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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A Nice Season With the Young Dog

Gaia is now two and a half and did well in her hunting season this year. We started off with the grouse counting, which is fairly relaxed as there is no demand for anything other than hunt, point and flush. No tricky markings of fallen birds and running ones to catch. If they “bump” a covey of birds, we can still count how many there were, so it’s good training for getting a good hunting pattern etc.

Below is a picture that a friend took just at the moment when Gollum flushed a nice covey and Gaia is just looking on, it’s not her turn.

16 Jan 15 1 copy16 Jan 15 2 copyShe came on really well after 12th August. I used all three dogs in a mixture of my own days and working them for clients. I learned that having just one or two dogs out at a time is best. Running three and carrying a gun ends in chaos because they know they can get away with more naughty behavior. Below is a day at Ralia with Adam and my self. Gaia is on point, holding the birds’ scent in her nose, waiting for us to get to her before she flushes on command.

16 Jan 15 3 copyIn total, I worked the pointers 19 days on grouse and there are lots of great little experiences happening. Below is a faun. I saw Gollum on point, but when you get to know your dog and the birds and the terrain, you get to have a suspicion when something is odd. I knew his point was maybe not on feather, so instead of asking him to get in and flush, I peaked in (with my camera at the ready). Sure enough, he had found a roe faun and I got to take the snap.

16 Jan 15 4 copyThe dogs obviously form a huge bond with the handler through the training and long days on the hill, but the guests also become very fond of them. After a good day, where a guest has been provided with good sport by a dog, most people feel a special affinity with that dog.

16 Jan 15 5 copyYou always know when Gaia definitely has a bird in front of her: her ears are inside out. She bounces along as she moves in at the end and it makes her ears turn out.

16 Jan 15 6 copy16 Jan 7 copyThe excitement increases as the guns see the dog on point and get them selves organised round the point.

16 Jan 9 copyJonny, trusting Gaia (ears inside out, lol) moving in ready to take a shot.

16 Jan 8 copyWe had a great day at Kildemorie and Jonny enjoys a moment of contemplation with his new friend, Gollum.

16 Jan 15 10 copyBut nobody loves them more than the handler (and Mummy).

After the grouse, the other birds become interesting. Just from a pointing view, snipe and woodcock are particularly great. Wild birds to be found in beautiful areas. Below is Gaia on point and I managed to see the bird: a wee Jack Snipe that I took a photo of with my phone.

16 Jan 15 13 copy

16 Jan 15 12 copyIn the winter Gaia ripped her ear really badly and had to get 10 staplers in. A lampshade was duly fitted, but it did not prevent Gollum from attending the wound and licking it inside the shade.

16 Jan 15 14 copyAlso, it did not prevent her from hunting, either with a sock over her head or simply Gaffa tape to keep the ear still and not bleeding.

16 Jan 15 15 copy16 Jan 15 17 copyThis morning I went out with her to shoot what we are going to eat tonight. An old cock pheasant, which will be fine once it’s slow cooked for a while. It’s good to get rid of the old cocks to let the younger ones breed with the hens.

He sat under a bush and I would never have found him without a pointer.

16 Jan 15 18 copy

 

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Goodbye Alice

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to add this chapter to the ‘Working Pointer Blog’. On Wednesday night we had to let Alice go to Doggie Heaven. Over the last two weeks she had started to have seizures, which yesterday became a horrendously distressing, three hour long affair only stopped by using sedating drugs. This was probably caused by something going on behind her right eye (visible, but not treatable) which we can only guess was a growth of some kind. At 12 years old, this was only going to get worse and nasty for Alice.

What a great dog. Never demanded anything, always trying to please and carry out her tasks to the best of her ability. She overcame gun-nervousness early on and became the most reliable little hunting dog. I shot three brace of grouse over her only last August at the age of 12. At her peak she kept surprising everyone with her bravery and I remember her marking a bird down across a river in spate on the grouse moor. I knew she had it in her sight so I asked her to go. She crossed the river, retrieved and as she returned back through the river, she got swept under by violent current of the peaty brown water, just to reappear further down stream, still with the bird undamaged in her mouth. The ‘keepers faces were the most entertaining sight as they had never imagined that this little dainty dog could do what she just did.

She had two litters and in true Alice style she did motherhood to perfection with impeccable attention to detail.

She came on the moor for a walk when we counted grouse only two weeks ago. I took her so she could have one more day out. She loved it, just walking with me, watching the other dogs and the birds. After lunch, she chose to stay in the back of the open pickup and I just left her there, sunbathing on her Tuffie with the smell of the mountains wafting past her. I am sure she enjoyed that. She knew where she was and she knew we would be back.

We buried her deep down in her favourite Nest in the garden Thursday morning. I can’t bear to write anything else.

Thank you Alice









RIP Alice, you were FABULOUS!!!

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Gaia’s Sporting Season

The last blog I wrote described Gaia’s first encounter with grouse hunting where she managed to have some birds shot over her towards the end of the grouse season. Since then the season carried on and she gained some more experience with other quarries, but I am of the opinion that it is better to hold back too much excitement, especially with an energetic dog like Gaia. I know that I allowed Tippex to be part of too much excitement when she was young and I don’t think it was good for her calmness in pointing situations. So Gaia has not been doing a massive amount during this winter, but just enough to get some practice and I have given her ample exposure to other dogs for the socialising purposes. In the beginning of the season, I separated the hunt-point and retrieve and only let her hunt, point and flush. All alog I let someone else do the retrieve, but in other circumstances I have allowed Gaia to have a few retrieves when it was not off her own point. There is plenty of time and she is still only 18 months. Once you have over excited a dog, it’s practically impossible to turn back that time. The end result should hopefully be a steady dog that is also calmer in the picking up situation and therefore less likely to damage the birds that will ultimately end up via the kitchen on the table. At the very end of this winter I did let her have the full experience, but mainly as a nice little outing with just me. We went out in the afternoon, I let her hunt and point and I took down a big old cock pheasant. I let her sit for long enough to calm down before she was allowed to go out and retrieve it. End of story, no more and we went home. Just nice. Mr Pheasant went in the pot as they all do.

So the most important thing in the winter 2013-2014 has been to practice and practice the hunting, pointing and flushing. The retrieving will come easily later. It’s the careful finding of birds, carefully pointing and most importantly of all, being in touch with me, the handler. As you hunt the dog into the wind I think it is nice to see “the glance” as they pass. On the photos below Gaia is hunting snipe and as she passes me, she glances very briefly and we make eye contact. For me, this is very important and it’s why you should never take your eyes of your dog because it needs to know that we are still hunting together.

Snipe
If you run a HPR in a field trial, you are not put out if the dog misses a snipe, but if your dog points a snipe, you impress the judges. This must be because snipe is not that easy. They are jolly small as well. I am privileged to have access to a fantastic little piece of ground which is normally stuffed with snipe in the winter. There is no shooting there, but I can go and practice snipe pointing. Gaia seems to have ticked the box finding snipe and that is a nice skill to have to move on with. Here she is on a “sudden” point and later on with a nice, calm point:


Pheasant
I also got her out on the beating line on shoots where there were only few birds and here I got the chance to take the photo of her and the bird although it is in two frames:

Natural on the wind
The wirehaired Pointers I have had and seen are all very inclined to hunt across the wind by instinct. Of course most of them tend to go forward a bit too much if there is scent ahead and they can therefore miss birds because they just go forward rather than thoroughly out to the sides. But without specific temptations ahead, it’s mostly a good zig-zag-zig-zag pattern across the wind.

The back wind is more of a problem as the IDEAL is that the dog should run out, away from you about 150meters, straight down the wind and then start to quarter back towards you zig-zagging into the wind. If the dog then goes on point, you will be face to face with the dog and the bird will be sitting on the ground in between you.

I do find it difficult to “let go” and allow the dog to go downwind hoping that it will quarter back towards you, but if you can hold your nerve, it’s the correct way to work the back wind. Here is a little series of pictures that I was very pleased to take as Gaia shows how she can work the back wind. So as you see the pictures, I am standing still with the wind blowing on my back. Gaia has run out 150 meters and is now quartering back to me taking one bite of the ground at a time.



So far, so good. The next few months will be less and less hunting as the birds start to nest (although we will be running on the moor for grouse some time yet and hopefully get a spring pointing test in some time). I will work her with dummies and teach her directions for finding dummies that she hasn’t seen fall (blinds).

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Grouse 2013

So, at last the season came round to grouse. Obviously the 12th of August and the days that follow are the best, but they also come with the pressure of the dogs performing in their job of finding, pointing and retrieving birds, so they are a bit serious. The brood counts, or July counts, are a lot more relaxed and they are a welcome opportunity to get the dogs trained and in shape for the hard hill running.
Young Gaia came along to the counting, but I didn’t let her run too much as she was only 11 months. It is too young to allow her body to take too much, but I did give her little runs here and there and I made an effort to allow her up behind one of the others while they were on point so she could get the idea.

When I sent her out hunting, she didn’t really know what she was looking for in the beginning, so she seemed a bit lost.

The first time she had a point she was just out of sight for a little while and I went to look. She was just behind a little bump in the terrain and she was NAILED to the floor. The pointing instinct had taken over, but I don’t think she really knew what she was standing there for. I was pleased to have carried my camera all the way as I got this snap.

Ah, the innocence of youth. In the picture below a bird flushes out of the heather and I got a chance to take the photo. Look how Gaia just looks at the camera while the experienced Tippex is staring at the bird. The photo below that shows that she suddenly paid the quarry some attention.

By the way, as I had the fortune of being invited to shoot on 12th of August, I thought I had better put some practice in with the clays. On a little piece of ground outside the premises, I fired some clays and shot at them. It didn’t take long before Tippex defied the garden fence and turned up, sitting beside me as a peg dog marking all the (unfortunately un-shot) clays falling. Desperate for a retrieve, I allowed her to fetch:

As we started the hunting, I left Gaia at home because I am simply a mollycoddler. I was aware that I had not trained her to shots so I didn’t take her out to the shoots just yet. Then I came home to ALL the wall insulation from the kennels spread around the garden and I knew I had one very bored dog.

So I took her along on the next shoot, which was a bit of a disaster. Firstly, from the minute we started to walk, she whined in impatience. Then, as the first shot was fired, she cowered. Well, I have had a nervous dog before and Gaia is a wirehaired, so I was not mollycoddling any more, I just dragged her with me. This went on for about three shoots and every now and then I would spot her feeling a little bit more relaxed, so I would just take the lead off her and allow her to run, which she then suddenly was happy with.

Gaia must have been out with me on shoots about five days when we were working on a patch with heaps of birds and I asked the guns if they would allow me to run my young dog for a little more. Well, she ran, pointed and had a bird shot over her. On that shoot, she had four birds shot for her and she was just sitting there in amazement. There is no more cowering and no more whining. She is just a happy little dog.

Although she is not allowed to pick her own birds up, I let her fetch warm birds that I throw for her and she is perfectly careful and respectful to the birds, delivering them to hand. Wow, I can’t wait till she can work for real.

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Time to get the young dog on the moor.

So Gaia is ready to get going on the moor. We went out to have a little, tentative trial run a couple of days ago. It is quite hot, but we started at 8am and just had a couple of hours, so the dogs didn’t get overly hot. We obviously carry water and stop regularly to let them take what they need.

It takes a lot of fitness to run in the taller heather and with such a young dog, a couple of hours, running only 10 minutes at a time (alternating with Tippex), is as much as I will allow.

Finding game was not my highest priority as I was simply looking to get her to run in a nice pattern into the wind and remain in control. I kind of wished to come across a hare or a deer to test my control of her sit command, but we didn’t see any. All I needed was a good run to see if she would turn nicely into the wind and instinctively run across the wind. This was all good and it’s nice to see the potential of a young dog.

She came across two opportunities to point: a pair of grouse and later two young birds, but she ran smack into them and then sat on the whistle. It’s a start. I then went over to her and put her back where I would have liked her to have stopped and praised her there.

I like the idea of using an older dog to give the young one some ideas and when Tippex went on point, I put Gaia up behind her to see if she could catch some of the scent that had stopped Tippex. Some dogs “back” other dogs automatically, but not Gaia. Once she is up there, she needs a lot of “steeeady!” command to get her stand still and not just pile in and snatch the point. In the first picture she has moved too far forward and in the second she is in a better place. Check out the concentration in Tippex’s eyes!!

The day was Gaia’s first introduction and it was also important to let her learn the cooling down methods from Tippex. This dry weather had reduced the number of waterholes, but they made the most of what was there.

On the way back to the car, we had the odd little retrieve, but the enthusiasm was dwindling as she was getting rather tired.

Next week we will be counting a few more places and I am glad to say that my fitness training of Tippex, who is now 8years old, has paid off. She has stamina and looks great.

More to follow now that the season is nearly upon us.

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