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Thor had been kept strictly as a retriever. However I now must train him for upland work. So we took a trip to a shooting preserve to start his training. We had no time to prep for this.


Some observations:
1. Natural quartering was pretty good.
2. Natural range when quartering was also pretty good.
3. He had no idea what we were doing when we started, i.e. flush birds for a shot. By the last bird he got it.
4. Birds released: 4 chukars, 2 hen pheasants, 1 cock pheasant. Flushed: 4 chukars, 2 cock pheasants.
5. Cover was extra thick tall grasses, goldenrod, and other weeds. Some of it he couldn't even break through. Dropped one chukar into tall tangled grass and he couldn't get through it. I stood there encouraging him, he finally was able to get in and retrieve it.
6. Next flush was a pheasant, dropped into the same kind of stuff. He worked this out quicker.
7. We covered a lot of ground, hunting non-stop for 4 1/2 hours. Thor's stamina was excellent, did not show signs of tiring. Me on the other hand is a different story...


Compared to Buffy: Buffy's range had to be brought in and quartering needed some training, she was an extremely aggressive pheasant dog which made her range out a bit, she understood the game on the first flush of a cockbird, she also had excellent stamina but her pace resulted in a tired dog at day's end.


One really shouldn't compare dogs. I do it here as a point of interest considering Thor is Buffy's son.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you. I hope the hunting won't have a big effect on his retrieving. So far so good.
 

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Upland is my favorite and now that I’m judging it and hanging out with spaniel people, I’m learning a lot. One thing I’ve noticed is our dogs have extra special noses that really help them out. They also have great coats to protect them. But they really have tenacious minds that keep them going and going.

I have a couple of questions.
1. Were the birds released, like just thrown out in a field, or were they dizzied and set?
2. How are the birds kept? Are they in barns, or are they in 200’ or 300’ long flight pens, or are they in coops? All that matters for how the birds will fly.

I think there are dogs that hunt and dogs that sit on the flush. I own one of each. I think when they don’t sit on the flush and chase the bird instead, they are hunting dogs. Those dogs never loose a bird. They will follow that bird through anything and maybe leap into a tree to get the bird. If they sit on the flush, they may have a hard time finding their bird since they didn’t chase the bird after they flushed it. Which category did Thor fall into?

Sounds like your shooting was pretty good too!
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
These birds were dizzied but had enough time to wake up and move. The hens which are supposed to hold definitely moved. Chukars tend to hold without too much problem.


Birds are held in flight pens. These are nice big pheasants and strong flyers. Plus, there are holdover pheasants on the property. One or two days in the field and they get pretty wild.


Glad you mentioned sitting on the flush. I mentioned thick goldenrod, I mean I had much trouble moving through it myself. If a dog sits in that on the flush he won't see spit, can't mark a bird. Plants are over 3 ft. tall. I would go so far as to say it is so thick the dog can't sit. Then while in the thick stuff the bird flushes, flies over a small rise and is dropped on the other side of the rise. More problems marking. This happened---it is not flat property. I can get him to sit on the whistle but why?


I once spoke to a Spaniel guy. He told me that in training you have to balance out sitting on the flush with letting the dog go. If you train to sit on the flush each time you risk teaching the dog to slow down as he gets into the stronger part of the scent cloud in anticipating a flush and sit. You then get a "soft flush" which I definitely do not want. If a bird is running I want my dog to run faster in order to force that bird to fly, giving a nice "hard flush". And I just love hunting switch grass where the birds can run but the dog gets in on the bird, forces a flush, you get cackling as the bird explodes from the switch grass. I get an adrenaline rush.



Thor can sit on flush with whistle but I don't want it for the cover I hunt. Plus when the bird flies it leaves a scent trail that the dog can follow. And do enough, you will see many birds defecate when flushed and I believe that adds to a scent trail helping the dog. So Thor has been freezing on flush but I want him to break and get the bird. This may be heresy to many reading this.


Anyway, glad you asked.
 

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Ah so Thor is freezing on a flush. This can be either the bird doesn't want to fly or the dog doesn't understand they need to push the bird to fly.

This is a common problem for a variety of reasons and a variety of ways to fix the problem.
Usually the problem is the birds are kept in coops and can't fly well, so they hunker down and don't move, camouflage is their best weapon. The dog becomes accustomed to the bird flying, and when they don't, they wait and then it becomes a point. Which will grow into a bigger problem.

If it's been raining and the grounds are damp, the birds may not want fly,and they hunker down and don't fly.



If the dog is hesitating because he's unsure of what to do, it could be experience, it could be wanting to be obedient and not make a mistake. If that's the case, I would go with another hunter that has a dog with a very hard flush. I'd walk with my dog on leash about 10-20' behind the hunter and make sure my dog can see what's happening. This helps if the field is a little sparse or open so your dog can see better. Let your dog watch. Let your dog get excited. Have him watch a couple of hard flushes. Don't be a shooter and don't say anything to your dog. After a couple of flushes, have the other hunter leash their dog, then turn Thor loose. Thor will be super excited and much more into flushing, hopefully very hard.


Goldens by nature have a slight hesitation when they get on a bird. I'm not sure exactly what kind of "tell" Thor has, but figure out what it is. One of my dogs has a tail that goes straight up and the end twitches, the other the tail goes straight back level with his back and twitches. Also does he circle the bush or section of brush the bird is in? Or is he kind of bumbling around? Experience will tell him how to get that bird to launch. Over time he'll get better. One of my dogs will circle and push the bird towards me or the shooter (if I'm not shooting), which is super handy. Thor will have his own style I'm sure.



Goldens also by nature after that slight hesitation, a very hard flush. Very hard. Much harder than a spaniel. They should also have a launch at the bird.



I wouldn't mess around with sitting on the flush right now at all, until I had that freeze gone completely. Keep it fun, keep it light. Add the sit on the flush later when he's got a solid hard flush.


If all the above fails, switch to wild pigeons. Pigeons set very lightly and fly very easily. They don't take hardly any flush at all. He needs that surprise that the bird flushing in his face will give him. It will encourage him to plunge in quicker so that the bird doesn't flush without his force. He will want to control the situation. Pigeons are very jumpy and good to use for this. Don't try this with pen raised birds, you want to be absolutely sure that he is going to get a flush.



I've seen this happen with a few breeds, that freezing reaction. The one thought I'd like to add, don't encourage him to flush. He's got to make that decision all on his own. Encouraging him will get him to rely on you more to make decisions for him. Also don't work on any blinds for awhile, he needs to be an independent thinker to get back on track for flushing. Then after he's solid on flushing hard, then add back the blind work.


If you can, have someone walk behind you and video the entire thing from when you release him to when he brings the bird back. You can review it later and see what he's doing right or wrong. Good luck and get some birds!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you Stacey.



What I am reading in him is that he stands and watches the bird, being surprised by all this, he didn't know that there would be a shot and a dropped bird. He has had absolutely no training in this until that day. As I said I didn't want to compare him to Buffy but he was certainly different. That is until the last bird of the day, that one that went over a rise and I dropped behind a tree while he was in the thick of the goldenrod. He immediately came out of the goldenrod, crossed a jeep trail, went up over a rise through more goldenrod and came back with the bird and he looked like a golden streak while doing it. And this made me happy.
 

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Sounds like he's got it! Guns = Fun
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Today was Thor's second trip to the hunting preserve. Some observations:


1. Quartering was good, now getting better.
2. Range remains good.
3. He had a lot of energy, he had to run some off. I haven't been able to work him, I have had a cold followed by bronchitis---3 weeks worth.
4. Birds put out---10 pheasants, 2 chukars. We flushed 9 pheasants and 2 chukar, lightly hit one hen who went uphill and crashed maybe 100 yards uphill---lost, repeat with a wily cockbird.
5. He is now scenting hens and putting them up, previously a problem.
6. Watched him trail a cockbird through a swamp thick with swamp grass, phragmites, and sedges for about 50 yards. Bird emerged and was then flushed by Thor. Quite admirable work IMO.
7. Thor just had to roll in every mud filled tire rut, now headed for a bath.



Very difficult hunting. Just two shooters and the birds were running, even the chukars. I am very happy with his work. I must add that the right way is to train this in the off season but I couldn't, will work in more finesse as we continue with OJT.


Edit: Bath done, now sipping a kamikaze.

 

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After a day in the uplands:
Thor got a bath. I checked him for wounds, he had them. A wound just beneath his right eye and another one on his back, and he reopened a wound on his left rear leg which led to a lot of licking. He is now wearing an Elizabethan collar to prevent licking his rear leg. Important to check your dog after a hunt, see what needs tending to.
 

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Or a couple of weeks later when an unknown abscess bursts open. Tito is on antibiotics and back in the cone, too.
Probable cause, something lodged in his foot, could be a grass awn.
 

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Today I hunted Thor again, part of his continuing education. We had five pheasants and two chukar planted over 100 acres of mixed woodland, swamp, and fields. I hunted alone and conditions were not ideal. The following conditions make for hard hunting:


1. Temperature 23 deg
2. Thin crusted snow
3. Thin layer of ice on swamps and deep puddles
4. Jeep trails that were solid ice


Birds run on the crust while dogs break through the crust and must struggle in their pursuit. At this low temperature scenting conditions are less than ideal. In spite of these conditions Thor put up all seven birds plus an additional holdover for a total of eight birds. My shooting was not good today (notice---no brag).


My one big mistake was leaving my ice cleats back at the car. I took a spill on ice that banged my knee and threw my shooting glasses ten feet away, not easy to do, my frames loop around my ears. I took this spill as I was hustling across a jeep trail for a re-flush of a cockbird. Later on I went back to the car for the cleats and boy what a difference. They are awesome ice cleats. Another mistake---I had Musher's Secret for Thor but didn't use it, thought he didn't need it. Should have used it.


Thor is now working the way I want him to and I am very happy. I need to re-do my strategy for hunting in this kind of snow, I could have done better positioning myself for the shot. And I may be working on something new with Thor, secret for now.


Equipment tip: I have been using Huberd's Shoe Grease on my boots. The stuff is great. It waterproofs and reconditions the leather. And I like the smell.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
FOLLOW UP ON YESTERDAY'S HUNT


Thor and I are hurting a bit today. Thor's pads were bleeding yesterday, probably cut on the crust-ice or just rubbed raw. I expect to be hunting more in conditions like this. I will be toughening his pads with Tuf-Foot. I didn't expect this. On the plus side we did about 25 minutes of walking after the hunt, cool down time. No limp tail even though he sat in the back of the truck for over two hours which is a plus. I have found that the ride seemed to be a recipe for limp tail.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
that's great that both of you are doing alright. The weather is brutal and especially good about the limp tail. i was worried about that with Proof too.

My experience with limp tail: It has shown up after getting wet during hunting and the dog is then in his crate for 2+ hours. I try to dry the dog and have a cool down period before going home.


Today we are dealing with cut paws, must really hurt. Pads are all good but the side of his paws are cut and weeping. Most likely cut on the edges of ice. Think I will check out doggie boots.
 

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Another training hunt in the uplands yesterday. Musher's Secret on Thor's paws and we three hunters all had our ice cleats on. Excellent scenting conditions---damp, temps around 38 deg. Thor is doing quite well. Of note was one cockbird that was lightly hit that flew about 120 yards and landed on a snow covered hillside. I sent Thor after it and watched the cockbird take a short 25 yard flight after Thor made initial contact with the bird. He was right on it, the bird ran around but Thor was on it and made the retrieve. This in particular is very important to me, he has now learned that he can get those wounded birds that fly up off the ground.


I should not compare him to his mom Buffy but I will as I find this interesting. Buffy had the above behavior naturally. Thor had to learn this. No problem, same result. Buffy was the most aggressive pheasant hunting retriever that I had seen. Thor is also very aggressive but somehow different. I believe that he is not hunting by nose alone but also checking out visually interesting cover. Buffy's tail was not very active while quartering, only got active when she scented game and started to go in. Thor's tail is active the whole time he is in the field, then becoming a rapid vibration upon scenting game.


Bottom line: I am very happy.
 
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