looking at the roe-faunGaia 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.

Roe faun close upRoe faun seen close up from the frontI am sure mother will be back. It was difficult, but I managed not to touch it….

Luise

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A Stark Lesson from my Dog.

So this time of year is grouse pair counting time as described in the last blog, but there are also the spring pointing tests. I entered two and it went very well for little Gaia. Out of 18 dogs, two were awarded “Excellent” and Gaia was one of them. This was at Corriegarth in Stratherrick. She ran on the back wind and did it perfectly. This has become one of her strong points.

The following day we were going to take part in another test at Drumochter estate and drove there in the morning. Before we got to the destination, we stopped and allowed the dogs to exercise on a field. Gaia searched the field as usual and delivered a brilliant point, which I attended and a snipe was flushed. Couldn’t be more sure of my dog and walked with her, after much praise, towards the car. As we walked, a rabbit jumped up in front of us and Gaia took a couple of instinctive steps after it. As rabbit and hare chasing in a test is a cardinal sin, I used this opportunity to chastise her. With my hands pushing her down and growling at her. She is a tough Wirehaired, yes? Well, I learned my lesson : a few hours later when it was my turn to run my dog, I could not have asked for an easier task: straight in to the wind on a flat area with heaps of grouse. But Gaia, having been chastised hours earlier had lost her nerve. She simply ignored the birds. She was confused and unsure what I wanted of her, so she chose not to acknowledge any grouse. I just got my lead out and thanked the judges for their patience.I was embarrassed of my own lack of understanding my little dog. We never stop learning and I will never forget that lesson.

Anyway, I had a few more days of grouse counting getting the opportunity to get her back in to her comfort zone and pointing grouse again.  We had another go at Ben Rinnes after the last count had been snowed off and I whipped out my camera when I saw Gaia on a sudden point with her face in to the sun. Here she is:

The bird is sitting somewhere in the grass in front of her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here it goes:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trick is to focus the camera on the area in front of her. In the weak light conditions I need a large aperture to get the high shutterspeed for the very fast moving wings, hence small depth of focus and hence the dog out of focus. Can’t be helped.

We also counted Upper Gordonsburn and my good old Tippex is still going strong. Here she is, after a peat-mud swim, getting a scent, so she is lifted up by her nose:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a beautiful day and perfect for some heather burning going on in the area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we walked back, we hit some nice snipe type of habitat and despite the back wind Tippex pointed a couple of snipe. Here she is on point:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here it goes. Have a good look at the little bird:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACut out here:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood times.

 

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“Spring” pointing

At this time of year, March – April, the grouse in the Scottish Highlands are pairing up, husband and wife. They choose their territory and stick to this, more or less. The closer it gets to the time of nesting, the more determined the birds become to stay on their chosen patch.

This is a good time to find out roughly how many, potentially, breeding pairs the moor is holding, so the grouse estates like to find out. To do this, pointing dogs have to be asked off their warm dog beds, out on the moor. And they do this happily!!!!

The spring weather is unpredictable at the best of times, but in the Scottish hills, you just don’t know and we have a saying here, which is: “When in Scotland, you just have to go anyway” because if you were put off by the seemingly bad weather or weather forecast, you would never go out and very, very often we have set off in grim weather only to have a lovely, nice day (OK, we do have a look at the forecast first to get it somewhat right).

We have been out three days so far, with varying outcomes. Two days in good weather with a light breeze, which means that the dogs get a good chance of scenting birds in the heather. The dog quarters over the moor till it gets a hint of bird scent, it moves in at a safe distance where it then comes to on point. On the first day I let Gaia work a lot as she seemed totally unaffected by the exercise and never even opened her mouth to pant. HOWEVER, her nipples got bright red, swollen and started to bleed, having been scratched by the hard heather. This only got really bad by the end of the day, so two days after, I made her a Gaffa-tape bra for the two worst affected nipples: Two bits of make-up wipes over the nipples and Gaffa-tape stuck to the tummy. It fell off at around 3pm, so she got the benefit of it.

Gaia with her bra:
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Gollum, now six years old, having a good shake before the start. Good old boy, he know what it is all about.
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Tippex is nearly 10 years old. She is a small, nifty dog and is still going strong. She might not work for the same amount of time for each run, but no problem with the quality of her work:
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We then set out to count the birds on Ben Rinnes today. We had seen the forecast, which showed that we would probably be ok as the snow would be further west. We met in glorious sunshine, although the wind was brazing.

At first, a few snow flakes:
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And some more, but nothing to stop the dogs getting on with the job.

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Then, as the weather closed in, SPRING-pointing was a bit of a joke. In the end we decided to abandon the walk, but we were four people spread out in a line: Us two pointer handlers on either flank (Anne and me) with two ‘keepers in the middle. The message came over the radio, so I turned round and thought I was walking back. I should really have known which way I was walking due to the wind direction, but I totally lost my bearings and I couldn’t see the contours in the terrain. To my LUCK, Gordon could see me and called me on the radio to look for him. He was upwind and I could hardly look that way due to the stinging snow flakes in my eyes. Phew, I think I could have got totally lost in the snow and I understand now how accidents happen.

So I found Gordon and Dick and Anne and we walked back. The dogs didn’t stop their work and we still found some birds.

Gollum and Gaia pointing:
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In the end, we simply had to abandon the count, a bit annoying on 30th March.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStill, a grand day out.

The dogs are now sound asleep on their dog beds.

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