I have an exciting story I must share. After sharing it with a friend in Germany I knew others might appreciate it. It’s one of those self gloating stories you often hear from the soccer Mom’s and Dad’s that go on and on about their kids at the baseball game or other event.
Do not take that the wrong way. Parents should praise their kids and be proud of their accomplishments. But, I think some of you know the type I am referring of. I must admit, I am probably more sensitive to this topic as I do not have kids so it’s a little hard for me to relate. Those of you that do know me, know I am not big on talking up the dogs I handle. At times, I am often mistaken or faulted as only pointing out the weakness or undesirable traits in the dogs I handle and own. Often it’s only cause I am seeking to improve things that can be improved through training. It’s not that the dog is broken, but he may be stronger in some areas than others.
To expect a dog too have all the combined traits required of a versatile dog and not believe some things will be harder to train than others, or come more naturally, is in my opinion a way to set your self and the dog up for failure. I believe the effort and dedication required to fully train any versatile dog is too often, highly underestimated. This includes myself. Had I really, really, really known everything I would need in order for truly, properly training a versatile dog. I would have done almost everything differently. I even researched breeds and visited training days and tests for two years and still, had zero clue what type of dedication was going to be required. Now, I knew there was going to be some work, effort and dedication but, it was all underestimated. I could take all the literature and information I’ve bought and collected and I still would not have everything I would need in order to be fully prepared. What I did know was, I believed the JGHV testing program and breeding regulations of the VDD were unquestionably the best I had seen. They clicked with me and were a set of standards that I felt all Versatile dogs and owners should follow. So, I made a decision I was dedicated to do everything I needed to do in order to achieve the most I could with a versatile dog.
The dog I currently have is really settling in. When I picked the DD, I really wanted a dog that was well rounded in all areas but my intention would be to focus on tracking, wingshooting and water work. I wanted tracking to be the foundation and focus. Or what first came naturally to the dog. Early on, I was a little concerned, this was going to be problem. However, as things have progressed. Things are looking really exciting. I started noticing a shift in the dog. I was seeing more heads down work and struggling with steadiness. In Germany this is called Greif erwille. The dog is driven as game sent increases to break point and seize the game. So, now I need to focus on steadiness as we are struggling in this area now but the former is starting to fire on all cylinders. Frankly, this will be hard as steadiness training is boring to me.
On too the real story.
We are preparing for our HZP test this fall. A few weeks ago we attended a training day where we were faced with the longest Haar drag yet. Approx. 150m this is the minimum for a test. We were the last dog to go and this had me a little concerned as a lot of prior drags had been laid. My second concern was the distance. This was the first drag this long and we had in prior weeks been experiencing issues with distance or the willingness to range that far out. Things started out great. Heads down tracking. Beautiful as the dog reached a him and a road. He lost it and stared searching and never recovered. This was OK, with the heat, dryness and prior distance issues my expectations actually were exceeded. I was a little bummed as this was the first Haar drag that had ever resulted in failure.
This was good though as now, I knew we needed to shape this up. On Saturday we were able to secure some time with a fellow friend and helper and made a trip for a short day of training. Now, this friend is an avid gun dog lover and very knowledgeable. He has been around them his whole life and its in the family. He is also becoming very versed in the JGHV rules and regulations as a result of bumming around with me.
We laid a 300m Haar drag for Lex across an open field. as we started the track and I released him, he headed off, heads down, following the track. I suddenly felt I was forgetting something. OH NO! my camera. I failed to bring my camera. I was very disappointed. I soon realized there is nothing I can do. So, I focused my attention to my dog. He made the 300M found the Haar and returned with great enthusiasm.
My helper returned to Lex and I, excited but seeming skeptical. As if, he felt this was related to luck or that the drag was too simple. He has seen my Lex and kept him, when we travel. He has hunted over him but, not seen him as a trained dog that is in touch with its natural ability at this stage. He felt a more challenging course was at hand. I took Lex behind a building out of site and commanded down and waited for a call over the radio. This time he laid a 300m drag that made 45 degree turns crossing a road twice. We used the road as a distraction. Thinking the dog might follow the road. The call came over the radio that he was ready. I approached the start of the track. Pointed to the ground and followed Lex some 5m then allowing the lead to slip free. Head down, Lex criss crossed the road getting off track once because of a strong wind. Over the radio I hear ” The road beat him.” I remained calm, watching Lex search. Head up, nose working the air. Suddenly, he turns back crosses the road once more head down, tracking. Then suddenly, he stops. Looks, back tracks and retrieves the Haar and starts his return. Soon, he arrives sitting in front of me and releasing the rabbit after a simple command of drop.
Over the radio I reply. “Don’t doubt the DD.”
OK, that is my gloating story. The reward is seeing all the hard work, dedication and natural ability of the dog in action as they are bread to do.