Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Formal Retrieve Training Step 5: Pile Work

After you have done your "hold" training, (with both a stationary "hold" while the dog is in a sit, and a walking "hold"--where the dog is reliably holding an object in her mouth while walking, running, jumping and climbing,) after you have done your focused "fetch" training in a confined space, (many gun dog trainers use a table, similar to a grooming table--I simply use the tailgate of my truck) and your have completed walking fetch, it is time to start your pile work.

Let the dog watch as you toss bumpers to a tight area. 

I use a stake with ribbons as a target that the dog can see across field at first
Pile work starts out with leading the dog to a very close proximity to where you will toss a number of bumpers out for repeated retrieves. 

If need be, I will start out with dog on leash and treat it just like walking fetch, holding the dog back a little with the leash and saying "fetch" or the "back" command.

Shortly thereafter, the dog should be understanding that she is expected to run to the "pile" and return with another bumper.  It is very important to point the dog to the pile.  Be aware of your own body language, and be very confident and enthusiastic about the pile.  Going to the pile should be something the dog understands as fun when you are teaching it.

Lily returns a happy dog.  As she comes in with the bumper, I step back, away from her which helps her maintain her momentum to come in.  I want her to come past me as I step back, then I want her to circle and come forward with me as we line up for another send to the pile.

Stepping back and getting the dog to line up with handler.
Each time Lily returns from the pile of bumpers, I move back a few feet (10 - 20 feet) so that I stretch her line to the pile out a little bit longer.

Our next step (on another day) will be to plant the pile of bumpers before we even get her off the truck, then walk out and have her run to the pile without observing the pile planted.  Once she is reliably running to a pile 125 yards away or longer, it will be time to teach the remote stop on a whistle out in the field.  Then we will begin to introduce casting off to the side.

Remember, do not get ahead of yourself.  A well constructed house has a very solid foundation.  Take each step slowly, carefully and with enthusiastic leadership. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dog Training In The Shadow Of Rainier

November 28th 2011

Some shots of the views from Pierce County's Fort Lewis on a beautiful sunny day at the end of November, 2011.

We ran into our friend, Tim Lockhard, pheasant hunting with Waylen

Yesterday it rained like it would never stop.  All day, relentlessly.  Today, was sunny and warm. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Still Life With Rain

On a rainy day last week we went for a romp, the dogs and I.

The Sun Played Hide And Seek

We drove through TA-13, near Roy, Washington. I especially love that place because there are still signs of lives lived in days gone by, before the land became the back country controlled by the army at Fort Lewis, now called Joint Base Lewis McChord. In TA -13 there are still remnants of a farm or ranch, although the remains are fast disappearing. Below are shots of a family cemetery from the 1800s.

The vast areas of forest and open prairies controlled by JBLM are fascinating to explore. Even in the rain.

In a way, a rainy day is best for seeing all the colors and textures up close.  When there is not so much scenery to compete with the smaller, more quiet things.

Three Birds

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dog Training Tips From Long Ago

This is a re post from last holiday season.  With the holidays upon us, some of us enjoy looking back. 

The following is an excerpt from Oliver Hartley's book, "Hunting Dogs," copyright 1909.  The book is now public domain and was released in November 2010 by the Gutenburg Project.


Summing up we find much pointed and valuable information relating to the training of dogs omitted thru lack of space. From this we present a chapter of "nuggets" in paragraph form, which will no doubt prove interesting and beneficial to those interested in training hunting dogs. Here are a few things not to do:
Don't allow your dogs to run into every farmyard as you pass along the road.
Don't allow them to be used with which to run stock.
Don't let them get into the habit of running other dogs.
Don't let them run house-cats.
Don't teach him to be called by shooting.
Don't, when out hunting, keep urging him all the time.
Don't let every one have him to hunt with or he will soon be everybody's dog.
Don't allow them to come into the house and get into every pan and kettle, if your wife is good-natured.
Don't correct him by pulling his ears, for a fox dog needs his hearing.
Don't feed but twice a day, and don't stint him on his feed before starting on a race.
Don't allow him to run loose when you are not using him.

Did you ever try using a sheep bell on a still trailer on windy, stormy nights? It's a such bells on sheep and disregard them until the dog but 'coon usually become accustomed to sheep bells on sheep and disregards them until the dog gets too close for them to escape. Then, where not accustomed to the bell, their curiosity overcomes their fear. The best pair of 'coon dogs I ever owned was Sport, a fox hound and collie, half and half, a slow semi-mute trailer, and Simon, a full blood fox terrier, a fast mute trailer. I used a bell on Sport. This and his occasional barks on the trail kept the attention of the 'coon while Simon cut across lots and invariably took him unawares.
I have learned at considerable expense that the best at most any price is the cheapest. If you want a good, cheap 'coon dog, get a half pup collie and half fox hound. Never give him a taste of nor let him see a rabbit, teach him a few tricks (to make him pay for his meals), such as jumping over a stick, then a pole, then a fence. This is to teach him to obey every word.
Never scold or whip him, gain his confidence, teach him to speak for bits of meat so when the time comes to hunt 'coon you can get him to bark up; get him to catch and carry and he will often catch an opossum or maybe a mink or 'coon and kill it when away from you, and if you teach him to bring everything (rats, woodchucks) home to you, he will do the same in the woods after night. Never let him get whipped by another dog or woodchuck, 'coon or even a big rat. Always help him kill or whip everything he jumps on to or that jumps on to him. A defeat will discourage him.
When your young dog is ready for a night hunt in the woods or cornfield, choose the best and most favorable night for the first trip. Feed no meat nor milk for 24 hours previous to the first or any subsequent trip, for that matter, for the best dogs, full of meat or milk, cannot do good work on the most favorable night. Feed him a good dinner of vegetables, but no supper until you return from the hunt, then give him anything. Choose a dark and cloudy night, the darker the better, not too still, as usually on very still nights the atmosphere is heavy and smoke settles to the earth, so likewise does the scent of the 'coon trail, and many a fine dog has been condemned for failing to locate his 'coon when started under such a condition as this.

Do not return home and leave your hounds in the woods, rather walk a mile or two to catch them and they will be in better shape to hunt the next day than if you had allowed them to run all night.

I notice so many of the boys in telling of their 'coon hunting say when Old Jack or Trailer, or whatever his name might be, strikes a trail they follow him as fast as they can run until out of wind, then as soon as he barks treed, they go to him on the double quick, over logs, brush, barb wire fences, thru brier patches, swamps and so on. Now, this may be all right, I am not condemning any one else's method of hunting, but just want to exchange ideas. When my dog strikes a trail or I have reason to think there is anything doing, I just wait right where I am until they tree or come back to me. If they bark treed, I just take my time and if I know of a way around that will save going thru some thicket or up some very steep hill, I just go around and save those hardships. And another thing I never do is whoop and hallo at my dogs when they are working. I think that has spoiled many a good dog, and never run to a dog as soon as he barks up, but give him time to think it over and circle the tree a few times; then, when he settles down again you can go to him and depend upon the 'coon being there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is Your Dog Aggressive? Change Your Behavior.

"He is a really sweet dog."  "In fact he's is the best dog I have ever had."  "He is actually perfect in every way except for one problem."  "I love him with all my heart."  "He is not aggressive, except just during certain times."  "Otherwise there is nothing wrong with him."

This is the refrain of the loving dog owner calling Fast Pup Dog Training out of concern that their dog bit someone or has acted like he might.  The dog is a perfect angel--except for when he is not.  For just a brief period.

Many times the dog owner is sure that there is a quick and easy fix--a proverbial silver bullet--that I can provide them over the phone.  Other times, (more rarely,) the owner acknowledges that she or he might be the problem and realizes that it is they that need education and training, even more than their dog.

Aggression problems in dogs do not happen overnight.  The owners miss or misinterpret signs of aggression, even though there were many over time, until the dog is out of control.  And any dog breed can become aggressive if the owners and handlers miss early signs.  I have been amazed lately by how many retrievers, AKC registered and highly trained for retrieving tasks are displaying horribly aggressive behavior--to the point where the dog is kicked out of AKC events for life.  Retrievers are soft-mouthed hunting dogs genetically selected for their eagerness to please and their lack of aggression.  When a retriever becomes aggressive, it can usually be traced to the owners missing or making excuses for a lot of little signs of aggressive behavior developing over time.  

The biggest problems I see with dogs showing most types of aggression toward people or other dogs is not that they are naturally dominant, or that they were poorly bred, or that they missed something in the socialization process, but rather the uneducated and misguided doling out of affection and "concern" over a dog's behavior on the part of the handler.  Reacting to signs of aggression in a dog as if it were a human child who is frightened can create aggression problems in dogs.  

It is natural to "go with what we know" and read our dog's aggressive reactions to another dog or human as fear.  We have a tendency to "reason" with the dog and try to "explain away the fear" the same way we would treat a child or infant who was frightened by someone.  If the dog seems alarmed or concerned over the presence in our front yard of the mail man, we naturally want to reassure him that the mail man is a good guy, so we kneel down next to him and tell him that "its OK, that is a good person," as we stroke him in reassurance.  Why do we naturally do this?  Because that is the way we relate to people.  It is what we have learned since childhood to do.  

Unfortunately, what the dog reads in all this, is that we are hiding behind him for protection when we kneel down, and that we appreciate his posturing and protective stance against the stranger. We think we are reassuring the dog that all is well, and the dog reads it that we are encouraging that behavior and expecting him to act this way.

Learning to become a leader to a dog is learning to think outside the box of relating to dogs as human beings.  Leading is not a  matter of being "dominant" and exerting physical control over a dog.  Alpha rolls over aggressive behavior are extremely dangerous to a human handler (and the dog) and completely unnecessary.  Rather, leading a dog, like leading or riding a horse, is learning to read a dog's body language, and being proactive with subtle cues and suggestions before the dog has committed to a certain behavior.  I tell people that dogs will almost always "tell" us what they are going to do, before they do it, and we need to be "ahead of the curve" (proactive) and have a conversation with them with our body language about what we want them to do or where we want their attention.  

Waiting until the dog has lunged or attacked another dog or person and then "punishing" him for the behavior is an exercise in futility.  Dogs do not understand the concept of punishment.  It doesn't exist in their world.  And from our standpoint, after the dog has attacked or bitten someone, the wheels are in motion for a police report or a law suit.  

If we do not want the dog to attack another dog or the mail man, then we need to confidently and assertively interrupt their thoughts about doing so and redirect them to do something else.  Learning to read the dogs, and learning new ways of reacting (or not reacting) to their behaviors is the key to avoiding having a dog act aggressively toward others.   

Friday, November 18, 2011

Human Park

Eeeewww! Would Someone REALLY Do This?

Apparently so.  Just look at the picture.


Raccoons are one of my most unfavorite animals.   They don't just eat rotton trash and spoiled food.  They kill things.  Not from exposing other animals and humans to rabies, but by cornering my best laying hen or duck and ripping and biting their heads off.  Just for sport.

I have my alarm clock set for the approximate time the shit-covered vermin are due to arrive at my house. And the birds set up a racket when they sense the bastards coming, so I usually now make it out to the backyard in time to have frequent three am stand-offs with what amounts to the attitude of a teenager on steroids.  They are always outraged that I am there waving my pitchfork and shouting obscenities at them.  They give me that sullen rebellious stare as they hover on top of the fence, just out of my reach, lingering defiantly as long as they dare before retreating into the bowels of the night.

If I don't make it out in time, they always manage to kill my favorite bird.  It never fails.  I have tried trapping them with all the glorious rotton food shown here, and more, but they never fall for it.

I indulge in a great shout of triumph and celebration every time I see one or several dead on the road.  Maybe this young lady has given me a new strategy for attracting them for the purpose of relocating them some place more deserving of their destructive, filthy essence.  One more favorite bird gone, and I might just give this a try!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

He Ain't No Sho Dawg Jonz" SH March 1998 -- November 2011

Jonz had been ailing since last Christmas.  During training today, Fran got a call from Derek to come home right away.  Her is her email:

Jonz passed this afternoon while Scott and I were both holding him.  It was like he waited for Scott to get home.  How incredibly sad and perfect.  This pain of losing Jonz is 1000 times worth the joy of having and loving him for all these years.  I have so many great memories.  I'm trying to take my own advice and ONLY think of, and remember, all the wonderful times.  I don't want to think about him leaving.  He would have been 14 on March 1.

Jonz went on a hunting trip to Eastern Washington one last time last year

The pics of Jonz and Zoe are from when they were watching TV on our bed a year or more ago.  I love the one where Jonz is giving Zoe a kiss.  The camera caught his tongue just as he connected.  I love the look on Robert's face - "what does she see in him anyway."  But, Zoe always loved Jonz (and Sarge) the best.  I think it's because they are the ones that LOVED her hanging on them.  The rest of the dogs are a little less trusting of a little firecracker like Zoe.  The pic called "hunting" is from one of the last times we took him over last year.  We let him hunt a little.  In his hunting prime, Jonz and I had so much fun hunting pheasants.  We "communicated."

Jonz LOVED Zoe!


When I worked, I used to think of Jonz during the day - all the time.  I couldn't wait to get home to him.  :))  He was always by the door.  Mom said he always knew the time to go wait by the door - which isn't surprising for most dogs.  But, in recent years, Jonz amazed us when he would know that Scott was on his way home.  Whether Scott had been to the store, fishing, or whatever.  Jonz would get up and go look out the window.  Or, go to the back door and listen even though he was mostly deaf.  It was never the same time of day - but within a few minutes of when Jonz started looking for Scott, he would come home.  Scott told me Jonz did the same thing with me when I was gone.  If only Jonz could have been counted on to do that every time one of us was gone, we could have made some money on him.

Jonz could always find things.  He WAS amazing at that.  I know you heard the story when Mom dropped my popper gun on the way in from a gun station at Willis street.  We were with Ben Gatley.  After almost an hour of searching, Ben, Mom, and I were ready to give up.  Then, I got a bright idea.  I got Jonz and Cleo out of the truck and showed them Ben's popper gun.  I told them to "find it."  They put their noses to the ground and started quartering.  In less than 5 minutes, Jonz started to dig at a spot.  Sure enough, it was my gun!  I was so happy - I was waving my arms, laughing and telling them what amazing dogs they were.  They got so excited, they were leaping through the air and all over the place like we won the Open or something.

I love dogs.  Fran

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More From Fran's Diary: Eastern WA Bird Hunting

Scott & Sarge in 2010 after a good hunting day

Nov 10, 2011 – Eastern Washington Quail and Pheasant hunting

It was sunny and the temperature was mild for this time of year.  We hunted one of our favorite “feel free to hunt” areas.  I was hunting Robert, my red setter.  Scott was hunting Disco, our little lab.  As soon as we got near the draw, Robert bumped a rooster out of range in light cover.  As we continued our hunt, both Scott and I saw quail flush out of range.  Then Robert’s bell stopped up ahead of me and I felt a little rush of adrenaline.  I moved forward as quietly as possible and found Robert on point at the edge of some pampas grass. As I moved toward him, a rooster flushed before I could get within gun range.  When it cackled its way up and over the pampas grass, a second rooster nearby also flushed!  The roosters are already wary this far into the season and with the weather being warm, they have no reason to hold for anything suspicious – like dogs or people.  

We crossed the draw with no birds in the bag and started our hunt back up the other side.  I heard Robert’s bell stop again.  As I carefully worked my way his direction, to my right Disco flushed a covey of quail in front of Scott.  As I stopped to watch, Scott hit one that went behind him.  When he told Disco to fetch it up, she took off where she “thought” it went – where two or three had just flushed.  But, apparently, Robert, who I still hadn’t seen, did see where Scott’s quail had fallen and he took Scott’s “fetch it up” as an OK for him.  From where I stood, I couldn’t see Robert zip past Scott toward the downed bird.  Scott yelled over to me that “my” dog was retrieving Disco’s bird!  I whistled for Robert, hoping to stop his “illegal” retrieve.  But, as he came up the hillside and out of the cover toward me, I saw he had the quail, and delivered it nicely.  Oh well, that’s bird hunting.  You can do all the training set-ups possible, and then “real” hunting happens.  I believe both Disco and Robert thought they were doing what was asked. 

We continued up the draw and I decided to put more space between Scott and me.  I turned Robert up through the sage toward some trees off in the distance.  There were quail and pheasant tracks all over the place and Robert was definitely birdy.  But, before we could find anything, I again heard off to my right a shot.  When I turned to see what Scott was shooting, I saw about 30 quail all flying different directions.   I heard Scott send Disco for the retrieve and this time she got her own bird.   As Disco was returning, another covey about the same size flushed between Scott and me.  Neither of us could take a shot for safety reasons. 

We finished hunting without finding any more birds and headed back to the truck.  Scott and I were walking together alongside the dirt field (previously corn) at the end of the draw with the dogs at a loose heel in front of us.  We were talking and without warning, Robert slams into a point – about 5 feet in front of me!   As my heart skips a beat, I got ready.  I moved up next to Robert who was looking intensely “down” into extremely thick waist high cover.  An old barbed wire fence was in the middle of the cover.  I kicked the brush through the fence – nothing. Robert was still locked on point.    I looked back at Scott who had Disco on a sit.  I decided to try and get over the fence – which was no easy feat at this location.  I kept my gun as ready as I could and as I stepped over and into the thick brush, a single quail zoomed low and fast into the trees at the end of the draw.  I barely had time to get my safety off, let alone pull the trigger before the little bugger had disappeared.   

We got back to the truck and I cleaned up Disco and Robert, and gave them some hunting treats.  We ate some lunch and got out our other two dogs, Sarge, my young lab, and Ruby, mother to Robert.  We headed across the road for our next hunt. 

Scott and our friend Scott C. took Ruby and went off the opposite direction down the valley.  Sarge immediately went into his intense hunting mode.  He was so birdy; I thought a rooster would flush up at any second.   Sarge worked the cover non-stop as we continued our hunt.  Then, he circled back, and around – I knew this routine.  I stood perfectly still in thigh to waist high brush.  I watched his movements in the cover and as he came back toward me, I could hear my heart beat faster as I got ready.   Then, directly behind me, the unmistakable sound of a pheasant beating its way out of the brush made me jump.  As I turned with gun ready, the rooster who didn’t make even a small cackle was already speeding away.  I fired once and saw him move and fired a quick second shot and saw both legs drop.  He didn’t slow his flight one bit and was up over the rise and out of sight in a second.  I blew a sit whistle for Sarge.  I knew which direction the rooster went and with two broken legs, once he landed, he wouldn’t be going anywhere.   But, unfortunately, as we were in the bottom of the draw, I couldn’t see him land.  I called Scott on my radio and asked if they happened to see the rooster.  Fortunately, Scott C did see where he landed.  And, they were closer than me.  They were about 150 yards away.  So, they headed that way with Ruby.  By the time Sarge and I caught up to those guys, Ruby had pointed, then retrieved the dead rooster. YEA!

I have friends and family that have no idea why I love this sport so much.  And, I understand their point of view.  I also have friends and family that know EXACTLY why I love this sport.  Kate, and I were just discussing this the other day.  Is it an addiction or “just” a passion?  What makes us love to train and hunt with our dogs more than anything in the world?  Only the people that love to play this game with their dogs truly understand.  There is nothing more fun and exciting than upland hunting with my dogs.  And, for me, getting a wild rooster in eastern Washington is a prize indeed.    

In the picture with Scott and two quail are Disco and Robert

Scott, Disco and Ruby with their Quail
In the picture with me and the rooster are Sarge and Ruby.

Fran, Robert and Sarge with Pheasant

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jonz'n For A Fix? Try A Dog Sport!

 Fran Seagren and Joy Donald 2001

My friend Fran Seagren recently came up with what I think is a brilliant observation about dogs.  A mutual friend of ours had sent us a moving photo essay of the surviving dogs from the 9/11 search and rescue effort.  Fran pointed out that no other animal--not cats, horses or primates--are ever used for search and rescue.  

Dogs have such patience and are so willing and eager to endure the challenging conditions required of search and rescue--and so many other "dog jobs".  They are so smart and so eager to please.  Their powers of observation are legendary.  Properly bred, socialized and trained, the abilities of dogs to learn complicated tasks and work with humans as a team is unparalleled in the animal world. On the flip side, as someone who helps people deal with problem dogs, one of the things I always point out to people is that dogs need jobs.  Without a purpose, a dog becomes bored.  And then problems often present themselves.

Learning to train and handle dogs is--for a lucky few of us--an addiction.  A passion bordering on sickness.  And once the dog training/handling addiction gets hold of a person, life is forever changed.  We wouldn't have it any other way!

Fran and I met Joy and Patty Donald in 2000 when they were camping out at Bob Pepper's farm.  They had traveled down from British Columbia to spend a few days training their Golden Retrievers for the field trials Joy loved to run.  They needed training partners and so did we.  We were all bitten by the crazy  need for the fix of dog training.  A deep friendship was soon forged.

Joy & Paddy Donald near Kamloops, BC 2001
Freddy & Kate Johansson with Joy Donald 2001
Joy had an incredible wit about her and always had a whole collection of jokes and one-liners that could make me laugh until I cried.   Even though she had been battling Leukemia  for nearly ten years, she had a determination, a never quit attitude that was a force to be reckoned with.  And don't even think about getting her mad!

The dogs and the "addiction" to dog training had kept Joy alive for over six years longer than the doctors had predicted her life span to be when she had been diagnosed in 1990.   It was her intense desire to accomplish goals with her dogs that kept her battling against all odds.  During a several weeks long stay in hospital when everyone thought she was done, she told me that her liver was failing and she had to eat protein in order to survive.  She did not want to eat.  But I watched her force herself to eat because she wanted to get back out there with her beloved dogs.

In July of 2001, Joy called me and told me that the doctors had just told her to get all her things in order.  She had only a few weeks to live--and this time there was no wiggle room.  She told me with that steel reserve she had, "Kate, I am not leaving this earth until I get my dogs both qualified for the Canadian National."  (That was the 2001 Canadian National Open Retriever Championship.)  I laughed, (What ELSE was I supposed to do?) and said that she was being kind of stupid!  Why set a goal to just get the dogs qualified, I asked.  Why not set your goal to take them to the National in September?  Come on, I told her, you can do this!

And guess what? 

Joy made it!

Everyone was amazed that she pulled it off.

Joy walks to line at 2001 Canadian National

She was so weak that she had to get special permission from the judges to have her friend and chairman of the trial blow her whistle for her to stop the dogs on blinds.  

Waiting her turn to run
But she accomplished what she had set out to do.

Joy and Friends Dine at 2001 Canadian National Dinner
And she lasted 5 series over 5 days before she went out with both dogs.  She was a fighter and played to win--even then.

On Thanksgiving weekend 2001, I drove across the border to train with Joy and Paddy.  Joy was so weak at that point that she had to be carried to her chair and she had to watch other people run her dogs.  But she was not done.  She and Paddy had a trip to Hawaii with their family planned the next week.  So she got a blood transfusion, felt better and they flew to Oahu.  She traveled around the island, visiting the beaches and the Zoo--even spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where she was photographed with a couple of stud dancers.  She drank strawberry daiquiris and pina coladas like a sailor, Paddy told me.  And at the very end of her trip, her body gave out.  She passed away in paradise with her family at her side.  

She was an addict.  And her addiction added years to her life.  And allowed me and Fran to get to know her.  We will never forget her.  And we miss her still.  

Cold Weather Blues? Let's Get Out There!

Since there were only two people who showed up for class yesterday by 2:15, (class starts officially now on the winter schedule at 2:00,) we decided to warm up with a brisk walk on the waterfront.  We missed everyone!

Linda and the pups, with Vera and Beau up ahead
The wind was gusting pretty hard here and there and the clouds were spitting rain.  It was beautiful and exciting to be out at the edge of Commencement Bay watching the weather blow through.

What a gorgeous site!

Beau passes Cumin and Penny
The dogs really seemed to appreciate the break in what must be for a dog a very monotonous day staying indoors.

Cumin & Penny are all "Geared Up."
These formerly aggressive Spaniels were as good as gold.  Beau, a Portugese Water Dog--who also has had some aggressive behavior-- enjoyed the walk without a single aggressive posture or growl.

At The Old Fire Boat
Be sure to let Kate know whether you are planning to attend class.  That way if you are running late, we can let you know what the last minute plans are.

November Colors!