Ritka Training – shots & frozen birds

About 1pm on the Sunday after Thanksgiving we went out to train. We had a nice breeze today from the SW. It is sunny and about 40 F. I had put out two chukar in launchers. We are back to launchers with harness and check cord today. Wesley is going to shoot for me today. Ritka is not reliably steady for shot birds. The last time Wesley shot birds for her she did stop her self after a jump forward, but I don’t want her chasing when Wesley is shooting. The launcher is supposed to give a cleaner shot for Wesley. I told Wesley that I might launch the birds early if Ritka was creeping. Hmmm… I want her to stop sooner and not crowd her birds – more distance – but yesterday I had trouble finding the birds in the dense grass the birds had burrowed into. I wonder if they burrowed more because of the cold. Even the bird I’d left walking around in the open was burrowed in deep – the only one up and walking was the one we re-found in the brush under the pine.

When I opened the gate, Ritka ran through – I used the check cord and harness to put her back. Wesley walked through – closed and opened the gate. Ritka stayed and it took an extra head tap for her to release.

The birds were planted fairly close to each other near the pond – I only have a few places we can shoot birds near the center of the property and be legal. Soon we will start going to the public land to shoot – but I need to watch the hunting seasons so it is not too dangerous to be there with a running dog. Ritka pointed nicely, but turned to look at me as I approached – she is not confident enough yet. I styled her up and tried to tell her she was good with my hands – I still don’t have that art down either. When Wesley was ready, I launched the chukar. The launchers don’t seem to have as much spring in them with its cold I guess the spring constant of the coiled metal is effected by the cold. The bird just popped up a bit and didn’t fly. Wesley shot high and the chukar walked around. I flushed and Wesley shot again missing – Ritka crouched but held. I tossed a frozen chukar and Wesley “shot” that one. I threw badly so the chukar was just a 20 ft away when it landed. Ritka released for the retrieve – tap and the word fetch. She still plays with the bird in her mouth more than I like. She started to take the bird to Wesley put brought it to me when I clapped. I gave her some treats for the retrieve to hand.

Ritka wanted to hunt the bird she’d seen fly off when released. I called her back twice to keep her hunting where I wanted. The way she came into this bird, she was quite close when she caught scent and stopped to point. For this bird she looked a bit nervous. Again the chukar did not fly on launch and I had to flush by running at it. Wesley missed and Ritka sat. I had Wesley stand Ritka up and style her up when I released a pigeon – she was still too crouchy and lacked confidence. I gave Wesley the blank pistol to shoot – we are low on steel shot. I stood her with my hands and styled her. I released a few pigeons which Wesley blanked and she shifted to standing tall and confident. I don’t mind a low point, if its a nice intense point, but a worried crouch is not so good. Then I tossed the frozen chukar and Wesley blanked it. Ritka sprung for the retrieve when commanded to fetch. Again she was going to take the bird to Wesley – she clearly knows who shoots the birds. I clapped and she brought the chukar to me, but dropped it my feet. I asked her to fetch it up and she picked it up and gave it to hand. Ritka will need a bit more work on a formal retrieve – so far most of her retrieve training has been play training with some formal clicker training with a dumbbell. I have done very little work on “hold” – I guess I’d better do my homework.

Ritka manged the self control to keep her feet still when Wesley shot today – that seem to put a lot of pressure on. Perhaps it was easier to stay since the birds did not fall – I’m sure she knows the frozen bird is live when I throw it so that is not as hard as a real shot bird. We will try again on Tuesday or Thursday. Next weekend is a dog show and my agility club is hosting the AKC agility trial – so I’ll be busy helping with that.

I sure miss Farli’s determined retrieve to me – she never took a bird to anyone else and believed her job was to bring me prey. Of course Farli had to be trained to retrieve a dumbbell – she never saw a reason to retrieve anything but prey unless I was prepared to “pay” her. But she never needed to be trained to retrieve a marked prey item. We did do some training for blinds and searches – but that was when she had to trust my word that there was prey to be found rather than her own eyes or nose.

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