Making my way to the back of the bus, I am suddenly aware that of two dozen dogs and handlers, I am the only one being disruptive. Teetering off-balance and trying to find footing between paws, leads, and muddy boots, I make a lame joke about practicing for the circus tight-wire, only to be met with silence and blank stares - and some of those were coming from the dogs.
Note to self: American sense of humor not going over well.
Instead I find a spot to stand and keep my mouth shut for the rest of the ride through the Packington Estate to the area we'll be hunting today. I observe my surroundings and am absolutely in awe, and I don't mean at the beautiful English countryside. Think of the last time you went to the dog park - how many fights broke out? How many uncomfortable situations between dog owners and joggers have you encountered? Just the other day my brother was telling me how much he hates jogging past dogs because they always trip him up or act aggressively. Now imagine loading up on a bus with 24 dogs and 30 people - it's cringeworthy! So you can appreciate the fact that I snapped this photo and thought,
'The girls back home are gonna love seeing how well-behaved these labs are!'
I was very fortunate to spend a week in England with Robin Watson of Tibea Gundogs! I tried to absorb as much as I could from the experience, and I'll be sharing details and insights in upcoming newsletters and on our Forum and Facebook.
Overall, the most effective insight was into the general temperament of the dogs I encountered at the Midland Gundog Field Trials at Packington Estate and New Farm. Field trials are one or two days long, each a full 8-hour day spent in the fields with all of the competitors (In these cases there were 24 competitors). Because they are conducted in actual hunts, the scenarios are unpredictable. Some dogs may be 'on the line' competing for several hours - off-leash with guns going off sporadically, game of all sorts flying or running by, and other dogs working and retrieving in front of them. Because the rules are very strict on 'breaking' dogs (dogs that run to retrieve without being sent on cue) or dogs that wander, creep or whine, the field trial competitors are of the highest standards of calm, well-mannered dogs. These are the best possible versions of gundogs, and I have definitely been inspired to work towards this standard!
...more to come from Liz's UK Blog, including "Rabbit-proofing your dogs! Duckhill's new secret weapon for 2014!"
|Waiting in the "gallery" at the Packington Field Trial|
The best way to start a puppy heeling is to start with them OFF-leash at first in a contained area, like your back yard. As you walk around the yard, offer treats when the dog is in your desired 'heel' position - for us, it's on the left side with their nose at the trainer's knee. Offer rapid-firing of treats at first to keep the dog's interest in staying near you, but do not worry if he runs off from time to time. Simply change the direction you are walking and resume treating when he returns. You might be offering a treat at each step, then you can slow down to every other step, then every 4 steps, and so forth.
Once the dog is getting the idea of sticking around at your side, you can raise the criteria to keep him behind your knee. If he steps too far ahead of you, turn around and walk the other direction, or take a few steps backward and 'target' the dog to your left hand at your knee. Resume walking when he's in the correct position. Once the dog begins to heel more consistently, you can move towards a variable schedule of reinforcement by marking the correct behavior (either "good" or "click") and only offering a treat every so often.
When you add the leash, at first let the leash drag behind the dog so that he gets used to the sensation. A dog naturally pulls against any resistance to the neck, so you don't want to tug and tug on the leash - continue to reward and train the 'heel' just as if the leash weren't there. Only use the tug of the leash for a quick, occasional correction or for safety - never 'nag' the dog by keeping tension in the leash!
If you have a question for our trainers, email Liz at email@example.com
Available 6-10 month "Pregundogs"
A great option for hunters looking to skip the 'puppy' phase and get right to training, our "Pregundogs" are pups that are 6-10 months old that have completed Headstart and are moving to the next phases of training. Here are some of the training milestones that we cover during the Pregundog training:
- Wait to be sent for food
- Stop on a whistle while coming to their food
- Heel on leash
- Stay and Steady for 20, 40, 60+ feet
- Water retrieving
- Introduction to Blinds, Ducks and Gunfire
- Steady for multiple marks
- Advanced Whistle Stoping
- Casting up 50 yards
- Crate Games
Available Pregundogs ($1400-1800)
"Bailey" and "Delta" - black females out of Duckhill Otter x Duckhill Fiona, 6 months old (expected adult size around 45lbs)
"Zilla" and "Bebe" - black females out of Duckhill Otter x Duckhill Gizmo
Winter Health Tips from Diana
Do you find yourself forgetting if your dog has had its monthly heartworm preventative? Proper administration of these products is key in protecting your dog. Many people choose an easy to remember date, such as the 1st, and give the medication on that date each month. Or, you can add an alert on your cell phone to remind you each month! It is important to continue your dog's preventative even in the winter months. Cold weather kills the mosquitoes that transmit heartworms but it does not completely eliminate the risk. Sheltered areas such as outbuildings may harbor a mosquito population during the winter months. Many heartworm preventative drugs also kill intestinal parasites like roundworms and hookworms. These parasites are not as affected by changes in weather and some types are transmissible to humans! Talk with your vet for a recommendation on the product that is best suited for your pet. Using the proper product and carefully following administration directions will keep your pet and your family safe!